- Major Studies
The importance of computer networks cannot be overstated in this digital age. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of employees working from home. The resulting increase in the use of collaboration tools and software as a service (SaaS) has changed traffic patterns and extended the perimeter of enterprise networks, leaving companies vulnerable to security breaches. This has accelerated an already increasing demand for network support personnel brought on by the cloud transformation.
As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Network Support Staffing Ratios, network support personnel in 2021 make up 7.1% of the total IT staff. That is a substantial increase from 2020 when they made up 5.7% of IT staff. The network demands on IT organizations have been rapidly increasing, with more cybersecurity, SaaS, public cloud infrastructure, videoconferencing, the Internet of Things, real-time big data analytics, and other network-heavy technologies.
So, the jump in network support staffing is understandable, but why had staffing levels been flat prior to this year for four years running? After all, many of the trends driving more network usage have been in place for many years. The reason is that IT organizations were simply able to support larger, faster, and more complex networks without major increases in staff. Automation, virtualization, software-defined networks, and improved best practices were making network support professionals more productive.
The pandemic, with the added demands of remote and hybrid work and increasing security threats, upset the balance and forced IT organizations to add more network staff. Whether this increase is temporary or part of a new normal remains to be seen.
“Many of the changes brought on by the pandemic, like work from home, are not going away,” said Reneece Sterling, research analyst for Computer Economics, a service of Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “This is on top of the demand for network support personnel to support digital transformation initiatives. So, it’s likely that this higher level of staffing is going to remain at a new, higher plateau.”
In this report, network support staff includes personnel with titles of network engineer, architect, administrator, technician, specialist, or analyst for voice and data networks. The network support staff head count does not include managers but encompasses supervisors and senior-level personnel.
Our full report will help IT managers determine whether their organization is keeping pace with improvements in network management by comparing their network support staffing ratios 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 Network and Communications Group, users per network support staff member, and network devices per network support staff member. We provide benchmarks for the composite sample and by sector and organization size. We conclude with recommendations for reducing or at least maintaining the cost of network support staff.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Network Support Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for subscribers, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).