At first blush, recent reports of falling it salaries and stalled technology spending might easily be interpreted as proof that the bloom is off the rose, that enterprises have lost interest in IT as a critical tool for achieving business advantage. That interpretation, however, would be wrong.
CEOs, and for that matter stockholders and customers, see IT leadership as increasingly central to achieving and maintaining competitive advantage in almost every business. CIOs, therefore, are increasingly occupied with strategic e-business systems and less so with cyclical operating system and chip-set upgrades. This is a change in focus that makes some spending indicators, especially those that reflect the upgrade treadmill, look weak.
Take a closer look, for example, at a recent report by Janco Associates, of Park City, Utah, that compensation levels for CIOs and other top IT managers fell in the first six months of the year, for the first time since 1985. Once you get past the Chicken Little executive summary, the survey says that overall CIO compensation is falling because CIO compensation is increasingly made up of nonsalary components. CIO bonuses and stock options, such as the paycheck enhancements given to most C-level executives, are increasingly linked to overall company performance. As the economys current weakness puts short-term pressure on corporate earnings, CIO take-home pay shows the effect. The long-term implication, however, is that, because CIOs and their organizations are considered integral to enterprise performance, companies are likely to compete vigorously in the future for the best and the brightest of IT professionals. This is good news.
At the same time, the Janco survey reported that, even as the economy slows and enterprises are cutting PC and server hardware spending, they arent hesitating to pay steeply higher salaries to IT professionals with e-commerce and security expertise. The correct conclusion should be clear: The future of IT is in delivering innovative and secure e-business services. It is no longer just in the care, feeding and constant upgrading of networks, servers, storage devices and PCs.
Its important to remember how we got here: The Y2K-driven spending boom in 1998 and 1999 coupled with the dot-com-influenced spending surge last year skewed traditional IT investment patterns. This makes the current pause look far deeper than it is, seen from a larger historical perspective. But make no mistake. IT and IT professionals are more critical to enterprise success than ever. This will be doubly apparent when spending levels return to normal—and it will be even more apparent to IT professionals who hone their skills now to deliver secure e-commerce services for tomorrow.