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Study: Recruitment, retention issues top CIO concerns

Author: 'We've got a problem'

By Thomas Hoffman
October 8, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Move over, business alignment. CIOs' biggest worries are now centered on IT labor.

According to an annual study of members of the Society for Information Management, IT recruitment and related issues have eclipsed business alignment as the top management concern among IT executives.

The survey of IT leaders at 112 companies was conducted in June. SIM will release the results tomorrow.

The results of the survey, which featured multiple-choice questions, reflect the growing anxiety that IT executives are experiencing in their efforts to attract and retain highly skilled IT workers. A combination of factors are affecting the supply of and demand for IT workers, including a dramatic reduction in the number of computer science majors at U.S. universities as a result of offshore outsourcing worries, said Jerry Luftman, vice president for academic community affairs for Chicago-based SIM and the author of the study.


SIM's 2007 Top 10 IT Management Concerns
These are the top management concerns among IT leaders based on a survey by the Society for Information Management. IT leaders from 112 companies participated in the survey, which was conducted in June.

1. Attracting, developing and retaining IT professionals
2. IT and business alignment
3. Building business skills in IT*
4. Reduce the cost of doing business*
5. Improve IT quality*
6. Security and privacy
7. Manage change*
8. IT strategic planning
9. Making better use of information*
10. Evolving leadership role*

* denotes concerns that are new to the Top Ten

Those issues, combined with an uptick in retirement among baby boomer IT workers at a time when project work is surging, have escalated concerns among IT managers about finding and keeping valued workers, Luftman said.

"We've got a problem," said Luftman, who will present the study results at SIM's annual SIMposium conference in Memphis this week. He said many IT organizations are struggling to find midcareer IT workers who have polished business skills, and he added that the entry-level IT workers who are available lack so-called soft skills, such as written and verbal communications panache.

"Too frequently, [university] computer science programs don't want to focus on the soft skills" and are reticent about relinquishing an emphasis they've historically placed on developing students' technical acumen, Luftman said. The need for IT workers who can speak to business managers and end users in terms they can understand "is a hot button" for CIOs, he added.

Five of the top concerns cited by senior IT managers cracked the top 100 in the study for the first time. Three of those are focused on business-related demands, including the need to build better business skills among IT workers (see chart).

One of the problems fueling these concerns, Luftman said, is that the onus of IT-business alignment has historically been placed on the shoulders of IT executives -- not on business leaders -- and that situation has to change. "Too many people, including researchers, are defining [IT-business alignment] as a one-way street," Luftman said. That's a fundamental reason why alignment "is such an elusive problem," he said.

Also high on the list of CIO worries is a desire among IT leaders to improve the quality and integrity of information (No. 5). Luftman, who is also executive director of graduate information systems programs at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., said this concern is primarily related to the information disclosure requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other regulations, which are placing a greater emphasis on the quality and accuracy of data.

This year, a substantially smaller percentage of IT leaders (48.7%, compared with 61.3% last year) said they expected to increase their organizations' IT budgets for the coming year. But Luftman downplayed these findings and attributed that result to conservatism among IT leaders. "I'm not too concerned about that," he said.

Read more about Management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.



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