Downturn yields bottom-line benefits

The current economic instability has brought some silver linings for Australian IT professionals. Welcome benefits range from lower prices for technology products to more success filling critical positions.

Greg Carvouni, CIO for the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority, said the hard times have finally brought "common sense, stability and value" to the IT world.

Bob Carroll, IT manager for RJE Systems, said one of the benefits he has seen due to the current economic state is lower consultant fees. "We now find the cost of employing experienced consultants has fallen dramatically.

"Previously, a VB SQL consultant with five years' experience would expect $75-$100 an hour. Now it is $50-$75 an hour."

Carvouni is also pleased about the drop in consultant charges. "For those of us in the middle band of the remuneration market, I have managed to either recruit quality permanents or persuade long term contractors to fill some management roles previously filled with contractors.

"I know it may be temporary until the market picks up again, but having someone at a reasonable value for even a year or two is a step ahead."

IT managers have told Computerworld over the past couple of months that vendors are also being extremely negotiable in price.

Carvouni said renegotiations for contracts or retendering are "very fertile ground", especially for telecommunication services.

However, while it is easier to get a good price for technology, Carroll said organisations are still reluctant to approve new projects.

"The decision to spend or to allocate funds to any new development is not being made.

"At this stage we have seen very little improvement [towards an economic recovery]. Although people are at least talking more positively about the future," Carroll said.

Michael Fleisher, chairman and CEO of Gartner, said at the recent Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo 2002 conference that many top corporate executives "do not believe that we are anywhere close to being in a recovery". This is in spite of efforts by sales-hungry vendors to convince them that an economic rebound is under way.

"I think it's a mistake to try to cheerlead our way to a recovery, which is exactly what people in the tech industry have been doing for the last several months," said Fleisher.

He added that this year will remain "a tough environment" for companies.

Carroll and Carvouni both agree that things will not start to pick up for Australian IT shops for at least a year or two.

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