In Good Company

IT is a rocky place to be these days.

Facing security challenges? Staff shortages? Worried about replacing retiring mainframe programmers and analysts? Managing IT details through a merger? Integrating myriad systems and data? Facing a top management mandate of Windows throughout the company?

You're not the only one. When we asked readers in our annual survey for this issue to name the top challenge your IT organization faces in the next 12 months, those were some of the responses we heard over and over.

Your detailed responses reveal just what a tough job IT managers face on many fronts these days. I called a few readers to follow up on their comments.

Cost control is a big issue everywhere, and many of you named it as your single largest challenge. Budget constraints bring their own range of problems, from staff shortages (a common theme) to poorly planned and executed projects.

Security (readers' No. 1 concern) often takes the first hit when companies rein in spending, pointed out a software developer in Southern California. Programmers with software expertise on Web projects are expensive, he said—those with database experience as well as knowledge of security practices can run $80,000 to $120,000. When a former employer wasn't willing to spend enough to make a financial transaction Web site truly secure, the developer left the firm—exiting before the true cost of the implementation came home to roost.

Mergers and acquisitions were another top problem cited by readers. Problems loom after "integration of another company's systems into our datacenter due to a merger," one reader said. "M and A activity," another reader suggested without hesitation. Some mentioned the HP-Compaq merger as a specific worry—"loss of support for Compaq systems" made one reader anxious. HP and Compaq "will take years to integrate," predicted another, "and what products survive will be anyone's guess."

A reader in the Pacific Northwest faces a huge challenge since his large company's hostile takeover by an even bigger firm. Suddenly, Unix production boxes with 24x7 uptime are under the gun for an upgrade to Windows 2000. ("Microsoft" alone was cited numerous times as an IT manager's biggest headache.) This beleaguered systems administrator anticipates huge problems with a mandated one-size-fits-all operating system move. "I don't think it's going to work, but we're the smaller company," he noted. Numerous readers named moves to less-stable operating systems as a huge challenge; one said he's looking at "further attempts to replace time-tested mainframe systems with unreliable wanna-bes."

IT is a rocky place to be these days. We'll continue to write about the issues that you've listed as your top concerns. Thanks to everyone who took time to share their thoughts and opinions—it will help us shape upcoming coverage. Finally, congratulations to reader Pat Townsend, who won the survey drawing and received a Canon digital camera for her efforts. If you didn't participate in the survey, send me an e-mail on the top challenge you face. I'm at

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.