by Roy Harris

Pressure Grows for IT Spending, Hiring, but Goods, Workers Won’t Come Easy

Dec 15, 20114 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Bottlenecks, shortages of equipment, and personnel problems remain an issue for companies even if surveys show significant needs.

Technology-related investments and IT hiring are high on the shopping lists for U.S. companies at year-end. But that very rush into tech likely will increase the bottlenecks and shortages for both goods and people.

The optimistic side of the equation was spelled out in the latest CDW IT Monitor report. CDW, which provides tech products and services to businesses, found in its survey that 62% of IT decision-makers — already adding people at record levels this year — are looking to hire in the next six months. They are targeting programmers, developers and engineers, among others, according to the survey. It measured the appetite for IT hiring as most strong among corporations, with 64% of corporate hirers looking for more employees, compared with 28% of those in government.

Among technology decision-makers, 20% “anticipate hiring additional IT staff in the next six months, the highest percentage in almost a year,” Neal Campbell, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of CDW, said in comments prepared for CFOworld. He added, “As 2012 draws near, many IT leaders are feeling optimistic as significant IT projects are getting top billing within their organizations. The survey findings demonstrate confidence among IT decision-makers that business-critical investments in hardware and IT solutions will be high priorities next year.”

‘Intense’ Competition for Talent

Among those raising a cautious note, though, is Aftab Jamil, partner and national director of the technology and life-sciences practice for BDO USA LLP, the accounting, tax, and financial advisory firm.

“I have read the CDW report and agree that demand for qualified technical resources has picked up,” he told But “one should keep in mind that competition for the right talent is intense, and therefore finding and successfully recruiting the top talent is not a straight forward task.”

While IT budgets may be increasing, “in the next few months a number of technology companies might expect a bumpy ride due to supply chain issues,” he said. “Intel just lowered their outlook for the quarter because computer manufacturers cannot get enough disk drives due to Thailand flood issues, and if manufacturers of hardware cannot operate due to disk drive shortages, semiconductor companies may not be able to sell their chips. However, this is expected to be a short term issue, and barring no new challenges, it should rectify itself within the next couple of quarters.”

Hardware Yes, Software No

BDO also cautioned that talent wars are heating up, not just in Silicon Valley, but in U.S. tech hubs everywhere. And in addition to supply-chain interruptions causing problems in Asia, certain technology sectors — like “clean tech,” for one — present special problems.

“With the recent bankruptcy of Solyndra and the negative implications it holds for the industry at large, there is a dark cloud hanging over the cleantech sector,” according to Jamil. “Consumer and investor interest has begun to wane, as questions over the strength of the industry gain momentum and companies face further supply chain interruptions.”

The CDW research showed that only 13% of It decision-makers were expecting budget reductions in the next six months, a seven-point decline since August.

In its breakdown by area of IT demand, hardware and IT systems seemed in for a good next six months, with 76% of corporations and government agencies in the survey making hardware purchases — and 43% planning to buy systems. Meanwhile, demand for software dipped slightly from August.

Healthcare, manufacturing and retail were identified as the strongest sectors for IT purchases.

The survey was taken in late October among 1,045 IT decision-makers from all sizes of companies. Both medium and large-sized business were considering major IT investments in the next six months, the CDW report showed — 10 percentage points more than the medium-sized-company demand registered last August, and four points more than what large businesses had indicated.

The most confident industries in the survey were healthcare (53% showing confidence in investment), manufacturing (50%) and retail (46%.)

CFOs Look to Hire Accountants

Separately, demand for accounting and finance personnel, not necessarily connected with IT, also seems to be improving, according to Robert Half Financial Hiring Index.

That improving outlook was registered among CFOs interviewed by Robert Half, the parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, and Robert Half Management Resources, respectively providing temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals.

The survey shows 20% of U.S. finance executives planning to add full-time accounting and finance personnel, with 11% forecasting reduced staffs. The 9% net increase represents a four-point gain from the fourth quarter survey, and is the third consecutive quarter of growth.

In hiring for finance and accounting, too, the skills shortage is a problem. The Robert Half survey, taken by telephone interview among more than 1,400 U.S. CFOs, showed 68% of executives reporting difficulties finding the right people, up from 59% in Q4 and from 41% in Q3.