Are IT Benchmarks Useful?

by Marc Cecere

Recently, Forrester surveyed a number of CIOs to collect benchmark data on staffing ratios and spending. This is a new initiative within Forrester and one that is not yet complete. We did this for three reasons:

 

  1. Benchmark questions (called inquiries at Forrester) on staffing have become relatively common. Examples are “Can you tell us the average share of IT Staff as a % of total staff by organization size” and “Would you have specific spending figures for IT infrastructure?”. 
  2. This kind of data in conjunction with other data and analysis can identify problem areas. 
  3. Staffing benchmark data along with spending and other data are objective measures of IT organizations. 

Though our initial sample size is small a preliminary view of the data shows that:

  • The number of people in apps is somewhat higher than in infrastructure. 40% of IT people are in applications organizations, whereas 30% are within infrastructure.
  • People providing strategic functions were a very low percentage of the IT organization. Planning, PMO (excluding project execution), vendor management, relationship management, were individually below 1% of the organization. Architecture was the largest of these functions and consisted of approximately 1% of the IT organization.
  • The number of people working on enterprise projects varied by a lot, but in nearly all cases were 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). 
  • HR is almost non-existent within IT shops. Whether looking at HR as a part time or full time function, the mean was significantly less than 1%.

Though this is just an initial step, we see an obvious benefit for clients to compare their organizations against similar ones and identify outliers. This comparison will not be sufficient to make decisions about over- or under-staffing, but it can identify areas where further analysis is needed. Similarly, clients could use this data to support a business case for making changes in an organization. Looking at this from the analyst’s perspective, we see a rich source of objective data to complement other sources that we’ve been using for years. Interviews, inquiries and consulting provide analysts with highly granular information on what works and doesn’t for CIOs. However, this is subjective information based on opinions. Combining this subjective, but highly granular and nuanced information, with hard numbers, should give our research (and therefore our clients) a more complete picture of how IT shops are working. 

For this initiative, we are particularly interested in our client’s view. Would it be useful to you? How would you use it? What experience have you had in the past with benchmarking that would help to guide us?

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