Documentation and Training Staff Headcount Declining

September, 2008

Documentation and training is a bit like motherhood and apple pie–universally appreciated and well spoken of. Yet, in practice, fewer than half of all IT organizations today employ documentation and training specialists as a discrete job position. Furthermore, over the last decade the percentage of IT staff dedicated to these functions has declined from 2% in 1998 to about 1.1% this year, according to our long-term trending data. If documentation and training are so important, why is the amount of personnel dedicated to these functions declining?

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Documentation and Training Staffing Ratios.

One explanation is that IT organizations today are relying on vendors, independent contractors, and centralized training departments to a greater extent than they were a decade ago. Companies may also be making greater use of Web-based training or Learning Management Systems, which lessen the need for instructor-led training. Better help systems and user interfaces, plus increasingly computer-savvy workers, may also be reducing requirements for training personnel. In addition, organizations may be engaging in less custom development work, requiring fewer documentation specialists.

All of these factors are probable explanations for why IT organizations are generally using fewer documentation and training specialists than they were a decade ago. On the other hand, an organization may find it has increased demand for such specialists due to major changes in its application portfolio, acquisition programs, or changes in business processes. The bottom line is that IT organizations should periodically assess their training and documentation requirements to ensure that their staffing levels are adequate. 

Our study defines documentation and training staff as personnel dedicated to the designing, writing, and presentation of documentation, training, and development materials, as well as to the documentation of systems and procedures. The category generally includes training directors, documentation managers, technical writers, instructors, instructional designers and graphic artists. For the sake of brevity, we may refer to documentation and training staff members as “specialists,” but in all cases the metrics in this study refer to all IT staff members who fall into the category of documentation and training personnel, regardless of title or level. Also note that we are only referring to specialists who are part of the IT staff. In many cases, organizations employ training and documentation specialists who report to centralized training departments, human resources, or specific business units. These personnel are not included in our surveys of IT staffing levels.

Documentation and training staff as a percentage of the IT staff has hovered just above 1% for the past three years, but the long-term trend appears to indicate that a change has taken place. Figure 1 shows that the average amount of IT staff dedicated to documentation and training has been cut almost in half over the last 10 years–from 2.0% in 1998 to 1.1% in 2008. Note that this could either indicate that in-house documentation and training staff levels are getting smaller or that IT staff has been growing faster in other areas, changing the composition of the total staff. We discussed some of the factors affecting these staffing levels earlier in this report.

DocumentationStaffing Fig1 - Documentation and Training Staff Headcount Declining

The full version of this report first examines documentation and training staffing levels in the composite sample to assess the trend over the past decade. The second part provides key metrics by organizational size, which IT managers can use to benchmark their employee headcount levels for this job function. To that end, we provide three useful metrics: documentation/training specialists as a percentage of total IT staff, number of users per documentation/training specialist, and number of developers per documentation/training specialist. We conclude with our recommendations for optimizing staffing levels and productivity of these personnel.

The ratios in the full report are based on our most recent annual survey of more than 200 IT organizations. The sample is segmented across 11 major industry sectors and three size classifications.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Documentation and Training 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.