IT director vacancies fall by 31%, but no need to worry, say experts

Demand for IT directors is falling, according to Computer Weekly/SSL Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.

Demand for IT directors is falling, according to Computer Weekly/SSL Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.

The quarterly survey of IT recruitment advertising on the web and in the trade and national papers, showed a fall in advertised IT director vacancies of 31% compared with the previous quarter, from 287 to 198.

The survey results come after Boots and House of Fraser confirmed last month that they would be scrapping the IT director role.

However, CIOs and recruitment specialists do not think the figures represent a long-term decline in demand for IT directors.

Lawrence Levy, managing director of recruitment firm Levy Associates, said the figures reflected the fact that IT directors are moving jobs less frequently. Rising investments in IT are encouraging CIOs to stick around to see major projects through, he said.

"There are a lot of projects going on, and so a lot of accountability and responsibility for high-level people. Companies are trying to retain their senior management while they are delivering projects," said Levy.

"Demand is created when people leave jobs. There is a lot of IT activity driven by new technology, and directors will not leave while they have got a big project on."

For others, the figures illustrated a change in the way IT directors are recruited, as more organisations seek candidates with business experience.

Michael Bennett, director at Rethink Recruitment, said, "Most IT directors are headhunted, rather than the posts being advertised."

Aidan Anglin, managing director of recruitment firm Spring Group, said some companies were looking outside of the IT profession to fill vacancies, and this meant using headhunters.

"It is sometimes the case that non-IT people are taking the IT director roles. A lot of the time high-level IT roles in organisations are about strategy rather than practicality, so employers can go to those who have business backgrounds, instead of someone who has moved up the IT ranks," he said.

Philip Virgo, secretary general of the European Information Society Group, said lower demand for IT directors could be due to offshoring.

"People are moving things out of London to other parts of the world to escape regulatory overheads. That begins at the top. The IT director in Zurich or Singapore is handling things globally," he said.

Denise Plumpton, director of information at the Highways Agency, said that IT directors looking to change positions had no reason to worry.

"Years ago you had to be a technical anorak, then it went in the other direction, towards business. I think it is moving to a middle ground, where companies want people who have a technical understanding.

"I would worry if IT went off the board agenda. It has a lot to contribute to business productivity. I would be disappointed if that opportunity was lost," she said.

David Wilde, CIO at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, agreed. "I think you are seeing the role of CIO taking hold and that of traditional ICT director needing to become more business-oriented. My background is as much business as technology."

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