Spending rise has a downside

The Computer Weekly/Kew Associates quarterly spending survey should put a smile on everyone's face. IT spending by corporate...

The Computer Weekly/Kew Associates quarterly spending survey should put a smile on everyone's face. IT spending by corporate users was up again, with spending by large corporates showing its biggest increase in three years.

But not all the investment is going directly on technology to boost the bottom line. Much is going on compliance projects, leaving IT directors battling to get direct business benefit from their investment.

The public sector is still sucking in IT resources. Its spending in the last quarter was up 8.8%, excluding the national programme for IT in the NHS, and 17% including it. Tony Blair's e-government programme promises much, but we have yet to see tangible productivity gains or dramatically improved services.

There are already signs that the spending boom is leading to skills shortages. The Computer Weekly/ SSL Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends has reported dramatically increased demand for contractors and permanent staff, and IT directors are already complaining of difficulties in recruiting permanent staff.

Will we soon face software and hardware companies trying to push up prices? This may be the right time to remind your suppliers that the IT market is still highly competitive.

Don't labour alone

Charles Babbage and Lord Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace may have comprised the world's first user group as they worked together on their "analytical engines" way back in the early 19th century.

Things have come a long way since then, as Julia Vowler's review on page 46 of some of the UK's leading user groups demonstrates. There is certainly no need for any senior IT professional to labour alone these days.

Whether it is help with technical, management or career issues that is needed, today's IT director has a wealth of organisations with members eager to help one another.

Vowler's article shows the tip of the iceberg. There is not enough space to detail the vast range of niche groups in the UK today - not just technology-specific but special interest groups ranging from the Church Computer Users Group through the British Computer Association of the Blind to the myriad local computer associations.

It all points to a thriving interest in IT at both professional and amateur levels. Babbage and Lovelace may not have known what they started - but we are glad they did!

Read more on IT risk management