Prove your worth. That’s the message the IT job market seems to be emphasising this year, a new-found “reality” reflected in the inaugural Computerworld IT Salary Survey, which suggests that pay packets are increasing in size, though not as much as last year.
IT managers and recruiters we spoke to tend to agree.
“If I look at what I’m earning relative to the Christchurch market, I’m fairly paid,” says Rob Rae, IS manager for Christchurch-based Switchtec Power Systems, although he’d prefer we don’t let his boss know. He would expect to earn between 10% and 15% more if he were in Auckland or Wellington, and sees most of his pay in a reasonable base salary with a bonus for performance, a trend repeated around the IT industry at the management level.
IT recruitment specialists agree that performance is more of an issue in 1997 than in previous years.
Dave Newick, the director of IT recruitment firm Cope Management, says: “We’re in the age of the PC and everyone has one on their desk. If you have 5000 PCs to support you’ve either got to have a very good vendor or a very good support team or, more likely, both.”
Megan Fletcher, managing director of Protocol Personnel, believes supply and demand are finally balancing in the industry. “At the start of the year anyone with experience in NT was getting swiped up but now our customers are checking out the people and what they’ve got.”
Fletcher also sees more “honesty” in the marketplace. “No longer do you get the big packages for average performance. You’ve got to prove your worth.” Fletcher points to the outsourcing of IT as a growth area, especially in the larger corporations.
“Companies aren’t just selling hardware and software - there’s no meat in it - so they’re selling services. It’s huge.” She says corporations under pressure to reduce their employee numbers will outsource as a way round the problem.
One company that does outsource is New Zealand Dairy Packers. IT manager Kevin Wilson supports 200 employees with just one IT staff member.
“We outsource everything we don’t have the knowledge to deal with,” he says. This can leave Wilson in something of a bind when it comes to long-term strategic planning.
“One of my problems has been not having time to deal with everything. It’s the old story - you came here to drain the swamp but you’re up to your arse in alligators.”
One upgrade recently took him 36 hours over a weekend to set up and the following six weeks to de-bug and re-train staff.
“I had ten guys here and it still took all that time.”
Wilson would like to hire more staff just to compensate for the company’s growth rate over the past two years.
“The company was very backward with its IT strategy. They had an IBM 36 with 20 terminals and software written in the ’70s. I put in a LAN and 25 PCs. Now we have 60 PCs two years later.” As Wilson dryly puts it, “I have a feeling I will need a third person within twelve months.”
At the other end of the spectrum is Rae at Switchtec. He has 11 staff looking after 430 employees and everything is done internally. “At times we’re stretched, particularly at the network end. We’ve got 250 PCs and a network team of four people, but we’re still very stretched.” The management at Switchtec are the most progressive Rae’s come across when it comes to IT matters.
“The level of IT support is exceptionally high. There’s no skimping on IT.” Rae was hired to bring a more strategic approach to managing IT, but he says it is still rare to work for such a company.
“There are still far too many that see it as a necessary evil and pay lip service to it but don’t actually commit and give their IT staff a serious go at doing the right thing.”