Help Desk Personnel as a Percentage of IT Staff Drops Slightly

February, 2017

When viewed as a percentage of the IT staff, the ranks of help desk personnel dipped slightly during the past year—although the ratio in 2016 was in line with the percentages from 2012-2014. While this small decrease could simply be a minor fluctuation and there is no trend as yet, there are several reasons why help desk staffing ratios could decline in the near future.

As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Help Desk Staffing Ratios, help desk personnel dropped slightly to 7.2% at the median compared to 7.5% in 2015.

HelpDeskStaff fig 1 - Help Desk Personnel as a Percentage of IT Staff Drops Slightly

“Help desk staffing is at a crossroads, and opposing forces make it particularly interesting to watch,” said Tom Dunlap, research director for Computer Economics of Irvine, Calif. “I think the slight drop in 2016 is the start of a downward trend, considering that many tech issues can be handled remotely these days and employees are more tech savvy.”

Because the help desk comprises a sizable portion of the IT staff, it also can be a target for outsourcing and efficiency gains through improved processes and automation tools. However, as organizations absorb more applications and devices, they also can find a need to expand the help desk function. Moreover, as companies embrace IT service management, the service desk takes on added responsibilities for ensuring that users remain happy and productive. New technologies including wearables, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, process automation, and the internet of things also promise simplicity, but as many technologies do at first, may lead to unintended complexities.

With these opposing trends, help desk staffing levels require ongoing assessment. An overstaffed help desk can be a drain on the IT budget, while an understaffed operation can create dissatisfaction among users. Benchmarking against industry standards is an important starting point for determining whether a help desk is appropriately organized for delivering quality service at the lowest possible cost.

The full report provides metrics for benchmarking help desk staffing levels in the current environment. We look at the trend in help desk staffing over a five-year period and provide two benchmarks by organization size and sector: help desk staff as a percentage of the IT staff and users per help desk staff member.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Help Desk 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.