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Desktop Support and Field Services Staffing Ratios

How Many Technicians do You Need?

One of the most common questions I hear from IT support managers is “How many techs should I have in desktop support?” It’s a great question, but one that is rarely answered adequately. The result is that many desktop support and field services organizations are not staffed properly because they do not follow any sort of proven methodology when making headcount decisions. Instead, they rely on “gut feel” or “instinct” when it comes to technician staffing levels. Compounding this situation is the fact that many desktop support and field services groups do not follow a strict SPOC (Single Point of Contact) support model, and end up handling large numbers of incidents that could and should be resolved by the service desk. It’s no wonder then that many desktop support and field services groups are overstaffed, and hence very costly. 

In this whitepaper, MetricNet provides an approach for determining the appropriate technician headcount for desktop support.  The approach outlined is equally applicable to desktop support and field services, but for the sake of simplicity I will refer to desktop support throughout this article. Following the methodology outlined in this article, desktop support organizations can be assured that they will be staffed to meet the needs and expectations of their customers, while simultaneously delivering services in an efficient, fiscally responsible manner. Just looking for a Desktop Support or Field Services Staffing Calculator? Click here!

The Staffing Fallacy in Desktop Support

A common misperception in desktop support is that the user population alone will define the number of technicians needed. This approach wrongly assumes that the ratio of  technicians to the number of users supported is fixed. For example, 12.5 desktop support technicians are needed for every 1,000 users. The error in this approach is that no two user populations have the same needs, and therefore no two user populations generate the same workload. As such, staffing decisions in desktop support should be based upon workload, not user population. 

Consider the example of a financial services company with a corporate staff of 2,500. The device count for this user population is as follows:

  • 2,100 desktop computers
  • 950 laptop computers
  • 140 printers and copy machines
  • 1,100 smart phones
  • 240 servers

The number of desktop support techs required to support this workload turns out to be about 24.  

Now take the example of an electric utility with the same number of users: 2,500. The device count for this population is as follows: 

  • 2200 desktop computers
  • 550 laptop computers
  • 80 printers and copy machines
  • 300 smart phones
  • 70 servers

The number of desktop technicians required to support this workload turns out to be about 8.  

Despite the fact that the user populations in our examples are exactly the same, the two user groups generate very different workloads, and hence require different staffing levels in desktop support.

The workload for desktop support is driven not only by the number of users or “seats supported”, but also by the number and mix of devices, the age of devices, the service level targets of the organization, the population density of the users, the level of standardization and virtualization in the IT environment, and a myriad of other factors. The key point here is this: the technician staffing requirements of a desktop support or field services organization should be based upon the workload generated by the user population – incident and service request volume – not the number of users being supported. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why two organizations with exactly the same headcount may require very different staffing levels. 

Tickets, Incidents, and Service Requests

Before we go any further, it is worth defining a few terms. Specifically, we need to define the terms Ticket, Incident, and Service Request as they relate to Desktop Support and Field Services. 

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Angela Irizarry

Angela Irizarry joined MetricNet in early 2013. In her current role as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, she assists MetricNet’s CEO in managing the Company’s day-to-day operating activities, short-term and long-range strategic planning and new client acquisition. Additionally, she is responsible for planning, organizing, and implementing the Company’s sales and marketing efforts as well as managing MetricNet’s intellectual property, online best practices library, web projects and e-commerce shop. Angela is a versatile and results-oriented professional with nearly 15 years of business development and marketing experience across a multitude of industries globally. Prior to joining MetricNet she held various leadership positions in the Property Management and Retail industries where she was known for her strong track record of sales growth, marketing foresight and creative problem solving.

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