Kathy Iberle (Hewlett-Packard) and Sue Bartlett (IIS/STEP Technology) have developed a model to determine the ratio of software testers to software developers. The following comes from the abstract of their paper “Estimating Tester to Developer Ratios (or Not)”.
Test managers often need to make an initial estimate of the number of people that will be required to test a particular product, before the information or the time to do a detailed task breakdown is available. One piece of data that is almost always available is the number of developers that are or will be working on the project in question. Common sense suggests that there is a relationship between the number of testers and the number of developers. This article presents a model that can be used in describing that relationship. It is a heuristic method for predicting a ratio of testers to developers on future projects. The method uses the model to predict differences from a baseline project. A reader with some projects behind her will be able to come up with a rule-of-thumb model to suit her most common situations, to understand when the model might not give accurate answers and what additional factors might need to be taken into consideration.
In the paper the authors present two case studies: (1) “MergoApp”, a e-commerce website where the tester-developer ratio was 1:4, and (2)“DataApp”, a database application to replace an Excel application, where the actual tester-developer ratio was 4:8. A copy of their model can be found at Kathy Iberle’s web site (http://www.kiberle.com/articles.htm). In addition, slides for the presentation can be found here: Estimate Slides.
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Venkat S. Devraj, co-founder and CTO of database and application automation software provider Stratavia and author of Oracle 24×7 Tips & Techniques (McGraw-Hill), had the following to say about the number of DBA’s necessary to administer an Oracle DB environment:
Every so often, I come across IT Managers bragging that they have a ratio of “50 DB instances to 1 DBA” or “80 DBs to 1 DBA”… — Is that supposed to be good? And conversely, is a lower ratio such as “5 to 1” necessarily bad? Compared to what? In response, I get back vague assertions such as “well, the average in the database industry seems to be “20 to 1”.
Venkat recommends a benchmarking approach:
The reality is, a unidimensional *and* subjective ratio, based on so-called industry best practices, never reveals the entire picture. A better method (albeit also subjective) to evaluate and improve DBA effectiveness would be to establish the current productivity level (“PL”) as a baseline, initiate ways to enhance it and carry out comparisons on an ongoing basis against this baseline. Cross-industry comparisons seldom make sense, however the PL from other high-performing IT groups in similar companies/industries may serve as a decent benchmark.
Finally, Venkat recommends developing a 2X2 matrix where an “Environmental Complexity Score” is charted against a “Delivery Maturity Score”. Your PL depends on where you land in the 2X2 matrix. If you picture the X-Y chart as comprising 4 quadrants (left top, left bottom, right top and right bottom), the left top is “Bad”, the left bottom is “Mediocre”, the right top is “Good” and the right bottom is “Excellent”.
For a full description of Mr. Devraj’s approach, see: Selective Deliberations on Databases, Data Center Automation & Cloud Computing
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According to a ZDNet article (by John Hazard, March 9, 2011) “IT manager jobs to staff jobs in move to the Cloud“:
The typical IT organization usually maintains manager-to-staff ratio of about 11 percent (that number dips to 6 or 7 percent in larger companies), said John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics. The ratio has been volatile for four years, according to the Computer Economics recently released study, IT management and administration staffing ratios. As businesses adjusted to the recession, they first eliminated staff positions, raising the ratio to its peak of 12 percent in 2009. In 2010, businesses trimmed management roles as well, lowering the ratio to 11 percent, Longwell said. But the long term trend is toward a higher ratio of managers-to-staff ratio, he told me.
“Over the longer term, though, I think we will see a continued evolution of the IT organizations toward having more chiefs and fewer Indians as functions move into the cloud or become more automated.”
For a complete copy of the article see: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/it-manager-jobs-to-staff-jobs-in-move-to-the-cloud/45808?tag=content;search-results-rivers
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In a Computerworld (Australia) article entitled “Is there best practice for a server to system administrator ratio?” from July 9, 2010, the following was reported:
“We have observed that it can be, for example with a physical server, as low as 10 per admin, and for virtual servers as many as 500,” Gartner analyst, Errol Rasit, said. “But it really depends on the type of application. We have seen as an example from a particular customer – from some of our larger customers – that they had their admins managing 15 physical servers and when that moves to virtualisation it moves to something like 75 virtual servers.
To give you a different order of magnitude in another example one admin was looking at 50 physical servers and then moving to 250 virtual servers. I will say that we have seen maybe 500 or 600 virtual servers being managed by a single admin.
IDC meanwhile notes that in Australia the ratio for an SMB would vary greatly from a hoster and again to a cloud provider like Amazon or Microsoft. The analyst house’s statistics suggest anywhere from 10,000:1 at a dominant vendor like Google down to the SMB average of 30:1 for physical boxes and 80:1 for virtual machines.
One enterprise IT manager told us the ratio for physical servers was roughly 50:1, another working for a government organisation said 15-20:1, and an IT director at a research and development outfit noted that in a mid-size organisation a system administrator could maintain 10-14 servers per week or if their role was merely maintenance (i.e. no projects, no debugging, etc) then they could look after 25-35 servers per week. The IT director added a bigger organisation with larger economies of scale could potentially increase the ration to 10-14 servers to each admin per day with staff dedicated to just maintenance.
One of the key factors in increasing the ratio, however, is how much automation can be rolled into the maintenance / management of the server farm.
“A lot of what changes the ratio in the physical world is the types of tools being used to automate a lot of the processes; so run book automation and these sorts of things,” Gartner’s Rasit said. “That tends to be the main differentiator. The problem with virtualisation and virtualisation tools is there are a lot of them. It is very, very easy for a lot of customers to try and automate everything and that doesn’t necessarily always bear fruit for the organisation because they are spending too much time doing that.
A complete copy of the article can be found: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/352635/there_best_practice_server_system_administrator_ratio_/
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Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs, suggests replacing the IT budget / revenue ratio with a metric that has meaning – like IT headcount to Free Cash Flow. That is a metric one CIO is using and it makes more sense because it can be managed.
He suggests measuring IT headcount because more than 70% of most IT budgets are already contractually committed – effectively removing them for short-term management changes. IT headcount is the result of factors the CIO can control, like the level of automation, the skill of their people, the structure of their operations and the nature of their IT investment budget.
McDonald suggests that free cash flow is a better numerator, as it is more indicative of a company’s health. Management can influence free cash slow and manage it to some extent in either a strong or weak economies. Case in point; look at organizations building cash in the recession. Free cash flow is also something that IT can influence as IT systems integrate process and information flows which improves end-to-end process and cash performance.
It is harder to measure, free cash flow and IT headcount, but it should produce a clearer signal and inform better management decisions and actions.
See full article: http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_mcdonald/2010/04/06/it-spend-as-a-percent-of-revenue-%E2%80%93-a-dubious-metric-at-best/
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Posted in analyst, helpdesk, ITIL, personel, service desk, staffing, tech support, tagged analyst, helpdesk, ITIL, staffing on June 14, 2010|
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In a presentation entitled “Staffing Strategies for the 21stCentury” by Katherine Spencer Lee, Executive Director at Robert Half Technology (September 18, 2008), the following IT staffing metrics were presented:
A Robert Half Technology* survey asked 1,400 CIOs to compare …
Actual versus ideal ratio of internal end-users to technical support employees at their company
- Mean response for Actual was 136:1
- Mean response for Ideal was 82:1
Technical Support Center staffs are 40 percent smaller, on average, than optimal.
Mobile vs Static staffing ratios:
- There is a baseline ratio around 90 customers per analyst.
- Technical and mobile user bases earn a lower ratio due to higher complexity (1:80-110)
- Fewer analysts required for non-technical and static users (1:120-160)
Organizational goals should help set staffing levels:
- Compete at the cutting edge of innovation (25:1 to 50:1)
- Compete on full service and overall value (60:1 t0 100:1)
- Compete on thin cost margin and scalability (125:1 to 200:1)
A complete copy of the Robert Half presentation can be found here.
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This is the most comprehensive study that I have seen on IT Staffing. It was written by Lon D. Gowen, Ph.D., Lead Systems and Software Engineer at the MITRE Corporation. The paper is entitled “Predicting Staffing Sizes for Maintaining Computer-Networking Infrastructures”. It was published in 2000.
In this paper Gowan presents benchmark data for the “Number of Users Per FTE of CNI Support” for
- Systems Administration
- Help Desk
- Configuration Management
These numbers were observed in both a DoD and a Private sector enviroment. Acutal numbers are presented in the paper and are compared to numbers predicted using a COTS modeling tool.
Full paper available at: Predicting Staffing Levels
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