Network Support Staffing Still Under Pressure

January, 2014

As the recession hit, the network was one area where capital investment came to a halt and IT organizations reduced network support headcount. While IT budgets are beginning to recover, network support staffing levels remain under pressure.

As shown in Figure 1 from our study Network Support Staffing Ratios, network support staffing stood at 7.7% of the IT staff in 2009, fell to 7.5% in 2010, and then fell further to 7.3% in 2011. After a brief, anomalous jump to 7.8% in 2012, the decline continued to 7.2% in 2013 for the composite sample.

Network Staff Fig 1 - Network Support Staffing Still Under Pressure

These average numbers compare unfavorably with pre-recession levels that range from 8% to 9%. Note that the fluctuations not only reflect changes in network support staffing but also in other IT staffing categories. Still, it is clear that network support staffing levels declined at a greater rate than other IT functions.

In this digital age, the importance of computer networks cannot be overstated. Yet remarkably, the size of the network support staff has gradually declined over time as a percentage of the IT staff. The increasing need for bandwidth, security, and reliability has not driven up the basic ratio of network support staff to total IT staff in the typical organization. Rather, as with other infrastructure support functions, the data suggests better technology, automation, and outsourcing are enabling IT organizations to do more with fewer people.

The full study will help IT managers determine whether their organization is keeping pace with improvements in network management by comparing their network support staffing 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 infrastructure staff, network devices per network support staff member, and users per network support staff member. We provide benchmarks for the composite sample, by sector, and by organization size.

Before presenting the benchmarks, we need to define network support staff and examine recent staffing trends. In this study, network support staff includes personnel with titles that include the designations of engineer, architect, administrator, technician, specialist, or analyst for both voice and data networks. Messaging engineers, email systems administrators, and other personnel that support communications systems also are in the network support category. The category does not include IT managers or IT security professionals, which we place in separate categories.

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).

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.