It’s common to hear that the IT service desk staff has become so swamped with work that they have moved to being full-time IT “firefighters,” working long hours and straining to keep the company’s IT infrastructure functioning not only during business hours but throughout the nights and weekends.
“We have too many IT workers and too few IT problems,” said no service desk ever.
Ask the IT help desk their ideal end user to service desk worker ratio and almost all of them will say “lower than whatever ours is.” Because IT service management environments differ so much from business to business, industry to industry, that it’s not easy pinning down “good” or even “average” end user to service desk staff ratios. But, for IT to showcase that they are thinking beyond technical firestorms and considering the enterprise success as a whole, there are a few numbers to consider.
Ideal vs. Formal Survey vs. Informal Data Gathering
A number you’ll see batted around as far as an “ideal” end user to IT service desk worker ratio is Gartner Research’s 70:1. A 2008 survey by Robert Half Technology found actual reported ratios of 136:1, while the average “ideal” ratio reported was 82:1. Look through discussion threads online, however, and you’ll see numbers are all over the map, from one lucky soul in a white collar environment with a 30:1 user to service desk worker ratio to another unfortunate service desk worker that is outnumbered with an 800:1 ratio. An informal average calculated from 17 reported user to service desk worker ratios on numerous IT discussion threads was 242 users to one service desk worker. Shockingly, though not surprising, the median was 200:1.
Broad Trends in IT Staffing
While exceptions occur, organizations of mostly white collar workers generally have lower ratios of end users to IT help desk workers, while educational institutions tend to have much higher end user to help desk worker ratios. Companies experiencing rapid growth tend to add non-IT employees and play catch-up later on with more IT help desk support, after service desk workers continuously make the case and convince management that they are understaffed.
What Factors Do Staffing Needs Depend On?
The number of IT service desk workers relative to other employees depends upon several factors, like if your company’s computers are standard configurations, if your company network is locked down and secure, and if your help desk software allows remote access to employee computers. As your organization moves in new directions, you may also get by with fewer service desk workers if you have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. The number of service desk workers your company needs also depends upon how big a geographic area needs to be covered, how technologically savvy your end users are, and how you are enabling them to resolve their own issues.
How To Evaluate Your Own IT Staffing Needs
On one TechRepublic discussion, a user named Joe Truttman gave a helpful tutorial on calculating a starting point for your own company’s end user to service desk worker ratio based on several factors, including:
- average number of service desk tickets per month
- average time spent per ticket
- call prep and call wrap-up time (documenting or closing tickets)
This a good place to start if you’re trying to make a case to management for adding more service desk workers.
Whether you’re lucky enough to work at an adequately-staffed IT service desk or a poor sap who spends all day putting out fires, great cloud-based service desk software is an absolute necessity. The last thing you need at an IT service desk that’s stretched thin is software that complicates matters further. SaaS service desk software eliminates the hassles of running help desk software on your own servers, ensuring that you and the rest of the service desk team are using the latest ITSM software version at all times.