In a bid to meet the demands of an FD who needs to see cost savings across the organisation, often it’s a portion of an IT team that have to go. On the face of it, it’s an easy choice. Those within an IT team will often perform the same functions as one another, therefore, if one or more leave the team, it can still perform all its required tasks, albeit a bit slower than before.
But what might not have been considered in such decision making is the organisation’s profile of staff’s expected IT skills and the speed-of-service demands. If the two are considered together, an optimal ratio of IT staff to company staff can be derived which can be used as a benchmark against any planned reductions in heads.
Staff’s expected IT skills – Some business environments may have a low expectation on its staff in terms of their IT skills. A law firm is a good example as it’s more beneficial to the organisation if their legal teams are fee earning (by practicing law), instead of being able to clear their own printer jams. Other organisations, perhaps a software house, will have employees who are more than capable of dealing with common IT issues. In these examples, the law firm is clearly going to need a greater ratio of IT support people to staff members than the software house.
Speed-of-service demand – An investment bank, or indeed any organisation that is wholly reliant on IT to trade, will tolerate only the most minor of IT interruptions, whereas some business types might be able to suffer IT delays for hours, or even days, without any particular impact on their business. Those with the need for greater speed of service, or even immediate need for service, will require a greater ratio of IT support people to staff members compared with those that don’t.
If these two aspects of a business’ IT culture are considered together, one can begin to determine the optimal number of IT support people to staff members.
For organisations with a low expectation of staff’s IT skills, but who need rapid IT support, a ratio of 1 support person to every 50 members of staff, might be appropriate. The other extreme, high staff IT skills coupled with lower speeds of support, may lead to a ratio of 1 support person to every 200 members of staff.
Then, if there is a need to cut heads, a more informed choice may be made, i.e. just how many heads may be lost without: a) requiring the established IT culture to change, or b) having a detrimental impact of the organisation’s ability to trade?
Of course, this thought process and logic need not only apply to difficult times, when reducing costs is a priority. It can apply to times of business success and be used as a means of determining the best IT support fit for the business.
Jon Reeve, Principal Consultant