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Keeping Tabs on the Profession

<i>Windows IT Pro</i>'s Industry Survey 2006

If you've been following along with our annual industry surveys (with this survey we're at three and counting), you've seen us build a well-rounded and surprisingly consistent picture, year over year, of the Windows IT pro community. In our first survey, in 2004, we dedicated an entire issue to your answers to our detailed survey questions. We built a composite profile of our survey respondents, right down to their deep and abiding affection for all things Star Trek. We pulled back a bit last year to focus on the nittier, grittier aspects of how you make your living, and we learned a lot about your salary concerns and job satisfaction levels.

This time around, we're again looking at the work you do, how you're compensated for it, and how you feel about it. We asked a few new questions in this year's survey to get a better idea of what you think working in IT is all about and, as usual, you've given us some intriguing statistics to ponder. Senior Editor Jason Bovberg looks at your community participation in "Sizing Up the IT Pro Community" on page 40 and considers the ever-shifting concepts of workplace in "Blurring the Line Between Work and Home," on page 44.

Survey Matters

This year, 1503 respondents answered 61 survey questions. We sent approximately 7500 invitations to participate in the survey to a group of IT professionals who have agreed to receive a variety of additional information from us, and we also ran announcements inviting participation in the survey in our email newsletters and the Windows IT ProWeb site. As an incentive to participate in the survey, we offered the chance to win one of five $100 American Express gift certificates and randomly selected the five winners from among the respondents. The survey was open for voting from July through August. Our survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Most of our survey respondents, 74 percent, live in the United States and Canada. This number is down slightly from 76 percent in 2005. Where did that 2 percent go? Evidently to the Europe/Eurasia region, which bumped from 13 percent participation in 2005 to 14 percent in 2006, and the South Asia region, which contributed 2 percent in 2006, up from 1 percent in 2005.

In the United States, our survey respondents aren't quite evenly divided throughout the country, although the percentages don't diverge wildly. Slightly more reside in the southern states (26 percent), followed by the West (25 percent), the Midwest (22 percent), and the Northeast (19 percent).

Line IT Rules

Although the number of people responding to our industry surveys has varied a bit over three years, the percentage of respondents who report their job title as systems or network administrator has remained consistent. In 2004 and 2005, our question about job title prompted a separate response for systems admins and network admins. The percentage of respondents who held one of those titles in 2004 was 36 percent; in 2005 it was 32.6 percent. This year, we combined both job titles into one category and garnered a 32 percent response. Altogether, a full 49 percent of respondents to the survey this year identified their job title as belonging within the IT Staff category. Another 36 percent identified themselves as IT Management, and the remainder fell into the Nontechnical Management, Technical (Non-IT) User, or Other category.

No matter what your job title is, providing IT systems administration is what most of you do all day. We provided 23 descriptions of job responsibilities and asked respondents to choose as many as were applicable. The number-one response, which 65 percent of respondents chose, was providing systems administration. That response was also tops in 2005, with a 59 percent response. In fact, the top five responses in this category remain unchanged in 2006 from the 2005 survey: Administering systems, supporting end users, administering the network, analyzing systems, and deploying desktop hardware and software—the mainstay tasks of line IT—fill the days for most of you. Figure 1 shows the percentage of respondents who selected each of the 24 categories.

We added two new responsibilities categories to the mix this year, and both garnered a pretty high percentage of your responses. Planning and implementing IT security strategy is a responsibility that 45 percent of you tackle regularly, ranking sixth in the list of 23. Providing identity/Active Directory management ranked eighth, with 43 percent of you saying this responsibility is part of your job.

Of course, we did add an "Other job responsibilities" category to this list, and many respondents contributed descriptions of the tasks that didn't fall neatly into the categories we provided. "IT purchasing" elicited several mentions. "SOX consulting" and "ITIL" were on the list, as were "Blackberry support," "building data warehouse," "scripting development," "printer repair," "AutoCAD work," and "provide high-end technical training." We feel for the respondents who entered "too much to list here" and "Gopher." The hands-down winner of the "I Wish This Was Me" category is "No job responsibilities; retired years ago."

Working Life

One set of statistics that hasn't budged in the three years we've been surveying is the number of years our respondents have worked in IT. The majority of you have worked in IT between 6 and 10 years; in both 2005 and 2006 the percentage of respondents fitting that time frame was 35. (In 2004 the percentage was 37.7, and the range of years we specified was slightly different: 5 to 9.) Ranking second is the category of 11 to 15 years: In 2005, 24 percent of you had worked in IT that long; this year, the figure is 25 percent.

The 40-hour workweek seems to be a twentieth century relic for most professions, and it certainly is for IT—60 percent of you work an average of 41 to 50 hours each week, 14 percent work 51 to 60 hours, and 4 percent work more than 60 hours. Most of you, 37 percent, are on call more than 10 hours each week. An additional 27 percent are on call between 1 and 10 hours.

The size of the organization you work for varies greatly among respondents, as Figure 2 shows. When it comes to the number of machines you support, the voting reflected the concentration of systems administrators among respondents. As Figure 3 illustrates, 44 percent of survey respondents support between 1 and 24 servers—by far the largest concentration of respondents supporting any number of servers or end users.

Good News in Compensation

Interesting developments have taken place in the salary picture for IT pros over the past year. Although the mean base salary our respondents reported fell from $67,619 in 2005 to $67,279 in this year's survey, bonuses and other income rose $5,877, to bring the mean total compensation figure to $73,156 in 2006 (it was $70,063 in the 2005 survey). Figure 4 lists respondents' compensation by salary range.

What factors are bringing about changes in bonus territory? In 2005, bonuses were smaller and applied to a smaller percentage of survey respondents. In 2006, bonuses are larger and are awarded to more people. A case in point is bonuses awarded for personal performance: In 2005, 33 percent of respondents received such a bonus; in 2006, 60 percent of respondents did. The figures for bonuses awarded for the achievement of company revenue and profit goals and for profit sharing provide a clue to explain why more and larger bonuses are being awarded. Bonuses were awarded for the achievement of company revenue and profit goals to 41 percent of respondents in 2006, up from 23 percent in 2005. And profit-sharing bonuses saw a similar rise: 22 percent of respondents received profit-sharing checks in 2006; only 14 percent did in 2005. In every area we surveyed in which bonuses might be awarded, including holiday, retention, and signing bonuses; paid overtime; project milestone completion; and awards for certification and training, the percentage of respondents who received such bonuses in 2006 rose over 2005 levels. Clearly, the companies you work for are doing better and are passing some of the profits along in the form of bonuses.

Perhaps as a result of this rise in total compensation, 51 percent of survey respondents told us they feel they're adequately compensated for the work they do, up just a fraction from 2005, when the survey reported an even split between respondents who felt they were adequately compensated and those who didn't. One hundred percent of you, however, feel that some level of an increase in pay would bring you to a fair compensation level for the work you do (the survey's use of the words "adequate" and "fair" was not lost on any of you). The largest percentage—27 percent—feel that a 10?14 percent rise in pay would bring them to a fair level. Two groups containing 1 percentage of respondents each determined that a 1?4 percent increase in pay and a 45?49 percent increase in pay, respectively, will do the trick.

Surprising Satisfaction

The closest this year's survey comes to a shocking conclusion is in your responses to our question about your job satisfaction. Specifically, when asked how satisfied you are with your current position, 56 percent of you said you are somewhat satisfied. Only 12 percent of you gave this answer in 2005.

Similarly, 10 percent of you are somewhat dissatisfied in 2006, compared to 56 percent in 2005. A measly 3 percent are totally dissatisfied in 2006, compared to 20 percent last year.

These large shifts invite judicious speculation. Certainly, if the company you work for turns a higher profit and shares that good fortune with you, you might feel a bit more satisfied with your job. But I think a better indicator of what could be helping IT pros feel more satisfied with their job might be associated with the two factors that you told us most positively influence your overall job satisfaction. These factors are, first, the opportunity to work with and implement new technologies, and second, the opportunity to work on a wide variety of tasks and projects. Working in IT is just basically cool. Despite the challenges, you get to fiddle with technology pretty much all day, and depending on who you work for, possibly the very latest and greatest technology.

And I wonder whether more mature Microsoft technologies aren't providing more satisfaction. Maybe running a heterogeneous environment isn't such a struggle these days. Maybe Microsoft's increased attention to its customers' happiness is paying dividends for you. In our 2005 survey, 46 percent of respondents told us that system stability and reliability issues was the number-one professional problem that kept them up at night. This year, that problem still tops the list of issues keeping you awake, but for a smaller percentage of you— 39 percent. Similarly, the problem of data and system security, which disturbed 44 percent of you in 2005, is bothering only 35 percent of you in 2006. In fact, in virtually every category on the list of professional problems that keep you up at night, the percentage of responses was down from the 2005 survey.

Onward and Upward

Could this year's industry survey mark the beginning of a trend upward for IT pros? It's a certainty that opportunity will continue to grow with the field: The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 6 out of the 30 fastest growing occupations from 2004 to 2014 will be in IT. And in the Bureau's list of occupations that are projected to experience the largest job growth from 2004 to 2014, you'll again find IT represented.

We hope that our industry surveys help you stay in better touch with your profession and your place within it. For our part, the more we learn about you and your concerns, the better we can target our coverage to help you do your job and advance in your career. Some of the most popular articles on the Windows IT Pro Web site recently have been Paul Thurrott's coverage of Windows Vista. Here's hoping that the mainstreaming of 64-bit computing and the improvements the newest Windows OS bring will make accomplishing your day-today tasks a little easier, ratchet up the fun factor a notch, and convince management to keep those bonuses coming.

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