Help Desks Get Breathing Room, Business Analyst Role Grows

Susan Hall

A survey by Robert Half Technology earlier this year found IT help desks understaffed, with each tech support worker attending to the needs of an average of 112 users. Meanwhile, the ideal ratio was considered more like 65 to 1.


A more recent report by Computer Economics finds help desks returning to pre-recession levels as a percentage of overall IT staff. Tech support workers averaged 8.5 percent of IT staffs in 2007, reached a high of 9.9 percent in 2008, then fell to 7.9 percent in 2010. This year, that staff is averaging 9 percent.


The article notes that the percentages represent the mix of staff, so other positions could be growing or being cut. It states: most IT organizations were not increasing headcount during this period, it is apparent the help desk suffered a disproportionate amount of the cost-cutting. IT organizations now appear to be augmenting this function.

It states that tech-savvy users and smartphone adoption are among the factors pushing organizations to improve the skills of these workers. It also points to other factors affecting the help desk: outsourcing, the IT infrastructure Library (ITIL), help desk automation and application reliability. For a really interesting take on improving the help desk, my colleague Ann All in this post has taken some lessons from reference librarians - namely focusing on the user's needs, not on the underlying technologies.


A separate report looks at business analysts as a percentage of total IT staff. Earlier this year I spoke with Glenn Brule, executive director of Global Client Solutions for training company ESI, about the shortage of trained professionals in this area, which is becoming more strategic for business. Here's a job description of the role from our IT Downloads Center.


Computer Economics reports business analysts averaged 5.9 percent of IT staffs in 2007, 7.6 percent in 2009, then jumped to a peak of 9.9 percent in 2010. That percentage this year has fallen back to 7.6 percent. This suggests a growing role at the same time other positions were being cut. Some of those other positions since are returning since the depths of the recession. According to the report:

The business analyst serves as a bridge between the IT organization and the users it serves, and it can be a challenging position for IT managers to fill. The requisite combination of qualifications - technical knowledge, business perspective, and interpersonal skills - is difficult to find in a single individual. Yet business analysts represent a rising element within the IT staff as organizations automate or outsource routine work and focus internal staff on delivering business value.

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