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IT salary survey: More pessimism than optimism in IT outlook for 2010

The IT outlook in 2010 for many enterprises is one of pessimism, although, surprisingly, some hard-hit industries report optimism in their IT shops. Get a 2010 outlook with a breakdown by industry.

Although many economic barometers indicate that the recession will subside in 2010, the IT outlook for more enterprise organizations is a feeling of pessimism rather than optimism entering the new year, according to the results of's annual IT salary and careers survey.

The survey, conducted among readers of and in the fourth quarter of 2009 via email, garnered 952 responses across 21 industries and all regions of the U.S. It defined a senior IT executive as having a title of vice president, executive vice president, senior vice president, CIO, chief technology officer or chief information security officer. Midlevel IT executives were defined as those at the director level, and IT managers as having one or more direct reports.

Their 2010 outlook revealed that pessimism is highest among IT shops working with computer-related retailers, wholesalers and distributors (63.64%). Their gloomy view is followed by IT shops in the computer and data processing and consulting industry (46.67%), and IT in media, marketing and advertising (45.45%).

However, the IT outlook among some executives was one of optimism, which was highest in some of the hardest-hit industries in this recession, including automotive and transportation (50%), medical (40%),and construction, mining and agriculture (37.5%).

But Ken McGee, a research fellow at Stamford, Conn.-based consultancy Gartner Inc., tempered this enthusiasm, noting that many IT organizations reporting a positive 2010 outlook are doing so because they believe business can't get much worse after a dismal 2009.

[Companies] are just going to have to learn to expect to deal with parts of their companies in certain parts of the world growing, while others are simultaneous contracting.

Even among those expressing enthusiasm, "I think the overwhelming majority are cautious about the speed with which pre-recession levels of business will return -- that's not going to happen in 2010," he said.

McGee pointed out that optimism and pessimism cut not only by industry, but also on a regional basis. IT organizations with a global reach will likely recover more quickly than those with operations based only in the U.S. or western Europe, which were the hardest-hit areas in this recession.

"[Companies] are just going to have to learn to expect to deal with parts of their companies in certain parts of the world growing, while others are simultaneous contracting," McGee said. "That's the price tag of globalization."

There may be some solid reasons for IT optimism, however. McGee pointed to Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs in leading U.S. enterprise companies, which reported in December that 68% of member CEOs anticipate that sales will increase in the next six months, up from 51% who said the same thing the previous quarter. On capital spending, 40% of CEOs are projecting higher spending in the next six months, almost doubling the previous quarter's 21%.

"There could be a lag between what senior executives say, and when it reaches the CIOs," McGee said.

How would you describe the mood in IT at your organization?
 Computer-related retailer/
 Computer and data processing/
 Technology service provider
 Federal government
 (includes military)
 Financial (includes accounting
 firms, banking, securities,
 credit, venture capital)
 Education (includes colleges,
 universities, other)
 Nonprofit/trade association
 Manufacturing (noncomputer)
 Entertainment (includes
 hospitality, travel, recreation)
 Medical/health care/
 Construction, mining and
 State and local government

Total responses: 950

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