CIOs thrive in recession

CIOs are under extreme pressure to deliver more with decreasing budgets, but are upbeat about the challenges that the worldwide recession is throwing at them, the latest Harvey Nash IT Leadership Survey reveals.


British and European CIOs are upbeat and seizing the opportunities the worldwide recession is throwing at them, the latest Harvey Nash IT Leadership Survey reveals.

The survey, produced in association with PA Consulting Group, polled 1,345 CIOs from across Europe. CIOs are under extreme pressure to deliver more with decreasing budgets, but the 55-page report paints a picture of a CIO community that is leading by example and still finding ways to innovate.

Chief executives and boards like to hear of solutions, not problems, and CIOs across Europe are using the recession to challenge their organisations with the adoption of agile working practices or new technology that reduces costs, recruitment specialists Harvey Nash believe.

Analysing the results of their survey, the London-based company said, "IT leaders are being bolder, using lack of cash as a catalyst to stimulate fundamental change in their business". Harvey Nash believe the overall sentiment of CIOs is structured change that focuses on recovery and is in no way a panic about reduced revenues.

The survey reveals that CIOs are leading by example and reassuring not only their teams, but also the entire organisation. Perhaps as a result, more CIOs in the 2009 Harvey Nash survey felt their role was becoming increasingly strategic, which reflects the maturing business view of IT as a provider of solutions in difficult times.

Reflecting the changed attitude towards IT, less than half of the respondents reported a decline in their budget in the last 12 months, although when compared to last year's survey, where 17 percent of respondents saw a decline, 42 percent this year have reported a budget cut.

Interestingly, 25 percent said their budgets had increased. When asked if they expect their budgets to be reduced over the forthcoming 12 months, 48 percent are anticipating a further reduction. There is also a small group, 18 per cent, who expect an increase.

PA Consulting sees three different scenarios facing the CIO, depending on the state of their organisation and the market it is in.

Those organisations with stable budgets are lucky to be operating in a business-as-usual mode, while companies with budget problems are either drastically reducing headcount and deferring IT projects, or bravely striking out on a new course using the recession as a vehicle for change.

Cuts to staff and project deferment is the most prevalent scenario PA Consulting sees and it puts this down to many of the organisations being hit by this recession as being unaccustomed to the current market conditions after a decade of growth.

CIOs are concerned about causing long-term damage to their teams by making drastic cuts in headcount. Harvey Nash found that 67 percent were concerned a "skills shortage would have a negative impact on their business", an increase from 61 percent with the same concern last year.

The fear of damaging the IT team through drastic job cuts is held throughout Europe, with 54 per cent of CIOs reporting that headcount cuts were having an impact on their organisations.

Project delivery and business analysis skills are still in demand by 43 percent and 40 percent of respondents respectively. British CIOs are less inclined than their European peers for staff to fill gaps.

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