CIOs Say New Projects Increasing Workload

By Michael Pastore

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More than half of the CIOs asked in a recent survey said the number of projects in their IT departments has increased in the past 12 months. The survey, developed by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology and conducted by an independent research firm, found that 46 percent of those surveyed cited new initiatives as the reason for the increased workload.

"Many companies that postponed hardware and software upgrades to save costs are now faced with a business need to move forward with these projects," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "A number of the systems purchased during the technology boom of the late 90s, for example, are nearing the end of their lifecycle and must be updated or replaced."

The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees.

CIOs were asked, "How has the workload of your IT staff changed in the past 12 months?" Their responses:

Increased significantly 20%
Increased somewhat 35%
No change 38%
Decreased 6%
Don't know/no answer 1%

CIOs citing an increase were asked, "What is the main factor contributing to a growing workload?" Their responses:

New projects 46%
Corporate expansion 36%
Decreased IT staff size 9%
Other 8%
Don't know/no answer 1%

Interestingly, only 9 percent of the executives surveyed said larger workloads are the result of smaller IT departments, despite the significant number of layoffs that have hit IT departments in recent years.

According to Lee, employers can take certain steps to ensure their staff remains motivated when workloads peak. Lee said employers should encourage balance by ensuring employees take breaks throughout the day and use their vacation time to avoid burnout. Employers also need to be realistic; setting achievable tasks and deadlines. When assigning tasks, leaders should explain how they support larger business objectives.

The number of job cuts in the high-tech sector have waned of late. It remains to be seen whether a wave of hiring awaits to help with increased workloads, or if employers will hold back and get as much as possible out of existing employees.

The computer industry lost 3,473 jobs in June, while telecommunications lost 5,528. The two sectors combined lost 54,278 jobs between January and May this year. That is 67 percent fewer cuts than the 165,391 logged in the same five-month period last year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Overall, layoffs declined for the second month in a row, with 59,715 jobs being lost in June. That's the lowest figure since 44,152 jobs were cut in November, 2000 — 31 months ago. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 630,532 announced job cuts. That number is 14 percent below the mid-year total (735,527) recorded in 2002.