Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:16

Tough times ahead for ICT employers, employees

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With employees working longer hours, greater pressure on employer budgets and more stringent headcount approval processes in place, Australia’s ICT employers are bracing for what they see as tougher business conditions this year compared to 2013.

With 76% of employers recently surveyed by IT recruiter Hudson saying they think they now face “tougher market conditions”, there’s also greater pressure on budgets (83.2%), and a 70.8% increase in workloads.

And, it’s not just employers, but also employees, who will endure tougher conditions, with ICT recruitment firm Hudson finding that demands on ICT employees are greater, with 39.8% of them already working longer hours. But, in spite of being busier at work, most (87.6%) ICT employees say they have actively sought ways to improve their work skills in the past year.

The additional demands of business are placing ICT employees under greater pressure, with only 37.2% of ICT employers reporting more positive team morale and 53.9% reporting increased team stress levels, while 30.4% of ICT employees feel less secure in their role.

Contracting is increasing, particularly in ICT, according to Hudson, with more than a quarter (27.4%) of organisations across all professions used contractors more in 2013. And, the survey reveals that ICT companies are significantly more likely than average to use contractors, with a third (33.1%) of ICT employers saying they used contractors more than they did a year ago.

And, there’s some good news for ICT professionals on the pay front. Hudson says that remuneration is also on the rise and most (86.4%) ICT employers said they have increased base salaries in the last 12 months. Intentions for ICT employers to raise salaries in 2014 are in line with the average across all professions, Hudson reports.

Hudson says the survey reveals that ICT employers are already transforming their businesses to succeed in the ongoing challenging and changing market conditions.

“The ICT profession has changed immeasurably over the last few years from a back-office technical specialist function to a more client-facing, business enabling role,” said Tim Davis, Director ICT, Sydney, Hudson.

“Technology is embedded in every aspect of our professional and personal lives and helps create and drive business opportunities that were unimagined a decade ago.

“Mobility, cloud computing and big data are the most talked about trends today. People with strong skills in these areas have plenty of options. Businesses want people who can provide analytics and business intelligence, who are great communicators and have the commercial acumen to help them become more productive and profitable.”

The report shows that the roles and skills most in demand include:

•    Project Managers (Application Development - CMS, ecommerce & Agile)

•    Business Analysts (CMS and Agile)

•    Business Intelligence/Data-Warehouse and Analytics Consultants (Big Data)

•    Solutions Architects (Mobility, Cloud Computing & CMS)

•    Application Developers (ERP, CRM, CMS)

•    Web/Mobile Developers (iOS/Android, .NET, MVC, HTML5, UX/UI, PHP)

•    Security/Identity Management Consultants

•    Mainframe Developers

•    CMS Administrators/Consultants (SharePoint, SiteCore, Drupal, RedDot)

 And, Hudson reports that there is easing demand for:

•    Senior and middle managers

•    Operations managers

•    Generic project managers

The report also looked at key trends that are occurring in the ICT profession, highlighting the following main developments:

•    Cloud computing services are in constant demand: this is particularly true within sectors that rely on mobile workforce. By scaling the infrastructure and applications using technology supported and managed by the cloud provider, these services remove the need for in-house resources

•    Big data is driving significant activity across corporate functions, notably IT: IT departments are playing a major role within many organisations’ big data strategies. We are seeing increasing sophistication within business intelligence and data warehousing functions which is driving demand for analytics skills; specialists in data modeling; developers; and also business facing professionals to assist in interpreting, communicating and applying data insights. Organisations are investing in this area in an effort to increase efficiency and effectiveness in corporate functions including, but not limited to, marketing, finance, operations and customer service. Big data is impacting industries widely, most obviously those within the financial services sector, retail, and telecommunications sectors

•    Mobility is becoming more widespread: this trend is most evident in sectors where there are strong links between businesses and their clients or consumers. Organisations in industries such as banking, telecommunications, health insurance, utilities, agribusiness and media are driving hiring appetite for professionals with experience in optimising websites and applications for mobile devices using responsive design

•    Security is a concern: government and other organisations, particularly those in the financial sector, must balance the need to control data access with the laws in countries where their data centres are hosted. Government departments are outsourcing IT: this is driving vendor demand, particularly for people with big data capability

•    Solutions architects, CRM developers and those with SharePoint and/or SiteCore skills are sought after: there are multiple opportunities for developers as companies bring application development in-house. C# (.Net) and Java expertise is generally highly valued

•    IT is now a client-facing role: good communication skills and the ability to liaise with stakeholders at all levels, internally and externally, is a must. Most organisations expect these skills and, given the high number of candidates seeking work, demonstrating strong interpersonal skills during the hiring process can be critical to secure a role

•    Cost containment is a priority: we’re seeing senior project managers become overloaded because the market is so price sensitive and line managers have no flexibility on salary budgets. We’re also seeing a trend for companies to either ask for an all-in-one resource at a lower salary or rate, or hire a champion from a vendor. If the resource supplied doesn’t hit the ground running from day one, the vendor is required to provide a new expert

•    Organisations are bringing in contractors for essential projects: the flexibility of contract engagement, and ability to bring in specialist skills for a defined piece of work, is attractive to clients, particularly when cost control and efficiency are priorities.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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