Firms seek tech pros to optimize resources

Firms looking for employees who can help improve business and optimize performance, finds new survey, which forecasts little or no increase in pay for sector.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--While companies globally continue to keep a tight rein on their headcount, the economic upturn from the second half of 2009 has encouraged more to embark on fewer mission-critical projects.

According to executive recruitment firm, Robert Walters, this development led to an increase in IT jobs for both permanent positions and contractual employment. At a media briefing here Tuesday, the company revealed this and other findings from its 2010 salary survey.

The report added that permanent hires slowly picked up in the second quarter of 2009, particularly for IT professionals who have both functional and technical skills. This is evident in the areas of project management, software development and support functions.

Elaborating on this finding, Roger Olofsson, associate director for IT at Robert Walters, said companies, having weathered the worst of the economic recession in the first quarter of 2009, were looking to be "a bit ahead of the curve" and gave the green light for implementations not considered to be "mission critical".

"We've seen an onset of projects that weren't mission critical and had [previously] been put on hold. This [surge of projects] have been [rolled out] mainly to address cost control and consolidation of financial reporting in companies," he told ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of the briefing.

Olofsson highlighted that organizations are now embarking on projects that revolve around enterprise resource planning (ERP), systems application and products, business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing--areas that look at optimizing existing business resources and cutting down costs.

With regard to salary, IT professionals looking for new jobs this year expect to see no increase to a 10 percent increase in their current drawn pay. In comparison, prospective employees last year expected their pay to either increase or decrease by 5 percent.

Olofsson predicted that for the year ahead, more IT positions will be made available in job areas such as sales, presales, solutions architecture, service delivery, project management, cloud computing, virtualization, information management and security.

He picked out security as the surprising entrant to the group, and said before the fourth quarter of 2009, security was not an area of focus. "However, since then, there has been a significant uptake in security positions and we see this momentum continuing in 2010," he said.

Olofsson said his team is still assessing the reason behind this growth, but attributed it possibly to an increased emphasis in information and security auditing, as well as the increasing need to safeguard data flow due to the increase in corporate data access points.

Contract offers up
There has also been growing contractual employment since fourth quarter-2009, particularly in the IT and financial services sectors, he said. "As more companies increase their project budgets, which is a flexible cost that can be easily turned on or off, they continue to keep tight control over their headcount. This means more are looking at contract staff to fill in the gaps, as companies continue to view the economic recovery cautiously," he explained.

Within Singapore, Olofsson pointed out that the first quarter of 2010 has been "one of the busiest months" for Robert Walters in terms of permanent IT job hires.

He added that this momentum is not expected to flag. "Toward the end of the year, we expect salaries and contract rates across the board to return to levels witnessed in early-2008," the survey reported.

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