A recent ComputerWorld article discussed the red hot job market for IT support professionals. In fact, most companies report that ticket volumes have increased. But how do you know when, or if your organization needs a boost in headcount? Is it based on ticket volume alone? What other factors might play a role in a company’s decision to increase (or decrease) IT support headcount?
A common misperception in IT support is that the user population alone will define the number of technicians needed. This approach wrongly assumes that the ratio of support technicians to the number of users supported is fixed. For example, 12.5 support technicians are needed for every 1,000 users. The error in this approach is that no two user populations have the same needs, and therefore no two user populations generate the same workload. As such, staffing decisions in IT support should be based upon workload, not user population.
But what about strategies to defer headcount increases, or even reduce headcount in the face of growing industry demand for IT support? Is that even possible? The answer is yes, and here’s why. Since headcount is a function of workload, any reduction in workload can reduce the need for staffing. The most common strategies for workload reduction, and hence headcount reduction, in IT service and support include the following:
- Shift Left: Shift left is the concept of resolving support tickets as efficiently as possible, by “shifting” tickets to the least costly source of support. Since level 1 technicians can handle about 3X the number of tickets as desktop support technicians, shifting tickets left will reduce the workload, cost and headcount accordingly.
- User Self-Help/Self Service: User self-help/self-service is also a shift-left strategy. It is fairly self explanatory that if a customer chooses the self-help channel an agent assisted ticket is avoided, thus reducing workload and the need for headcount. Be mindful of the fact, however, that most tickets are not good candidates for self-help. Generally, it is the easy to resolve tickets, such as password resets, that are the best candidates for user self-help.
- Handle Time Reduction: Handle time reduction is a workload and headcount reduction strategy that can be affected in a number of ways. Tools such as remote control (Samanage ITSM uses GoTo Assist and Bomgar), and knowledge bases can reduce handle times, thereby reducing workload and headcount. Effective technician training can also produce the effect of reducing ticket handle times.
- Ticket Elimination Through Root-Cause-Analysis: Root-cause-analysis (RCA), sometimes called closed ticket analysis, is the process of periodically reviewing tickets, finding the underlying causes of certain ticket classes, and then eliminating those root causes. Effective RCA programs have been shown to eliminate as much as 8% to 10% of total ticket volume. Once again, fewer tickets means less workload and lower headcount.
- Better End-User Training: An increasing number of support groups have defined a ticket category called “Training”. Training tickets are those that are deemed to be the result of poor or inadequate user training. It oftentimes happens that a disproportionate number of tickets coming from one department are the result of users not receiving adequate training. This puts an unnecessary burden on service and support, and uses precious resources that would be better spent on providing effective training for those users who generate the majority of training calls.
Need help with your headcount decisions? Download the guide, Your Best ITSM Budget Ever, to help you get started, along with the fully functional Samanage ITSM Budget Calculator, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet tool.
About Jeff Rumburg
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