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After peaking in 2001 and then declining during the post-boom years, web development and e-commerce staffing levels have remained surprisingly steady over the past three years, despite the interest and activity surrounding Web 2.0 technologies. While companies are clearly investing in web technology, our study on web staffing levels and outsourcing trends finds that they are not increasing web-specific staff as percentage of the total IT staff. Our study also indicates that while web outsourcing is rising modestly, perhaps accounting for some of the steadiness in web staffing levels, most organizations are choosing to retain a sizeable portion of their web operations in-house. This is yet another indication that web development today is proceeding at a more modest and sustainable pace than it did during the Internet's initial growth phase.
This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Web/E-Commerce Staffing Ratios and Outsourcing Trends.
Defining Web and E-Commerce Jobs
As organizations continue to invest in the web, IT managers need to figure out how to best staff their web and e-commerce operations. Our definition of web/e-commerce staff includes personnel who are responsible for the creation and maintenance of websites, intranets, and e-commerce sites. We also include personnel who manage Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems. Typical job titles in this category include webmaster, web designer, web administrator, web programmer, web developer, Internet specialist, and EDI specialist. We use the terms web staff and web/e-commerce staff interchangeably.
The full version of this report provides metrics based on our 2007/2008 IT spending and staffing survey of more than 200 IT organizations. In the first part of the report, we provide benchmarks on web/e-commerce staff by organization size and industry sector and analyze web/e-commerce outsourcing levels. We also examine the ratio of web staff to applications development staff. Finally, we look at the trend in web staffing ratios over the three-year period from 2005 to 2007.
In the second part of the report, we consider web/e-commerce outsourcing trends. One reason for the relative steady level of in-house web staffing is the prevalence of outsourcing. About 50% of all organizations currently outsource at least some of their web/e-commerce activities, and our research indicates that this trend shows no sign of slowing. The study also examines the frequency of such outsourcing by company size and compares staffing ratios for companies that outsource against those that do not. Finally, we look at the volume of such activity being outsourced by organizations.
Computer Economics Viewpoint
The results of our study offer a clear view of how organizations are applying their labor force to the management of their websites and e-commerce capabilities. In many cases, the scale of web development has contracted since the days of the dot-com frenzy when large staff pools launched e-commerce initiatives. Cutting back, abandoning, or shifting those websites to maintenance mode have reduced the workload considerably from the levels experienced at the turn of the millennium.
Another reason that website management staff counts are smaller today is that these workers are more experienced and better trained. They are no longer learning on the job. Instead, website management is a well-established discipline with mature support applications and tools that are available at reasonable costs, even to small organizations. In contrast to many other IT arenas, economy of scale does not offer larger companies a competitive advantage.
Website operation and maintenance is an excellent candidate for outsourcing. Moving much of the work to outside service providers permits organizations to move headcounts from the internal IT staff to the "outside services" line item in the budget. In addition, the in-house staff is then better able to concentrate resources on core competencies rather than being distracted by day-to-day website management. This is especially useful in that in most cases, websites and e-commerce systems must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The strategic importance of the web, however, dictates that most organizations are opting to retain a core group of web administrators and developers in-house as the Internet becomes an integral component of the IT infrastructure and many business initiatives.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Web/E-Commerce Staffing Ratios and Outsourcing Trends. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at https://www.computereconomics.com/article.cfm?id=1341 (click for pricing).
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