Help desk hiring is strong as IT gets more complex

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Support center ticket volumes have been increasing, and this may be good for job seekers.

Nearly 65% of all organizations surveyed by HDI, an industry group, report that ticket volumes have increased in their organization. Only 10% reported a decrease, according to HDI's 2015 Support Center Practices & Salary Report. The survey is based on data collected from 803 technical support professionals.

This is part of an ongoing trend. Since 2009, around two thirds of all organizations have reported year-over-over year increases in ticket volumes, with the exception of last year, when 57% said they had seen an increase in ticket volume.

David Foote, the chief analyst at the labor market research firm Foote Partners, said they are seeing corporate support functions "having to expand to handle myriad platforms and all this new mobile and cloud computing stuff on top of the traditional desktop platforms."

In HDI's most recent survey, 28% said they were planning on expanding staff by creating and filling new positions over the next 12 months. Only 4% said they were cutting, and 17% said hiring was frozen -- open positions weren't being filled. Most new hires could be ready to work proficiently on their own in a period ranging from two weeks to two months, respondents said.

The leading explanation for gains in ticket volumes are new applications and systems, which was cited by 53% of respondnets. An example of something that might trigger a rise in help desk calls may be a move to a new application platform, such as Microsoft Office 365, said Roy Atkinson, an analyst at HDI. The second reason for the increase in tickets is a gain in the number of customers either through a merger or new hiring; that was cited in 49% of the responses. Mobile device support now accounts for about 15% of help desk tickets.

Michael Mazyar, the CTO of Samanage, an IT service desk and asset management tools vendor, said one reason for the increase in ticket volumes is the ease with which a ticket can filed, either through a mouse click or phone touch. "Users now have the ability to get requests submitted quickly without putting much thought into it," he said.

Around one in five help desk tickets are generated by autologs, a percentage unchanged from last year, according to the HDI survey. An autolog is something generated automatically, without human intervention, such as a disk error on a server.

The current average salary for Level 1 support is $43,975, and for Level 2, it is $52,515, according to HDI's report.

Although nearly a third of the organizations are expanding staff, Atkinson said he can't be certain whether the industry, overall, is growing because the U.S. Labor Department doesn't have a specific category for people work in support centers. "Whether it is growing or shrinking at this point is very hard to say," he said.

It's also unclear what role offshoring may be having. Some organizations are moving to offshore models, but they aren't necessarily outsourcing that work. Instead, they're using their own offshore employees. Overall, 65% of the respondents to this survey say have not outsourced staff.

Dice, an employment site, said support and help desk job ad titles are up 30% from last year. It now has about 1,600 job postings that mention "support desk" or "help desk" directly in the title. As a baseline, overall jobs on Dice are up 8% from last year, so help desk occupations would be considered fast-growing, a company spokeswoman said.

In general, IT hiring is rising, according to Foote Partners, which said that 16,300 IT jobs were added in October, all in the IT services industry. The overall IT job growth for the past 12 months ending in October was 169,300.

Foote said there are so many apps, and integration of technologies from multiple vendors, that there are "many more points of breakdown." Overall, he said, "the level of complexity is higher for managing tech than it was, say three or five years ago."


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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