Essay about Factors That Contribute to Size of IT Staffs in Higher Education

Submitted By c_hensley
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Factors That Contribute to Size of IT Staffs in Higher Education

Chad L. Hensley

Donald A. Carpenter

Mesa State College

Factors That Contribute to Size of IT Staffs in Higher Education


This study examines the factors that influence information technology staffing needs. It deals with higher education specifically, but the conclusions can be generalized. The study employes survey research of 293 small colleges and universities. Components that comprise technological maturity are identified and compared to staffing levels and numbers of total employees. The I T staffing levels are related to technological complexity and numbers of employees.


Companies began outsourcing information technology (IT) functions at the beginning of the computer era in the 1950’s and the trend continues today. There usually is some type of outsourcing in each company. For example, most small companies do not develop their own software. Rather, they conform their organization to packaged software.
In recent years the trends have changed a little as companies re-evaluate their outsourcing contracts and bring some of their IT services back in-house. This new trend is called “insourcing” or “backsourcing.” Th is change suggests that companies are beginning to see value in having more control over their IT needs.
The issue becomes a matter of determining what IT staffing level is appropriate. In large companies, there is usually a chief information officer (CIO) or equivalent and an IT staff to make such decisions. In smaller organizations, the IT department is smaller and less formal, often without an IT manager. Outsourcing and IT staffing decis ions default to general managers.
Th is research project focuses on higher educational institutions and addresses the overall question of “How do colleges and universities determine how many IT staff members they need?” They face the same problems and challenges as small to medium businesses. Their budgets are usually larger and the users are usually more knowledgeable. However, in higher education, there is the additional challenge of supporting a w ider range of various technologies

and systems required. Complexities of the systems are greater, and therefore the size and divers ity of the IT staff may be greater.
Th is study examines the requirements that drive IT staffing in higher education. The following s ix questions are addressed:
What technological maturity is required for an education institution to manage its own IT? How many personal computers can effectively be supported by one IT staff member? What level of organizational IT complexity requires in-house IT personnel?
Does an organization’s number of employees directly correlate to its IT needs? At what level is it cost beneficial to outsource IT staff functions?
Which overall factors contribute to the IT staffing decis ion?

Literature R eview

What technological maturity is needed for an educational ins titution to m anage its own IT?

Technological maturity in this study is defined as expertise and resources necessary to manage IT resources. Technological maturity is attained when the expertise and resources to manage the relevant technology are in place (Narayanan, 2000). There is little in the literature to illustrate this, however. One example is Cingu lar W ireless (now A T&T Wireless) which directs a multitude of resources into developing the IT knowledge of its IT staff (McLean, 2006), as well as on project management and communication skills. It uses certifications to measure employee growth. Cingular can therefore demonstrate that it is gain ing technological maturity through the growth of its employees.
Arguably, there are many organizations that spend similar time and energy growing the knowledge of their employees for this purpose. Such technological