Time to Upgrade Your IT Staff?


Our 2009 IT Spending study delves deeply into what IT execs expect to do with their limited budget dollars this year.

With any downturn, fears of big cutbacks always arise. Many of you have already been tasked with trimming the headcount in your IT shop; if you haven't yet, it's likely you'll have to soon.

But the big question is, are you taking this opportunity to actually upgrade--not just downsize--your talent quotient?

Marty Abbott, a principal with AKF Partners and a former CTO at eBay, believes many companies (and their CIOs) are taking the wrong approach.

Despite record IT employment figures coming from the government, there's plenty of available talent out there. But too often in times like these, businesses look to cut salaries and resources without considering the strategic ramifications. In other words, they look to cut, not improve.

"I think they're approaching it the wrong way," Abbott told me recently. "They look at it as a number. They should be saying they have an enormous opportunity to upgrade their staff while downsizing their staff."

Sure there's always a stigma about hiring someone who was recently let go from another company, but this is different. The current economic forces causing big job cuts are completely out of the hands of those left unemployed. In good times, sure, why hire someone who was let go when you can find someone who's kept their job? In this environment, plenty of talented folks are losing their jobs without deserving it.

For Abbott, it all boils down to output per dollar spent. And he says upgrading should always be a concern for CIOs. "They should have been doing it a long time ago," he says. "They shouldn't have needed a recession to do it."

What's your take? Are you being forced to cut headcount without consideration of the talent you'll lose? Or are you actually looking to improve your staff while trimming its size?


3 Comments for "Time to Upgrade Your IT Staff?"

  • Diane Seeger March 24, 2009 4:59 pm

    What is the current trend concerning premium pay/perks for IT professionals? In the past 10 years, IT professionals have earned premium pay in many organizations; given the economy, does this practice still hold true?

  • Jon Stroup March 19, 2009 1:20 pm

    Agreed that one should consider upgrading as budgets get tighter. And not just because there is available talent. The changing business climate probably also means that your IT organization's strategy and objectives are changing. So, are the people who fit last year's plan the right people for the next 24 months? Each person on the team should be assessed; a decision to retain, reinforce (train and develop) or replace/let go should be deliberate. It often helps to bring in outside advice for the assessment to assure objectivity and perspective. (Disclosure: I am an executive assessment professional.)

  • Doug Mathias March 19, 2009 12:35 pm

    Qualifying statement: I am a headhunter with over 20 years in the IT industry. I do not agree with the idea that there is a lot of talent available. The ranks of IT have not been hit as hard as other skilled workers. This is confirmed in studies of the IT labor force by NACCB (see www.naccb.org). Smart managers are fighting to retain their A-talent, and those top performers who are employed are not even considering a job change in this market. It's like trying to find a buyer for a house. We recruiters are working harder than ever to ferret out and move the A-players to our clients. I do agree that management should be working on topgrading (rather than upgrading) their team on a regular basis. A downturn is the worst time to attempt this because you have a limited pool of top performers to draw upon.

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