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CIOs Ready to Ramp Up IT Staffing

By Larry Barrett

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The third quarter figures to be a good one for skilled IT workers as CIOs begin to shake off some of the IT hiring rust that's accumulated over the past three or four years and expand their staffs to take on key strategic projects put off during the recession.

While it's too early to declare the end of the worst economic malaise since the Great Depression, staffing and recruiting firm Robert Half International said 10 percent of the 1,400-plus CIOs at companies with more than 100 employees plan to increase their IT teams during the third quarter.

Virtualization, cloud computing projects and long-overdue corporate upgrade cycles are creating plenty of work for IT staff that were largely gutted in cost-savings moves throughout the past half decade.

"Many technology executives are feeling optimistic enough about business conditions to add personnel," Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, said in a statement. "Companies that cut staff levels or implemented hiring freezes during the downturn are realizing they need employees now to help upgrade IT systems and prepare their firms for potential growth."

RHI's survey also found that 64 percent of CIOs blamed understaffing in their company's IT department for impairing their ability to implement innovative or emerging technologies.

The latest data represents a slight but sustained improvement above previous IT staffing growth projections and would seem to signal the beginning of what could be a robust recovery throughout the information technology sector.

Of those surveyed, 81 percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" confident about their companies' growth prospects, up from 79 percent in the second quarter. And 40 percent said they're optimistic that the business leaders in their companies will green-light more IT projects in the next three months.

Despite the positive outlook, this uptick in IT staffing is far from universal.

RHI found that four percent of companies are planning to reduce their IT departments in the third quarter, resulting in an expected net increase in IT personnel of roughly six percent during the third quarter. CIOs plan to continue selective, strategic IT hires through the rest of the year and some are already agonizing about the costs and hassles associated with retaining valuable IT workers once the economy returns to full bloom.

The survey found that 34 percent of tech executives said they are concerned about losing top IT performers to other job opportunities in the next year, up from 31 percent last quarter. Forty-three percent also reported that it is challenging to find skilled IT professionals today.

Networking, applications development and security and database management specialists appear likely to be most in-demand through the rest of 2010, RHI said.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.