Retail CIOs Bullish About Hiring, Not So Much About Starting New Projects

Retail CIOs are much more aggressive than their other sector counterparts in planning for more IT hires, according to new survey figures released this week by Robert Half Technology (RHT), which surveyed 1,400 CIOs (of multiple industries) from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees. But when RHT— at StorefrontBacktalk's request—isolated the answers to solely the 148 retail CIOs surveyed, the conclusions changed.

The most glaring difference was for projected hiring. When compared with the national numbers and against seven other verticals (manufacturing; finance, insurance and real estate; professional services; construction; wholesale; transportation; and business services), retail CIOs were the most optimistic about hiring IT people, tying manufacturing, with 9 percent of both segments' CIOs saying they plan to add staff and one percent saying they plan to reduce staff.

The national average is seven percent to hire and three percent to reduce. Three percent of wholesale CIOs say they plan to hire, with zero planning to reduce. Finance CIOs also have 3 percent planning to hire, although 8 percent plan to reduce.

Hiring IT staff is one thing. Putting them to work on projects is quite another. The national average shows 55 percent of CIOs are highly confident about their companies investing in IT projects in the third quarter, but the retail CIOs are similarly optimistic only 43 percent of the time. Asked to rank that enthusiasm for third-quarter IT projects on a five-point scale, almost one-fifth (19 percent) selected either one or two points. The largest single chunk (37 percent) of the retail CIOs went for the middle-of-the-road three points.

The retail group was right in line with other CIOs in answering how "challenging it is to find skilled professionals today," with 48 percent of the national group saying it's challenging and the retailer IT leaders hitting 50 percent.

When the retail CIO group ranked the technical skills it found most in demand within its IT department, it chose: network administration, 60 percent; Windows administration, 58 percent; desktop support, 54 percent; database management, 49 percent; wireless network management, 46 percent; telecom support (mostly VoIP), 42 percent; Web development, 33 percent; virtualization, 28 percent; business intelligence, 21 percent; and ERP, 24 percent.