Optimizing ERP Support Staffing

May, 2017

For many IT organizations, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are at the center of the application portfolio, and understanding the support requirements of these systems is important for managing overall staffing levels within IT.

ERP systems can be major investments requiring substantial effort for implementation. Yet many organizations do not realize that over the life of an ERP system, the total cost of ownership is composed largely of ongoing support. While initial license fees and consulting services required to implement the system are one-time investments, the cost of support personnel recurs year after year.

To better understand the true support requirements for ERP systems, we devised a simple ratio: the number of ERP users divided by the number IT personnel providing ERP support. We call this the ERP support staffing ratio.

Figure 1 from the full report, ERP Support Staffing Ratios, shows the typical range of ERP staffing ratios for installations of all sizes. At the median, there are 60 users per ERP support staff member.

ERPStaffing fig 1 - Optimizing ERP Support Staffing

These statistics show that there is a wide range of values for the ERP support staffing ratio. At the 75th percentile, there are more than four times as many users supported by each ERP support staff member than at the 25th percentile. Given this data, it is evident that in addition to the number of users, there are other factors that influence the level of ERP support staffing. These include the size of installation, sector, maturity of installation, and upgrade frequency.

In the full report, we also compare the ERP support staffing ratio for some popular ERP systems, specifically SAP, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle J.D. Edwards, Microsoft, and Infor.  We conclude with recommendations on optimizing staffing levels.

“The ERP system is the backbone of the software stack for many companies,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research at Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics.  “Managing how much you spend and understanding how to optimize the ERP support staff are important considerations for those companies.”

Our definition of ERP support staff includes programmers, business analysts, project managers, database administrators, help desk personnel, systems programmers, ERP end-user reporting specialists, and training and documentation personnel—all personnel who support ERP systems. We include support staff in the IT organization as well as support staff in the user organization. Our ERP support staff headcount also includes temporary contractors in addition to permanent employees. All support staff are counted on a full-time equivalent basis.

This Research Byte is based on our report on this subject, ERP 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).