Network Support Staffing Flat Despite Growing Demand

March, 2018

With the rise of the cloud, mobile applications, and the Internet of Things, demands on organizational networks have never been greater or more complex. Yet remarkably, the network support staff as a percentage of the total IT staff is basically flat, showing just a tenth of a percentage point increase this year. The increased importance of the network is being balanced by automation, best practices, and improved network technology.

As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Network Support Staffing Ratios, network support staffing has shown a modest decline as a percentage of the IT staff during a five-year period, dropping from 6.7% in 2013 at the median to 5.6% in 2017. But since 2015, the network staff has been flat, ranging from 5.7% to 5.5%.  

NetworkStaffing fig 1 - Network Support Staffing Flat Despite Growing Demand

The original drop may have reflected changes in other areas of the IT organization, such as the increased hiring of application developers or business analysts. But it also reflects the positive impact of new technology within networking, including software-defined networking, network virtualization, and automation, which allows staff to monitor larger portions of the network.  

“Right now, it is a balanced system, with new technology providing improved productivity at the same rate that network demand is increasing,” said David Wagner, vice president of research at Computer Economics, an IT analyst firm based in Irvine., Calif. “However, we are seeing a general shift away from support staff in the IT staffing mix. Between the growth of more business facing roles, and continued improvement in network management capability, we’d expect network support staff to decline slightly as a percentage of total IT staff through the next few years.”

In this report, network support staff includes personnel with titles of engineer, architect, administrator, technician, specialist, or analyst for voice and data networks. The network support staff headcount does not include managers but includes supervisors and senior-level personnel.

This full report will help IT managers determine whether their organization is keeping pace with improvements in network management by comparing their network support staffing ratios against industry benchmarks. We provide four benchmarks: network support staff as a percentage of the IT staff, network support staff as a percentage of the Network and Communications Group, users per network support staff member, and network devices per network support staff member. We provide benchmarks for the composite sample and by sector and organization size.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Network 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).