As a percentage of the IT staff, desktop support has gone through its ups and downs over the last five years, but now appears to be regaining its footing as IT organizations strengthen their customer-facing services and return this important function to full strength.
In Figure 1 from our study, Desktop Support Staffing Ratios, we see that the desktop support staff across all organization sizes has ranged from a high of 9.1% of the IT staff at the median in 2011 to a low of 7.4% in 2013, with the current 8.0% resting in about the middle of the range. The downtrend through 2013 is at least partly due to hiring in other areas during the initial stage of the recovery in IT operational budgets. Now the desktop support staff is catching up and returning to full strength. The 8.0% level represents a long-term norm for this function.
The term “desktop support” requires definition. In some organizations, desktop support refers to personnel who are present on-site to help users with PCs, network connectivity, telephones, and perhaps other equipment. Other organizations consider desktop support as a Level II help desk function. Still other organizations have distinct help desk and desktop support groups, each with multiple tiers.
We use a functional definition for desktop support. Regardless of whether they are located in a distant call center or are available at the client’s deskside, desktop support staff members mostly assist users with issues related to PC hardware and operating systems. While organizations preferring a higher level of service may choose to deploy more on-site support, desktop support technicians can handle many issues from remote locations.
Compared with the early days of the PC, today’s desktop computers are more reliable, users more knowledgeable, and web applications less troublesome than fat-client systems. Yet these machines still require a great deal of support to maintain high levels of user satisfaction and productivity, and the need for mobility, security, and connectivity still generate calls for help.
While the composite median is useful for understanding trends, they should not be used for benchmarks. The full study provides benchmarks on typical desktop support staffing by organization size and sector. We use two metrics to benchmark desktop support staffing: desktop support staff as a percentage of the IT staff and PCs per desktop support staff member. In addition, we provide benchmarks for organizations with combined desktop support and help desk functions. We conclude with strategies for improving the efficiency of desktop support staff.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Desktop Support 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 (click for pricing).
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