2017: Another Year Support Didn’t Vanish

Reports of support’s impending death have been greatly exaggerated. (Hat tip to Mark Twain.)

Technical support is not going away anytime soon. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve written that, but here it is again. It might be nice to dream of a world where no one needs to get support because things have stopped breaking, where everyone seamlessly gains access to everything they need, and everyone is completely competent with the tools they need to accomplish their work. For nowand for the foreseeable futurepeople need to get help, and things do break.

A quick comparison of the newly released HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report, available free to HDI members, shows that service and support actually gained ground in 2017 in terms of hiring.

In 2016, 15 percent of support centers were expanding. In 2017, that number rose to 29 percent, nearly double the percentage.

hiring, staffing, tech support

Source: HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report, p. 30

In addition, the percentage of organizations reporting that their hiring was frozen dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent, and the percentage reducing staff dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent.

But What About Automation?

Yes, automation is coming, or maybe it’s already here in your organization. What we found in 2017 research, however, is that only 8 percent of organizations that are using automation have reduced the number IT staff members. In 12 percent of organizations, staff increased, and a whopping 45 percent of organizations say that the work has shifted, but the number of people doing it has remained the same. Isn’t this the desired outcome? Use automated systems to perform the repetitive, mind-numbing tasks that have little or no value, and get people working on the high-value tasks that organizations have been putting off because they had to “keep the lights on?”

Yes, support people will be doing different work, and organizations will require different skills, but robots aren’t taking over the workplace just yet.


Compensation will increase over the next year for 48 percent of support organizations, 51 percent will stay the same, and only 1 percent plan to decrease their compensation. Moreover, 10 percent of organizations will add bonuses to their compensation package during the coming year, 25 percent of organizations will increase bonuses, and only 1 percent will eliminate them.

The Amount of Work

Again during 2017, ticket (or case, if you prefer) volume increased in 55 percent of organizations. More than half of support organizations have reported an increase in case volume every year for at least the past 10 years. Of those tickets, 53 percent were classified as incidents (down from 54 percent in 2016). Things break and work gets interrupted, and people need support to get up and running again.

Some organizations are using systems, processes, and software that is frightfully out of date, and those organizations need to think about making changes. But not every organization has the same need to adopt cutting-edge methods and tools. In fact, one of the tenets of modern agility is to ship products that are good enough, not anywhere near perfect. So, if the methods and tools you are using are good enough to get the job done for your organization, you don’t need to panic and feel way out of step with the rest of the industry; you aren’t.

This has been a year of very rapid change, with new developments appearing almost every day in 2017. (Attend our January webinar to catch up on the latest.) You don’t have to adopt all the new stuff, or maybe not even any of it. But take a good long look at your organization, and start building a roadmap to get you where you do need to go over the next three to five years.

  • What technologies will our business require us to support?
  • What infrastructure and tools will we need to support those technologies?
  • What skills will analysts and technicians need?
  • Which frameworks and/or methodologies can we benefit from?

Here’s to a happy and productive 2018!

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