Enough Help to Go Around: Smart Steps for Sizing Your Support Team

You’ll often hear that those running the IT service desk have so much work to do that they feel as though they’re becoming full-time “firefighters” for the IT department. But how can businesses create a support team that works for the company’s demand?

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Service desk staff can soon become overwhelmed by the number of tickets they’re having to deal with, which means they have to work long hours to try and keep the IT infrastructure of their company up and running. This doesn’t just involve working an extra few hours, but often means they have to work into the night and through the weekend.

Therefore, if you ask a number of IT help desk operators what the ideal ratio is for end users to service desk workers, you’ll probably get an answer that’s something like, “Lower than the ratio we’re operating to.”

Due to the fact many IT service management companies differ depending on the type of business and industry they’re in, it’s not easy to establish the “ideal” ratio. It’s even difficult to provide an “average” ratio.

However, for an IT department to demonstrate that they’re thinking beyond these “firefighting” days, it’s important they’re looking at the enterprise as a whole.

Getting the Right Balance :

Having a help desk team that’s too large will drive up a company’s cost. But if this team is too small, the profitability and efficiency of this department will decrease significantly. In order to find the right balance for your business, you’ll need to consider a number of factors. According to research conducted by Gartner, for companies who have a single operating system across their hardware and network standards, the standard ratio is around 70:1 employees per help desk representative. If this ratio is decreased, a larger team is required, which increases IT costs. However, because there isn’t an average for each company, Gartner also created a formula for companies, so they could calculate the best number. Ratios can be subtracted from or added to by starting with the Mean Index Value. Depending on the calculations used, ratios as low as 7:1 can be achieved – but these are very costly. Higher ratios reach as much as 135:1.

The Impacts on Your Ratio:

Hardware Standards that Are Lacking :

If your hardware standards are lacking, this means there are different servers, computers and other systems that are all doing the same thing. Because each of these have their own issues and run slightly differently, problems can arise. Sometimes, within the network, there will be conflicts, which means IT staff need to carry out a higher rate of troubleshooting while creating new policies in the process. This is also true if you’re using more than one operating system. Another side effect of this is downtime. Appointments can be disrupted and conflicts can occur between departments when there are sudden outages. This means staff productivity levels suffer, and more support staff are needed to assist with this, which delays any profit- producing activities.

User Control :

When users have administrative access to a computer, the ratio tends to increase to 15:1. When a user has a question or doesn’t understand something, troubleshooting is needed, while any glitches or mistakes will require assistance from the support desk team.

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Location of Users :

A larger team is required when all of the system’s users aren’t contained within the same building. If employees are located in different places, this can present the help desk team with a number of challenges. Equally, administration may not be as efficient, which puts more stress on IT support. 10:1 is recommended here. Evaluating Your IT Department’s Staffing Needs When you’re trying to determine the best ratio for your business, you might find it beneficial to take the following into consideration as well:

  • How many tickets the service desk receives each month
  • How much time is spent on each ticket
  • How much time is spent documenting and closing each ticket

Considering all of these factors, while also utilizing the help of helpdesk software experts will enable you to plan how your organization is going to be structured to provide optimum support while increasing profitability.

During the planning stage, it’s worth trying to estimate your ratio of how many IT service desk members you’ll need for each employee. You can then start adding and subtracting from this calculation to adjust the cost and find the most cost-effective scenario for your business. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make the best case when you’re presenting to management for your IT budget.




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