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On November 17, 2009 Forrester Research reported the preliminary results of a CIO benchmark survey.   These results indicate:

  1. Within a given IT group, the number of people in ‘applications’ is higher than the number of people in IT infrastructure.  40% of IT people are in applications and 30% are in infrastructure.
  2. The number of people working on enterprise projects varies a lot, but in nearly all cases is a significant part of the IT organization at an average of 10% in medium sized shops (50 to 300 people in IT) and 5% in large shops (> 300 people within IT).

Source: http://advice.cio.com/forrester_research/are_it_benchmarks_useful

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Cem Kaner, a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, has done research on the ratio of software testers to software developers. His presentation entitled “Managing the Proportion of Testers to Other Developers” is partially based on a meeting of the Software Test Managers Roundtable (STMR 3) in Fall 2001.

FIT

FIT

The study found that:
– There were very small ratios (1-to-7 and less) and very
large ratios (5-to-1).
– Some of each worked and some of each failed.
– Many remembered successful projects with ratios lower than 1-to-1 more favorably than successful projects with larger ratios.

Read the paper to find out why is there such a range of successful ratios, and why test managers be happy with relatively low ratios?

See: http://www.kaner.com/pdfs/pnsqc_ratios.pdf and http://www.kaner.com/

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ITIL – Staffing Ratios

ITIL Benchmarks

ITIL Benchmarks

In a study or 125 companies in the United Kingdom,  researchers found that the “IT Heads in relation to the Number of Users” was a median of 6% for ITIL adopters and 5% for ITIL rejecters.

From the same study, training costs for ITIL adoption were on average £930 per IT head.

Source: “The ITIL Experience – Has it been worth it?”, Noel Bruton, Bruton Consultancy, Spring 2004. See: http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:HIwsdVqpREAJ:www.aaromba.com/assets/pdf/whitepapers/The-ITIL-Experience.pdf+ITIL+Experience+-+Has+it+been+worth+it%3F&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

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According to Tim Bryce (Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates),

If systems analysis is performed correctly, programmer productivity should improve as analysts should be providing good specifications for application assignments. In the absence of systems analysts, considerable time is lost by the programmer who has to second-guess what the end-user wants. Inevitably, this leads to rewriting software over and over again. Good data and processing specs, as provided by a systems analyst, will improve programmer productivity far better than any programming tool or technique. This means programmers are the beneficiaries of good systems analysis.

This brings up an interesting point, what should be the ratio of Systems Analysts to Programmers in a development organization? Frankly, I believe there should be twice as many analysts than programmers. By concentrating on the upfront work, programming is simplified.

Source: Bryce, Tim, “The Ratio of Analysts to Programmers”, Toolbox for IT, August 24, 2006.

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A recent posting on the Spiceworks Community forum revels IT staff to user ratios ranging from 100:1 to 20:1 based upon different factors such as number of different locations, hardware and software diversity, proficiency of the users, hours for direct support, help desk availability, etc. The best posting came from Eric Osterholm. He reported:

“Awhile back I worked for a great Consulting Company called Collective Technologies (a spinoff from Pencom Systems); at it’s height, there were over 350 Consultants in the field. The topic of this ratio came up time and time again…

Based on what we saw at our client sites, the consensus was that a helpdesk (someone else doing servers and network) ratio was about 100:1 with proper automation technologies (imaging\patching\helpdesk\etc). For admins supporting servers and helpdesk, the ratio closed to 50:1. For those supporting everything, the numbers were all over the board… from 100:1 to 20:1. The one constant we saw was that the more mature shops adopted automation tools to make their current staff more efficient, reducing these ratios.”

The entire forum post can be found at: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/7870?query=ratio+of+users+it

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zohoServiceXen, an IT firm located in Atlanta, Georgia, has provided six (6) interactive spreadsheets to assist in IT benchmarking activities.  Each spreadsheet is a shared Zoho Sheet.  See below:

  1. Data Center Security Audit
  2. New Employee Cost Calculator
  3. Server Buy vs. Lease Calculator
  4. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator
  5. Virtualization Fit Tool

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Staff Support

Staff Support

IT Staff Benchmarks

Level One – Basic helpdesk phone support
– 1:80 to 1:110
Level Two – Installation, configuration, and
desktop support
– 1:45 to 1:85
Level Three – Systems, communications,
high end support and design
– 1:250 to 1:400

There is no single answer

Depends on
– Staff expertise
– Technical proficiency of end users
– Number of servers
– Number of remote branches and distance
– Level of high tech systems deployed by the bank
Leave enough room for project resources!

Source: “The Business of IT: Running Your Bank’s IT Department Like a Business”, Brintech, February 17, 2005

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Justine Nguyen suggests a baseline users-to-tech ratio of 60 users per one technician.  Read more to find out the details.
Source: http://news.zdnet.com/2422-13569_22-155252.html
Users-to-tech support ratio

How many employees should one tech support staff person oversee? CNET’s Justine Nguyen explains the golden ratio of users to tech support staff, and what factors contribute to it.

My name is Justine Nguyen, Director of Desktop Support here at CNET Networks, and I’m here to talk to you today about users to tech support ratio. We’ve been experiencing explosive growth here at CNET Networks, hiring employees left and right. And of course in order to provide support to those employees and their computers, I’ve had to ask for more technicians. There’s some complicated math that might go into that, but there’s some good rule of thumbs which I wanted to share with you today.

So the first thing, before you do any calculations is you have to take into account at least three things. The first thing is complexity. This involves your environment complexity, how many laptops versus desktops are you using? How many operating systems are in your environments, as well as the problem complexity-generally how involved are the problems, how hard are they to solve or how easy are they to solve?

The second thing you have to take into account is expertise. This would mean your technician expertise, how much they’ll need to know technically to solve the problems in your environment as well as your user expertise, how well do they know how to use the hardware and the software that they need to be productive.

The third thing that you do need to take into account is trends. Do some trend analysis of your problems. You’ll see spikes and dips as when problems occur. Make sure that you’re staffed up during those time periods to accommodate those, whether it’s during a software release, a new hardware rollout, or hiring spikes.

So the basic rule of thumb in terms of user to support ratio is 60 users to one technician. Now there are a lot of things that can influence this number. How many remote users do you have? Do the technicians have direct access to those machines or not? Do your technicians have to walk a long distance to get to users? Is there a lot of software testing done in your environment?

So I picked out six things that definitely influenced my recommendation. I’m going to share those with you. So the first one is if you have more than one operating system and no hardware standards in your environment-that means you’re using Mac, Linux, various versions of Windows-your ratio is going to be reduced to 45 employees to one technician. That’s a reduction of 15 employees per technician that can be supported.

However, you can increase the number of employees that each technician supports. For example, you can use restricted local administrator rights on machines. If you do this, your ratio will increase from 60 to one to 70 to one. That’s plus ten employees that are supported by each technician.

Another thing you can do is restrict local administrative rights completely. However, this will only increase your support ratio by five. For some reason, power users who don’t have administrative rights to their machine it involves more work for your technician.

A big productivity factor that you can have is to use remote software deployment, whether it’s SMS, Alteris, LanDesk. If you do this, your ratio will increase by 20 to one. That means that you will have an 80 to one ratio of employees to technicians.

Another thing that will really increase productivity is imaging or cloning, whether you’re using Ghost-you don’t want technicians to spend a lot of time building machines by hand. So this will increase the ratio by 15 to one.

Another good tool is remote control, going back to the distance a technician has to travel to provide support. Remote control tools will increase your ratio by 15 to one. So remember the rule of thumb we started with was 60 to one. Now there are a lot of things which will make that number smaller. However, if you implement standards, policies, invest in some software which will increase technician productivity, you can add up all of these ratio increases and receive a ratio of 125 employees to one technician.

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Does a thumb rule exists for “server administrators to a number of servers for a large and distributed enterprise infrastructure.”

I know this cannot be applied in every situation, but is there some reference than can be used to derive a head count for 24×7 support operations.
Answers:

1) check out the paper: “How Many Administrators are Enough” http://www.verber.com/mark/sysadm/how-many-admins.html

2) If there is a remote mangement tool to access the same. then the number is around 200-300.
if no software is present and physical present is required, then not more than 50-100 servers per server administrator. I am assuming these servers to be windows servers.
in case of Unix boxes, more servers can be managed even without management software, as patches to be applied are less often and they hardly need to be rebooted. so zero admin scenarios can exisit with unix boxes.
3) Administrators vs no. of servers depends on the stability of the organization and the stability of the OS being used. I have driven an initiative where I could drive the ratio from 150 per SA to 900 per SA. This involved a lot of standardization on the OS level as well as a focus effort to reduce known problems and working on eradication of the problems rather than break fix efforts. A lot of focus was also driven on the quality and training of the SA’s.

Source: LinkedIn Answers (March 2008) http://www.linkedin.com/answers/hiring-human-resources/staffing-recruiting/HRH_SFF/184490-5730787?browseCategory=&goback=.ahp

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Google employs one systems administrator for about 20,000 servers.

Bechtel employed one systems administrator per 100 servers.

Source: ‘Bechtel’s New Benchmarks’, CIO Magazine, October 24, 2008

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