If you're at all like me, you're sick of hearing about our recession, or whatever you want to call it. One day, the news carries doom and gloom, and the next things are picking up and the future is rosy. But on a day-to-day basis, things feel stagnant, and I still have a half-dozen loved ones on my prayer list looking for work.

A recent study by Robert Half Technology suggests good news for IT. But I'm not going to jump to any conclusions. Below are the facts and the positive effects we could see.

The Study
After more than 1,400 phone interviews with CIOs in 100+ employee companies, Robert Half International has released data that suggests software and hardware spending will be going up in the near future. Specifically, the survey asked CIOs which projects, if any, had been deferred due to the economic climate. Here were the results (note that multiple responses were permitted):

  • Software or hardware upgrades - 37%
  • Virtualization - 16%
  • Website design - 16%
  • Internal collaboration/technology tools - 12%
  • Cloud computing - 11%
  • Company-based social media sites - 9%

When you combine this data with the fact that several big Microsoft releases are upon us or in progress (Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Exchange 2010, Office 2010, SharePoint 2010), the message is fairly clear: expect to see hardware and software upgrades this year.

The Opportunities and Challenges
In many respects, the difference between an opportunity and a challenge is simply a matter of perspective. With new upgrades comes new challenges, but in that there is the opportunity for individuals out of work to pace themselves and individuals currently employed to rise in their prospective ranks. Below are some of the available opportunities:

Employees. By mastering the latest technologies, you can make your life plenty easier—each of these new versions offers numerous enhancements in interface, reporting, automation, and related features. Beyond that, take the time to explore the latest technology and how it can make your business more efficient, as it offers a great chance to make yourself visible from a corporate perspective. (When it comes to climbing up the ladder, it's the 10 percent of your job that others see and understand that accounts for 90 percent of the decisions concerning raises and promotions.)

Consultants. Consulting is an excellent business, but the wealth of competition is a challenge. The solution? Segmentation. For instance, many IT consultants have secured a lucrative niche by mastering SharePoint and helping companies who know very little about the program get started. Similar opportunities exist for email experts to help small companies migrate to a corporate email system, database experts to help streamline data management and reporting, and much more. As they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none.

Job Seekers. Many seasoned IT pros lament that organizations are apt to hire young, driven candidates that they can overwork and underpay, but new employees face a host of challenges as well: nobody wants to feel like they have to babysit a new employee. So, if you're an experienced worker, take the time to learn the latest and greatest systems, and immerse yourself in business management practices so you can secure a higher level position. And for those of you who are getting started, acquire all the knowledge you can to prove to a prospective employer that you are a self-starter who needs minimal oversight.

Increased spending is good news for everyone: employees at vendors and value-added resellers, consultants, job seekers, and IT staff in general. If you have any recommendations for how individuals can make the best out of 2010, please add a note in the comments section.