IT directors in retail experience more stress than other sectors

IT directors working in retail are more stressed out and overworked than their peers, In addition, nearly half of retail IT directors are very worried about their job security, according to a survey.

Some 700 IT directors in Northern Europe responded to the survey commissioned by Synstar. Of these, 100 worked in the retail sector. To almost all the questions, more retail correspondents were 'very worried' than their peers.

Key issues where more retail respondents were 'very worried' than 'concerned' (leaving a fraction 'not concerned') were: job security (48 per cent very worried; 33 per cent concerned); aligning IT with business strategy (57 per cent; 33 per cent); making sure IT is available 24/7 (48 per cent; 23 per cent); cost of downtime (38 per cent; 38 per cent); and demonstrating ROI (43 per cent; 38 per cent).

'I can understand why all IT directors are stressed,' said Bloor Research Group chief analyst Tony Lock. 'Most businesses depend entirely on IT, but in retail it is much more visible, even the till systems are computerised these days.

'If the tills aren't working; there's no money coming in and that means goodbye to the IT director,' he added.

In retail, IT directors often have to cope with older, custom-built computer systems, which use legacy applications, while also being under constant pressure to introduce new applications. RFID and Chip and PIN are just the latest in a long list of demands.

Both IT director and retailer, suggests Lock, would benefit from being given a little space, rather than permanently fire-fighting from one issue to the next. With space, the IT director has time to sit back and plan IT strategy for the long term and help deliver some of the criteria that this survey found so many very worried about.

WHSmith program manager Iain Winskill said: 'All IT directors are under a lot of pressure, I can't say if they are under more pressure in retail than elsewhere, and no one has a guaranteed job - that's reality.'

The survey also looked at outsourcing, which is Synstar's business. Findings indicated that IT directors most inclined to outsource infrastructure support and maintenance are least likely to outsource IT strategy.

The perceived advantages to outsourcing were access to skills and cost saving.

The biggest fear was losing control of IT.