Beware the “industry average” trap

I love it when my CEO returns from a trip and discovers something from the airline magazine to question me about. Let me give you an example:

In Delta Magazine, he reads an article that suggests the average number of users to Desktop Technician ratio is 150 to 1 in most companies. (I just made this number up to illustrate a point)

When he gets back to the office, he calls me in and asks me, “Mike, what is our User to Desktop Technician support ratio?”

I do a quick mental math calculation of total users divided by my number of desktop support resources and say, “It is around 100 to 1.”

My CEO looks puzzled and concerned, , , then he asks the magic question, “Why is our IT organization not as good as most?”

Upon finding out what he is talking about and where he is coming from, I have to explain why our number is not as good as what he read in Delta Magazine.

When you see an industry average of anything, you have to remember, , , it is an industry average. What this means is there are many companies who will have much better numbers and there are many companies who will have worse numbers.

Having a worse number than an industry average does not necessarily mean your IT organization is doing a poor job.

There are a lot of variables that affect this particular type of measurement such as:

  • Age of the equipment being supported
  • Distribution of the equipment in the company
  • Complexity of what you have installed on the desktops
  • Amount of change your company is going through
  • Special projects underway
  • Capabilities of the support staff
  • Responsibilities of the support staff
  • Capabilities of the users
  • , , , even how you define a “Desktop Technician” and what he does

Lots and lots of variables.

You can have a worse number than the industry average and actually be doing a better job than someone who has a much better number. You have to understand the situation before coming to any meaningful conclusion.

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