Application Development Staffing Ratios: Executive Summary

October, 2007

Today, application development personnel play a key role within IT organizations. Application software sits between the users of IT and the IT infrastructure, providing functionality to support business processes and serve customers. The application development staff is responsible for implementing and maintaining these systems, ensuring that user requirements are satisfied.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Application Development Staffing Ratios.

In this analysis, “application development staff” comprises application programmers and systems analysts, who traditionally design, analyze, code, test, and maintain application software. (In contrast, systems programmers, who are excluded from this study, are responsible for maintaining operating systems and other lower-level software in the IT infrastructure that control computer servers and storage devices.)

The full version of this report provides benchmarks for application development staffing based on the number of users, organization size, and industry sector. In addition, we analyze application development staffing as a percentage of the total IT staff headcount. Finally, we investigate two factors that affect application development staffing: the percentage of application development and maintenance work that is outsourced and how organizations allocate capital spending to custom software versus commercial packaged applications.

The full study found that large companies tend to devote a greater percentage of their IT staff to application development than small and mid-size companies do. This finding points to the greater productivity of application development personnel in larger IT shops, which can leverage their efforts over a larger user base and make greater investments in application development tools and more efficient methods for developing, testing, and maintaining applications. The full report provides the statistics that substantiate these findings.

Computer Economics Viewpoint
Computer Economics recommends that organizations maximize the productivity of their application development staff in order to provide the highest quality level with the lowest number of personnel. Tools such as IT asset management, software portfolio management, software change management, code analyzers, and automated testing tools improve developer productivity and improve the quality of systems.

Consolidating applications is another tactic that reduces the burden on the application development staff. Even simple approaches such as adopting programming and documentation standards can eliminate a great deal of work. Training application programmers and system analysts in current software production, testing, and maintenance methods is another method for obtaining the maximum return from staff salaries.

The outcomes of this study offer benchmarks for application developer staffing levels and insights into where improvements may be made in staffing practices. Soliciting suggestions from application development personnel may provide the most practical answers. Keep in mind that only changes tailored to the requirements and work culture of each organization will be effective in increasing productivity. There is no approach that applies equally well to all companies.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Application Development Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at (click for pricing).

Do you also need staffing ratios for other IT job functions? Consider this collection of all of our staffing ratio reports, which bundles them all into a single report at a significant discount: IT Staffing Ratios–Special Report Bundle