Why Have IT Manager Staffing Levels Suddenly Become More Volatile?

August, 2019

When it comes to IT managers, it is important to find the sweet spot. Too many managers, and the IT group can become top-heavy and bureaucratic, while too few can leave IT staff members feeling unsupported and without direction. Overworked managers can be pulled in too many directions, and insufficient management resources can push management tasks onto people who are ill-equipped to take on those roles.

In the past two years, the median percentage of managers has suddenly become volatile. As shown in Figure 1 from the full report, IT Management and Administration Staffing Ratios, the ratio of IT management positions to total IT staff is 10.6% at the median in 2019, compared with 11.1% in 2018. Before 2018, the variations from year to year were not significant.

Fig1ITmgtStaffingRatios2019 1030x687 - Why Have IT Manager Staffing Levels Suddenly Become More Volatile?

The role of the IT manager has been changing recently. As IT organizations have endeavored to align more closely with the strategy of the business and lead digital transformation efforts, leaders that can understand and execute the strategy are needed.

But, this is not the only reason the percentage is volatile. There is a natural cycle of staffing changes that is part of the changing IT organization. The cloud transformation is leading many IT organizations to shed support staff that has previously been needed to maintain the infrastructure. As these groups shrink or hold steady as the organization grows, other roles naturally make up a larger percentage of the total. Of course, eventually, as companies shed staff, they need to shed managers, as well. But companies are also using the savings from the cloud transformation to add more business-savvy personnel who also need to be managed. Put simply, as IT staffs are in transition, so are IT managers.

“There are several factors at play with this staffing ratio,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Computer Economics, an IT analyst firm based in Irvine, Calif. “One key element is that best practices such as agile development and DevOps are allowing frontline IT personnel to work in self-directed teams. They simply do not require as many IT managers to monitor and direct them on a day-to-day basis.”

The full report examines how many IT managers a well-run IT organization typically requires, along with staffing metrics for two related administrative functions: IT finance/vendor management and clerical support. The report defines these categories as follows:

    • IT Managers: IT managers are employees whose primary job function is to manage people. We group all IT management levels, including executives, into a single job function. First-level managers such as supervisors and team leaders who are primarily “doers” (i.e., managers in name only) are not counted as managers.
    • IT Finance, Vendor Management, and Procurement: These are individuals whose primary job function within the IT organization is related to finance, accounting, budgeting, procurement, vendor contracts, or vendor management, including outside service providers.
    • Clerical Staff: This category includes administrative assistants and other personnel who primarily carry out administrative support functions.

To benchmark IT management, we use two metrics: IT managers as a percentage of the IT staff and users per IT manager. We provide metrics for small, midsize, and large organizations. To provide further perspective, we consider the five-year trend in IT managers as an average percentage of the IT staff. We also report metrics for IT finance and clerical staff.

This Research Byte is based on our report on this subject, IT Management and Administration Staffing RatiosThe full report is available at no charge for Avasant Research subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-subscribers directly from our website (click for pricing).