Desktop Support Staff Levels Expected to Decline

January, 2019

Today’s desktop computers are not the headline-grabbing machines they were 30 years ago before the dawn of the mobile age. Yet these desktop stalwarts still require support to maintain high levels of user satisfaction and productivity, and the need for performance, security, and connectivity still generate calls for help.

As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Desktop Support Staffing Ratios, the percentage of desktop support personnel has fluctuated during the past five years, with 2017 reaching a five-year high of 9.4%.

Desktopstaff fig 1 - Desktop Support Staff Levels Expected to Decline

However, we expect this metric to decline in the near future, for several reasons. For instance, desktop support technicians are increasingly handling many PC issues remotely, reducing the need for on-site staff at every remote office. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and desktop virtualization mean that there are fewer business applications running on the user’s local machine. Finally, the latest version of Microsoft Windows, which still runs on the majority of desktop and laptop machines, is more reliable and easier to maintain than previous versions.

“For IT organizations, the size of a desktop support staff remains an important consideration,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics. “But it goes beyond simply choosing the right number of support professionals. IT directors should look closely at strategies like desktop virtualization and SaaS that can optimize the cost of supporting end-user devices.”

For IT organizations, it is important to understand how many desktop support personnel are needed to service the company’s users. The desktop support staff not only plays a key role in maintaining user productivity, but it also serves as the face of the IT organization. And support demands from those users are being complicated by the proliferation of employee-owned smartphones and other devices, as well as by telecommuting.

Our full report provides benchmarks on typical desktop support staffing. We use four metrics to benchmark desktop support staffing: desktop support staff as a percentage of the IT staff, PCs per desktop support staff member, applications per support staff member, and users per support staff member. We also assess these ratios by organization size and sector. In addition, we provide benchmarks for organizations with combined desktop support, help desk support, and IT training/documentation 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).

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.