CXO

How many users can one person support?

As a one-man IT department, I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all of the things to do, the number of support requests, and so on. In addition, keeping abreast of all the changes and nuances in this ever-changing industry can only add to the challenge. Included in my support efforts, I might add, is being involved (actually taking the lead) in supporting – and keeping up with - the company's primary design software, AutoCAD and its various products, which includes becoming involved in production if those needs arise. (And then there's Autodesk's new product, Revit, which is a huge effort currently beating on my door.)

Over the years, I've had anywhere from 25 to 35 users in my office, which is small compared to a lot of TechRepublic members, but I've always been the only guy. I don't think I'd want to support many more than that without adding to the support staff, especially considering the wide-range of support I provide. A friend of mine who works at another company within the same industry (the building design industry), but one with about 60 users, provides only the AutoCAD and design support, while the rest of the IT infrastructure is supported by another person. I suppose somewhere between 35 and 60, at least in my industry, is the threshold for needing two people instead of one to wear those two hats.

The challenge especially presents itself when I'm trying to stay focused on a longer term project of some sort, which could be anything from writing some customized AutoCAD programs, to learning a new product (Revit), to installing new workstations, to network or software upgrades, and so on. The interruptions to deal with some nagging little issue makes the process more difficult.

This arrangement certainly has its downsides, but it has the upsides as well. So I take it all in stride, the good with the bad, knowing that the balance usually falls towards the good. What I probably miss the most, however, (not that I've ever had it) was another IT savvy person to bounce ideas and issues off of, not to mention having a little help once in a while. Those times when my answer is, "I don't know", is always followed by, "But I'll see what I can find out, and I'll get back with you". And then the research begins. Nonetheless, I try to stay positive and upbeat, although I do have to remind myself of that from time-to-time. All-in-all, however, I've think I've managed pretty well.

I've seen these issues addressed before, but it might be worthwhile to resurrect the subject. What kind of ratios do you see? How many users could one person reasonably support? Of course, it depends on any number of factors, but what are they? Do you ever get that support request for which you feel like saying, "Can't you just figure it out yourself?" Of course, that's a terrible answer, and one that I pretty much avoid. (Although I have hinted at it a few times.)

Support to user ratio - what are the numbers and the issues. The answers will probably run the gamut.

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