IT contracting regains pulling power

Contracting in IT as a career has regained favour with project professionals with a sharp rise in positive sentiment recorded over the last year according to a candidate survey by recruiter Resources Connection Australia (previously DeLoitte Re:sources).

The qualitative survey of 61 project professionals showed a 10 percent popularity jump for IT based projects, up from 16 percent to 26 percent.

The survey also put IT projects at the top the heap compared to other sectors competing for the same labour pool, which fell heavily by comparison.

Manufacturing projects sagged 12 percent (from 32 to 20 percent), banking and finance 12 percent (from 33 to 21 percent), while public sector contracting fell 5 percent (from 8 to 3 percent) in terms of favoured employment destinations.

Resources Connection managing director, Deborah Coakley, said restored confidence in IT projects stemmed from a perception of greater stability in the sector compared to the uncertainty of 12 months ago, adding that project contractors had a natural nose for sustainable appointments which would work out well - rather than go pear-shaped.

"[Project] candidates tend to choose on the attractiveness of an individual project [over an] industry sector. The IT industry hasn't lacked project management in the past…it's just that [IT] projects may not have been clear about what their scope was, or integrated [contractors] into the internal team," Coakley said.

Candidates also rated their "exposure to a variety of industries" higher as a key benefit of contracting, 5 percent higher than last year - a trend Coakley said illustrated the "attractiveness of cross-industry [skills] functionality".

Director for business development at project management software firm Primavera, Steve Keys also confirmed a lift in IT contracting. Keys noted organizations were now smarter about managing the internal fit of contracted IT project professionals - rather than just throwing cash at labour.

"Customer organizations are getting more adept at opportunity management - identifying the skills available in-house and comparing [those] with projects either under way or under consideration. [They] carefully identify when and where to deploy permanent and contracting staff to maximum effect for maximum returns," Keys said.

However, Keys warned that businesses needed an "organizational commitment to a common project and resource management approach" and should "spend money on contractors more carefully, on the right projects and for the right reasons".

"Otherwise you risk spending money poorly and on misaligned or non-strategic project work," Keys said.

IT recruiter Robert Walters' 2004 global salary survey also noted demand for IT project professionals "increased throughout the fourth quarter of 2003 and is forecast to continue throughout 2004".

The recruiter's survey noted that demand was driven "as a result of organizations seeking experienced delivery management expertize to enhance internal resources". Project remuneration varied widely in range but appeared to remain static.

Bang for your buck

(Sydney)

IT project manager:

1-3 yrs experience: $70K - $80K

3-5yrs experience: $75K - $90K

Plus 5 yrs: $90K - $150K

IT project director: $170K - $250K

CTO/CIO: $170K - $300K

IT manager: $85K - $140K

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