Do you often feel like you are doing more with fewer resources? According to our recent survey on help desk hours and staffing, you are not alone.

The economic downturn has affected almost every aspect of the IT industry, including the help desk. Companies that expanded their hours or opened offices in different time zones before the Wall Street slide began are still having to offer help desk support for those longer stretches of time—despite the fact that their resources (both monetary and human) have been greatly diminished.

It’s difficult to guess the reasoning behind survey results, but the current economic state is a good bet as the cause of some of the interesting numbers we received in our survey, which tried to gauge how business expansions have affected help desks.

Our first set of questions examines how companies are doing more with fewer people. Most of our respondents either support between 101 and 500 end users (31 percent) or more than 2,000 end users (26 percent). Yet an overwhelming 78 percent of these same respondents report they have 10 or fewer people manning their help desk. (See Figure A.)

Figure A
Compare how few people work on the help desk with how many end users they support.

Not only are help desks working with fewer people, they also are staffing those help desks beyond the traditional business hours, according to what more than half of those who took the survey indicated.

Nearly 50 percent of those who took the survey said they use some form of electronic notification to inform their on-call help desk people when end users need help, but about a third said that no help is available when their help desk is not manned. (See Figure B.)

Figure B
Electronic notification of on-call help desk support personnel is the method of choice for after-hours communication.

Another interesting survey result is that, while most people who offer live help desk support after hours have been doing so for more than five years, the majority of those who aren’t offering live help desk support after hours are not planning to do so in the future. (See Figure C.)

Figure C
Either extended hours support has been around for a while or it isn’t going to happen any time soon.

The reasons businesses have extended live help desk support are more numerous than what we could list in our survey. Of the options we were able to list, the biggest reasons for longer support hours were that organizations had expanded into other time zones, or organizations simply expanded the hours of operation.

Perhaps it is an indication of the slowing economy that most project they will extend help desk operations in the future due to extended hours of operation, while only about 15 percent expect to expand their help desk operating hours due to their organizations expanding into different time zones. (See Figure D.)

Figure D
Organizational expansions into other time zones once fueled extended help desk hours.

Is the faltering economy affecting your help desk?

Companies have been laying people off in droves during 2001. How has this affected your help desk? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.