When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?


  • Service Provider

    These discussions all lead from one to another. We all know that IT and bench work tend to overlap or rub up against one another, a lot. And while bench also overlaps with facilities and other roles, its somewhat technical nature means that it's more reasonably for IT to step "down" to bench work when needed than for facilities to step "up" to it, in most cases. It's assumed that IT staff can all do bench (which is mostly, but not always true) and that only some staff from facilities, clerical, etc. can do so in reverse.

    At some point, it is clear that it makes sense for IT to just absorb bench tasks. But at some point, it is also clear that it does not make sense. But when?

    Company size seems like it must be a factor. And "percentage of work" must be huge. And "does it affect locality" is enormous.

    Lots to consider. But what do we think, when does it make sense for IT to "just do that" and when should there be people or resources dedicated to doing those tasks?


  • Service Provider

    The obvious underlying factors are cost and efficiency. I'm a pretty bad bench tech, I don't know memory types any more, I'm slow at replacing mother boards, I don't know which sockets go with what processors, I don't keep up with the third party parts market, I don't have a go bag full of tools. Someone who enjoys bench and does it every day will be vastly better at this job than me, and probably than nearly all of us.

    The other is cost. Not to look down on bench work, it's a respectable career. But the reality is is that bench work is generally cheap, very cheap. Top end bench outside of a datacenter typically caps around the same place that IT starts. Somewhere around $45K, there is overlap for sure, but in any given market the one ends around where the other begins. This might be $25K in your local market, it might be $50K.

    But for averages, an average bench tech is going to earn about half what an average IT Pro in the same company will earn.

    This means that not only is there an inefficiency to having IT doing bench work, but there is a huge cost to it. If there is any amount of this work, not only does it come at the expense of IT work getting done, but is done at enormous cost.

    Let's assume your bench tech is $15/hr. And let's assume your IT is $30/hr. Let's assume your IT is 50% slower at bench tasks then the bench person. Now we are paying, quite literally, triple per task to have IT do the bench work! If that's only for one hour a year, whatever. If it is for one hour a day, better reconsider that. And that's before we consider problems like travel, locality changes, context switching, stress, job satisfaction, inability to complete IT tasks, etc.



  • We outsource all bench work to local repair shops if the client wants cheap and it's out of warranty.


  • Service Provider

    @bbigford said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    We outsource all bench work to local repair shops if the client wants cheap and it's out of warranty.

    What about the more typical bench work like setting up computers on desktops?



  • @scottalanmiller said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    @bbigford said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    We outsource all bench work to local repair shops if the client wants cheap and it's out of warranty.

    What about the more typical bench work like setting up computers on desktops?

    Everything is build to spec and a 3 year warranty. I prefer Dell, others prefer HP. Only thing I have to do is image it to get rid of bloatware and add necessary software, which is all automated. Each desktop only requires pushing F12 and the rest is done, including joining the domain/etc. I don't do custom builds anymore, no hardware upgrades to save a small amount of money during the initial purchase (like slightly cheaper cost on SSDs, memory). Costs more to have me do more then just spend a little more and have it shipped with it.



  • In my previous work I was hured as they considered IT to be bench work. Just to say...
    I ended up buying desktops with included external support, from WSUS as a service up to remote and onsite support.
    They where dell desktop baked with Ricoh support (Ricoh is an official Dell partner in Italy).
    Anyway installation still required me as procedures were written but were also internal docs that Ricoh didn't distribute to their bench stuff. So everytime I has to reexplain the sane stuff.
    Also basic troubleshooting involved me because employees where not able to open tickets with a pc and always asked me to do it for them.



  • @matteo-nunziati , yeah that was always my problem. Managing bench workers was so time-consuming that it was nearly always quicker just to do the bench work myself.


  • Service Provider

    @carnival-boy said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    @matteo-nunziati , yeah that was always my problem. Managing bench workers was so time-consuming that it was nearly always quicker just to do the bench work myself.

    That's a general rule for any manager situation. Even fast food. Why hire people that require nearly 1:1 manager time? Literally cheaper to do the work as the manager than as the employee. Although important to note that that is a manager vs. employee not IT vs bench thing. IT as a department isn't management. So it would be the same management overhead to manage bench or IT. So should be a wash there, in a general sense.



  • What do you call bench work? I'm not sure what the definition is. What typical bench work would be carried out in an SMB?

    I used to outsource basic IT tasks, which I guess would be classed as bench work, for about £100 per hour ($140). Five hours a week of that for 46 weeks a year is just over $30k a year. You can employ decent IT staff for that price in the UK and that gives you 40 hours a week instead of 5.

    £100 per hour may seem expensive, but I couldn't find anyone that would do it cheaper locally. That was often an hour at a time, so represented two hours when you include travel to and from our site (we only paid for time on-site).


  • Service Provider

    The differences between IT and bench....

    Youtube Video

    IT is a business function that uses tech. Bench is a non-business tech support function. IT has no existence outside of business. Bench is used by everyone.


  • Service Provider

    @carnival-boy said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    What typical bench work would be carried out in an SMB?

    Putting computers on desks, plugging them in, kick off OS installs, putting in network info so that remote access can be had, etc.

    Simple rule of thumb: if you must be local to do work, that's bench. Bench deals with plugging things in, putting things in drives, etc.

    Bench can be seen as "remote hands", that's how it is labeled many times when you purchase it as a service.

    Bench work is what you get from stores for consumers. It doesn't consider business needs, it's just task based. It's focused on the hardware and basic installation of the computer.

    The top end of bench work is data center techs who do the same kind of work, but with enterprise servers.


  • Service Provider

    @carnival-boy said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    I used to outsource basic IT tasks, which I guess would be classed as bench work, for about £100 per hour ($140). Five hours a week of that for 46 weeks a year is just over $30k a year. You can employ decent IT staff for that price in the UK and that gives you 40 hours a week instead of 5.
    ite).

    I would guess that you were outsourcing more than bench for that price. You can outsource nearly all of your IT for that in the US. Your bench is more like $40/hr when outsourced here (US is big, this varies a lot, you'd not pay this in Texas but would in lots of places.)

    $30K a year will definitely employ a bench tech on site in the US. Sounds like our ratio for employment to outsource is very different than yours.

    One big factor...

    Bench tech prices are set by locality. If you live in London, your bench cost is X. If you live in Leeds, they are Y, etc.

    IT prices are essentially universal. It costs X to get IT work. If you live in London, NY, Singapore, Nairobi... it's essentially the same because it's a global market and locality isn't a factor.


  • Service Provider

    @carnival-boy said in When Is It Too Costly for IT to Cover Bench?:

    £100 per hour may seem expensive, but I couldn't find anyone that would do it cheaper locally. That was often an hour at a time, so represented two hours when you include travel to and from our site (we only paid for time on-site).

    It does, but I think you are in London so compare to Manhattan and it's still high, but not crazy high.

    However, in Manhattan we'd never be able to get someone full time for $30K. That shows how different the numbers are. NYC and London are similar in a lot of ways, but your employment costs are half ours, while your hourly on calls are higher.