Desktop Administration –Why are we here?
Over my 15 or so years in IT, I've been fortunate enough to see an evolution technology which is nothing short of staggering. The result of IT culture's sudden emergence (and it's rapid and continuing rate of progress) is that it's often hard to take time to reflect. This article is to remind us why, at a fundamental level, we need to manage our business endpoint devices.
To the disappointment of some, I'll be speaking of those pesky desktops and laptops. You see, despite the advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), these bulky endpoints are still set to rise in the business environment over the next 5 years.
I am also aware that I am writing this on Symantec CONNECT's Endpoint Management forum. In short, I am preaching to the converted. It's easy though to lose sight of the fact that our positions exist in a modern IT enabled business to save money.
Putting it another way, if our jobs didn't exist, the costs of IT enablement across the businesses we serve would rise enormously. The problem is how to present this argument more clearly than can is generally presented in a detailed (and often confusing) Total Cost of Ownership analysis. As a thought experiement then, I decided to look at the scenario of what if we weren't here...
The Desktop Management Argument
The argument for desktop management is based on the following three principles,
- That staff productivity increases when the burden of desktop management is performed by a third party
- That the third-party can realise economies of scale
- That staff time is appropriately costed
These principles together mean that the act of proactively managing desktops costs less to the business than leaving them unmanaged. The problem with managed solutions however is that the cost savings are mostly 'soft' in nature; this is about making staff more productive when it comes to enabling IT in your enterprise.
This is where the third point above becomes important, if not critical in the managed desktop argument; staff time should be appropriately costed. For example, if 5% of staff hours are absorbed in the execution of IT functions outside their role then this equates directly to a financial hit on the businesses bottom line.
To put this into context, let me take the example of a company I have previously worked with. They operated on the somewhat unofficial basis that everyone's position contained an element of IT support. This approach had the 'benefit' of eliminating the need for a dedicated IT department and thus was seen as a huge saving in managerial eyes.
They never pondered the result though, the business effect of diverting a small percentage of everyone's time into purchasing, managing and disposing of their own machines. Some people simply could not cope with this task leading to a fair amount of frustration. This became ripe ground for the hidden culture of team super users to emerge -users possessing a technical bent who ended up, simply by being nice people, 'taking one for the team' by silently absorbing their area's IT responsibilities.
The result upper management turning a blind eye to this practice led them to believe that IT costing was all about capital expenditure. This was wrong. What they had in fact created, in effect, were many independent IT departments across their enterprise. This was in reality costing them hugely in terms of lost staff resource and further, IT was highly fractured across the business and an impediment to business process.
IT management requires that we all understand that enabling IT across your business comes with a price tag-staff time must at some point be consumed in both the management and consumption of it. Further, the act of managing IT is an act of organisation; we are directing the flow of IT for maximum business impact. Once the business accepts this, it can then direct the IT enablement process so that it is efficient and provides good business value. In doing so, IT becomes understood, the business is enhanced, and the associated costs are actually lower than if nothing were proactively done at all.
The Cost Of Not Managing Endpoints
I think the clearest argument for desktop management comes from considering what happens if we leave end-point management to the user. So let's consider now an unmanaged (or self-managed) environment where users are tasked with performing their own IT functions. Each of these functions will of course consume end-user time,
- Time spent initially procuring a computer
- Time spent wrestling with application x install and driver y (mostly printers, scanners)
- Time spent obtaining software x
- Time spend patching the machine
- Time lost through super-users who spend time providing IT local coordination
- Time for computer re-installs/restores
- Virus/Malware cleaning
Some of these functions consume capital directly (hardware and software purchasing) and some consume capital indirectly as staff time.
Below are two tables which contain educated guesstimates of how staff time is redirected into IT functions in the unmanaged/self-managed computer scenarios. Table 1 gives an approximate account of time spent by staff in the beginning/end of the lifecycle, and Table 2 details the on-going maintenance.
Table 1: Table detailing self-managed staff hours to procure, setup and decommission an unmanaged computer
Table 2 : Table detailing self-managed staff hours to maintain computer over its lifecycle
The important point here is that by having staff perform these functions themselves results in them losing ~85 hours each year to IT administration functions.
Let's now consider a business with 2,500 users. This equates to,
- 100 FTE lost to IT functions across a staff pool of 2500.
- £2.8m lost annually as a result of staff performing desktop administration functions (an average salary of £27K assumed)
These huge (and often unacknowledged) costs associated with unmanaged computers is of course why metrics like TCO (total cost of ownership) have appeared and are analysed as a matter of course by leading IT research companies such as Gartner and Forrester.
How Much Does Managing IT Save?
Let's now look at the case again of a 2,500 user business. This time, let's bequeath them with an IT department of 25 staff. Let's further assume IT is well managed and industry best practice is followed.
The situation should now be that the 2,500 users now devote less than 0.5% of their time to IT matters (rather than ~5% previously).
The annual cost of having such an IT department with 25 staff would cost the business perhaps £800K annually (again a guesstimate). In short, the proactive action of managing IT can be expected to save this business £2m annually. Importantly, such an IT department would also do far more than simply manage the businesses desktops. You'd get into the bargain resilient network services, directory services, filestores, groupware, intranet and often more than a little innovation.
A good question is this a true saving? For example, if I am asked as a business to invest half a million annually in an IT department I'd like to see a return. My view is that if staff time really is money to your organisation (one of the three fundamental principles behind desktop management), then the answer is certainly yes. In your environment that 5% average of staff time saved will flow back into the business and create true value and impact favourably on your bottom line.
What I have tried to show here is that the cost of nurturing a self-management philosophy in the enterprise is significant. As a back of the envelope calculation, self-management results in 5% employee time being 'unproductive'. In fiscal terms, this equates to a loss of £1300 each year for each member of staff.
Now I should mention I've played with these figures a lot; trying to hone various areas to be more accurate.The end result however is always generally in the figure of desktop administration saves about £1K per staff member annually.
For a business of 2500 users, an unmanaged endpoint environment can cost nearly £3m annually in simple terms of staff productivity. This is a huge figure and represents the cost of not managing IT just at the desktop level.
And remember that as these figures are purely for desktop management. They do not consider,
- Capital expenditure of IT equipment
- Productivity downtimes resulting from poor self-management
- Business costs due to non-compliance, data loss etc..
This is all why IT infrastructure management has evolved so much as a business. In the enterprise environment where staff time is money, real and massive savings can be realised. Further, not only are IT costs slashed, but as IT is now directed at a business level it can become a great enabler in providing additional business value.
I think therefore we have a vital role to play for our employers by facilitating huge cost savings across the business we serve. There is of course an added bonus for us. We get a front seat ride in this technology revolution whose creations and endeavours never cease to amaze.