Smart managers aren’t using tighter budgets as an excuse to put IT training on the back burner for 2002. Indeed, spending on corporate IT and business training in the U.S. is expected to increase by 6.5 per cent next year, growing from US$22.3 billion to US$23.8 billion, according to Cushing Anderson, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based research firm International Data Corp.
And the top training priorities for IT managers facing financial uncertainties and other risks are security and business skills.
Because the budget squeeze magnifies the need to keep IT projects on schedule and within budget, a lot of IT workers will be sent to training to improve their project management skills, says David Foote, managing partner of Foote Partners LLC, a workforce consultancy in New Canaan, Conn. Following relatively flagrant spending on dot-com projects, companies have become decidedly more guarded about how they spend money on IT projects and how well those projects are managed. “There is more accountability now” and less tolerance for projects that go off deadline or over budget, says Foote, who is also a Computerworld (U.S.) columnist.
At some companies, managers plan to provide project management training that’s more sophisticated and company-specific than training has been in the past.
For instance, Tim Stanley, vice-president of IT at Las Vegas-based casino and hotel operator Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., plans to hire a training firm to help develop project management courses that are customized to the particular challenges the company’s IT workers will face in the coming year.
Harrah’s IT employees will be certified by the Project Management Institute in Newtown Square, Pa., by the end of this year or early next year, says Stanley. The specialized project management courses will help employees develop expertise in handling systems in the face of mergers and acquisitions, developing new software and rolling out new systems, he says.
For its part, USAA plans to invest more in business and soft skills training in 2002, says Bob Ingram, the San Antonio-based insurance company’s senior vice-president of property and casualty systems.
For instance, USAA’s training department plans to tap line executives to teach IT workers how to better handle office politics and manage customer relations. Ultimately, the goal of these courses is to “try to run technology as a business,” he says.
Although USAA plans to invest in other training areas, such as security and software development, spokesman Tom Honeycutt says the company expects to receive the biggest training payback to be in improving project management and other business expertise. That’s because these skills will affect all areas of work.
The company plans to increase total training spending from US$7,200 per IT employee to US$10,000. In June, USAA was selected by Computerworld (U.S.) as one of the top 10 places for IT workers in the area of training.
Not surprisingly, security training will also be a high priority in 2002, according to IT managers and analysts. In particular, cybersecurity and disaster recovery training will be hotly pursued, says Jerry Luftman, executive director and distinguished service professor for the graduate information systems programs at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He cites high-profile hacking incidents last year such as the much-publicized infiltration of Microsoft’s Web servers in addition to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. as serving as spurs to that focus.
“If you’re perceived as weak in security, it could affect whether people want to do business with you,” Luftman says.
USAA plans to spend 10 per cent of its IT training budget to enhance its security policy training, says Susan Chisholm, director of IT learning systems at USAA. This will involve teaching employees what to do if they receive a suspicious e-mail, or what type of computer activities are considered normal and what should prompt further investigation, she says.
Julekha Dash is a freelance writer in Lewes, Del. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.