Network Staffing and Spending Ratios: Executive Summary

September, 2007

Voice and data networks are an essential component of the IT infrastructure for nearly every company today. Sufficient bandwidth and wide availability are necessary to conduct daily business. However, to ensure that networks function at an optimal level, every organization must budget an adequate amount for network support and must recruit and retain a sufficient number of skilled network personnel to do the job.

Building an in-house staff to support voice and data networks is a challenging responsibility. How large a staff is required to efficiently provide reliable network operations? How large a budget is required? Knowing the norms for these parameters in other organizations with IT systems of equivalent complexity can help to determine the number of staff members required and the number of sites and devices each person can handle.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Network Staffing and Spending Ratios, which an in-depth analysis of network support staffing and cost ratios. Network staffing benchmarks are shown as the number of desktops, network sites, and network devices per network support technician. Network spending benchmarks are shown as the ratio of total network spending (for voice and data) per desktop, network site, and network device. All benchmarks are broken down by size of organization and are shown at the median, 25th, and 75th percentile.

This analysis stems from the data collected in our 2007/2008 IT Spending, Staffing, and Technology Trends survey of more than 200 CIOs and IT executives. The survey included questions regarding network support staff size, operational budget allocated for network infrastructure and telecom/datacom carriers, the number of network sites supported, and the number of network devices (i.e., routers, switches, firewalls, and devices other than servers and desktop computers). Because voice and data services often reside on the same network in many companies (for example, using voice over IP technology), our survey combined spending and staffing for both types of networks into a single category.

Relationship Between Network Staffing/Spending and Organization Size
The full version of this report finds a direct correlation between organization size and network support staff productivity. Network technicians in larger organizations are generally more productive, whether productivity is measured in terms of number of desktop computers, network sites, or network devices that are supported by each technician. The full version of this report explains the reasons for these observations.

In terms of network budgets, however, the story gets complicated. Smaller companies tend to spend less on networks than midsize firms, whether spending is normalized on the basis of desktops, network sites, or network devices. Mid-size firms spend the most on networks, and large firms spend the least, on a normalized basis. The full report explains the reasons for these trends.

Throughout our study, organization size is defined in terms of the total number of desktops (including laptops) in the organization. Small companies are defined as those with fewer than 750 desktops; mid-size firms have 750 to 2500 desktops; and large organizations have more than 2500 desktops.

Optimizing Network Spending and Staffing
The full report also provides recommendations for boosting the productivity of the network support staff, enabling fewer technicians to maintain a higher number of sites and devices without sacrificing quality of service. These practices and other common-sense approaches will assist the IT organization in operating networks with support ratios at or above those of similar-sized organizations. As a result, users will receive improved service and customer satisfaction will rise.

The outcomes of this study indicate that the approaches chosen for improving network support ratios must be tailor-fit to each organization. No single approach will meet all needs. IT managers need to take the number of desktops, network sites, and devices, as well as the level of outsourcing, into account as they decide on the best approach. Working with the network support staff to increase productivity is the path toward greater network availability and lower costs.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Network Staffing and Spending 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