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The recession brought an initial and stark decline in network support staffing relative to the overall size of IT staff, but that decline now appears to be reversing course. The ratio of network support staff to IT staff rose last year for the first time since 2008.
As the recession hit, the network was one area where capital investment came to a halt and IT organizations reduced network support headcount. As shown in Figure 1 from our study, Network Support Staffing Ratios, network support staffing stood at 8.7% of the IT staff in 2007, jumped to 9.5% in 2008, and then fell to 7.7% in 2009.
The fluctuation not only reflected changes in network support staffing but also in other IT staffing categories, which were also being trimmed during the period. Still, it is clear that network support staffing levels declined at a greater rate than other IT functions at the start of the recession, despite the initial rise.
Over the past four years, the ratio of network support staff to IT staff for the composite sample has remained relatively steady, based on our annual survey of more than 200 IT organizations. Network support staff accounted for 7.8% of the total IT staff in 2012, which is about equal to the 7.7% recorded in 2009. The gradual decline in the ratio during the intervening period shows that this function was slow to recover, but the trend now appears to have ended.
In this digital age, the importance of computer networks cannot be overstated. Yet remarkably, as a percentage of the IT staff, the size of the network support staff has been declining over time. The increasing bandwidth demanded by network-hungry applications, rising security threats, or reliability needed for cloud-based mobile applications has not driven up the basic ratio of network support staff to total IT staff in the typical organization. Rather, as with other infrastructure support functions, the data suggests better technology, automation, and outsourcing are enabling IT organizations to do more with fewer people.
The full study will help IT managers determine whether their organization is keeping pace with improvements in network management by comparing their network support staffing against industry benchmarks. We provide four benchmarks: network support staff as a percentage of the IT staff, network support staff as a percentage of the infrastructure staff, network devices per network support staff member, and users per network support staff member. We provide benchmarks for the composite sample, by sector, and by organization size.