Despite Recession, IT Still in Demand

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In the midst of soaring unemployment rates and staff cutbacks, IT departments seem to be holding their own. However, a sense of uncertainty continues to permeate the industry.

“A lot of companies are scaling back on IT budgets, but it’s not quite the gloom and doom that is pervasive in the media,” said John Estes, vice president of strategic alliances at Robert Half Technology. “We’re seeing that there’s still demand for the existing maintenance of IT departments and IT projects, and companies are still willing to spend money on new applications if there’s return on investment [or] if they feel like they can gain a competitive edge.”

Even the need for highly qualified IT professionals remains steady. In fact, according to the “IT Hiring Index and Skills Report” developed by Robert Half Technology, 12 percent of CIO respondents said they plan to expand their IT departments in the first quarter of 2009, while only 4 percent expect staff cutbacks.

“People don’t realize that the vast majority of the IT budget goes to maintain existing applications. So if you start cutting people, you’re at risk not only of not being able to grow, but also not being able to serve your customers, [including] your internal customers — people in the company who need access to the network or applications,” Estes said.

Still, the present economic situation necessitates that IT professionals take a proactive approach to safeguarding their jobs. And the key is to be a jack of all trades, Estes said. Just being a Java developer may have been the norm years ago, but competition is fierce today.

“The more you can multitask or know multiple things, [the better your] job security,” Estes said. “[For instance,] today, companies want a programmer analyst to have some database background [or] a desktop support professional [to be able to] work a help desk, as well.”

Experience in security, network administration and servers — among other areas — in addition to one’s existing skill set could prove to be advantageous.

Further, IT has become a crucial component to effectively run a business.

“In the old days, business used to look at IT as a necessary evil, [but] over the years that has morphed into: IT can actually be a key competitive edge for the company, whether it be through business intelligence or reaching more customers,” Estes explained.

Even as some sectors have been hit hard during this recession, there has been a steady demand for IT services, he said.

“We still have demand across the board for infrastructure support, application development, database development and project managers,” he said.

And some of the most in-demand IT skill sets include services related to security, network administration and programmer analyst roles.

“We still see a very strong demand in customer support, whether that be help desk, desktop support [or something similar],” Estes said.

– Deanna Hartley, dhartley@certmag.com

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Deanna Hartley

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