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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 is the President and Chief Operating Officer at MetricNet, where she is responsible for managing day-to-day operations, strategic planning, and new client acquisition. She also oversees the company's sales and marketing efforts and manages its intellectual property and online resources. Angela has been with the company for 10 years and has over 20 years of experience in business development and strategy. She has been featured in Fortune magazine and has received recognition for her work in competitive and trends analysis from executives at a variety of Fortune 100 companies. Angela is a dynamic and accomplished professional who consistently delivers exceptional results for MetricNet and its clients. She has a wealth of industry experience and a track record of success in driving business results, particularly in the financial services, insurance, and healthcare sectors. Angela is highly skilled in communication, problem-solving, and project management, and is committed to delivering the highest level of service to MetricNet's clients.

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