help desc teamHaving too big of a help desk team drives up costs, while too small a team will decrease efficiency and profitability. To find the right balance in your organization, a number of factors need to be considered. The standard ratio, for enterprises with a single operating system across the network and hardware standards, is about 70:1 employees per help desk professional. When this ratio is decreased, a larger help desk team is needed, driving up IT costs.

No industry-wide standard is available for an appropriately sized help desk team. Gartner, a technology research company, has derived a formula for companies to use in calculating an ideal number. By starting with a Mean Index Value, ratios can be added to or subtracted from. The elements for each calculation can yield a ratio as low as 7:1, very costly, or as high as 135:1. A number of factors go into deciding upon the actual ratio. The higher it is, the more cost that goes into hiring IT help desk staff.

Lack of Hardware Standards

A lack of hardware standards in you organization means there are different types of computers, servers, and other system doing the same thing. The problem is each type runs slightly differently and presents its own issues. Sometimes there are conflicts within the network, forcing IT staff to create new policies and perform a higher rate of troubleshooting. The same goes for having more than one operating system. A lack of centralized policies for these means the team will be busy and the ratio of employees to each member will be low.

Downtime is another side effect of a lack of standards. Sudden outages in the network create conflict between departments and also means scheduled work and appointments such as teleconferences are disrupted. Productivity suffers and, in addition to the need for more support personnel, profit-enhancing activities are delayed.

Additional Impacts on Ratio

  • User Control – The needs for additional help desk personnel tend to increase by 15:1 when users have administrative control. Troubleshooting is required when a user has questions or misunderstands something, while mistakes and glitches are ultimately on the hands of the support team to resolve. There is also the chance of an employee performing a task that does not adhere to company policies. The IT staff, therefore, must look for issues to resolve and act as a watchdog to be sure company policies are followed. Similar effects are seen when users have unrestricted access to making changes on their PC.
  • Location of Users – If all system users are not within walking distance, then a larger help desk team is needed to support the geographic coverage. It is more challenging to keep up with technical issues if employees are dispersed in different locations. Also, administration may not be as tight, so the burden on IT is greater. A subtraction of 10:1 from the Mean Index Value is recommended.
  • User Software Testing – Testing software in a lab setting centralizes these efforts, requiring just a handful of technicians to handle the task. If users have the ability to test software on their desktops, your organization must find a way to support them. The only way to do this is to add help desk personnel; subtracting 15:1 on the ratio will give you an approximate number needed. Having individual users test new software inherently invites problems and the need to pay for additional IT staff.

Considering whether these factors apply to your enterprise ultimately affects the cost of operations. You can also use these to plan the structure of your organization. The planning stage should include an estimate on the ratio of how many IT team members are needed for each employee. Cost can be adjusted by adding or subtracting to this number, for finding the most cost-effective solution.