Gartner TCO Manager 3.5: Analyzing IT Infrastructure

According to Tom Pisello, vice president of software products, Gartner Group Inc. (Stamford, Conn.,, the total cost of a desktop computer in the corporate world ranges from $3,000 to $25,000 per year.

The Gartner Group does a lot of research and plenty of talking about TCO. To put that talk into action, Gartner released Gartner TCO Manager 3.5. The software package is based on benchmarking data collected in Gartner's interviews of more than 200 companies from more than 90,000 inquiries annually. The result is a software TCO analysis tool married to a cost database that includes companies of many types, sizes and geographic locations. Users prime the program with extensive data about their company, and the software analyzes that data and spits out suggestions for reducing TCO.

Despite the single-disk CD-ROM installation and skimpy 55-page, spiral-bound printed documentation, the cost of TCO Manager is a sobering $19,000, with some discounting available to existing Gartner customers. For that heady price, the per-year single-user program includes access to a members-only Web site with free updates, how-to’s, known bugs, unlimited Gartner telephone support, and 2 full days of training. Additional trainees join in at $2,000 each, and additional 1-day training sessions are offered at $1,000 each day per person.

Installation is straightforward, and the recommended minimum PC platform of a VGA-equipped Pentium 90 running current versions of Windows 95 or Windows NT Workstation, 16 MB of RAM and 70 MB of disk space is adequate for the spreadsheet and graphic combination in which information is input, manipulated and displayed.

TCO Manager first builds a cost-based model of the existing infrastructure, the "where I am today" phase, and then answers the "how do I compare" with others in my region, in my industry and of my size question. Finally it helps the user define a target where the return on the IT investment is maximized, and provides a report for a 3-year period that defines what changes must be made each year to reach the target. The effect of changes such as adding servers, changing desktop operating systems from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and increasing or decreasing IS staff levels in various areas are tabulated and fed back to the user immediately.

Users view analysis via a spreadsheet display broken into six categories: return on investment (ROI), TCO, complexity analysis, best practices, company summary and network summary. All six are interdependent; changing a value in one affects the others.

We tested the list of TCO Manager’s best practices to see where and how a user can achieve improvements to process, people and technology. For instance, what would be the ROI of moving from Windows 3.1 clients to NT Workstation? We changed personnel, practices, server operating systems, desktop clients and operating systems, and got feedback on the cost and benefits of each change almost instantly in both numerical and graphical formats. For example, we added the cost of an additional helpdesk employee to determine if the rise in labor costs is more than offset by a reduction in downtime or a boost in productivity. Naturally, the answer depends on the data in all five of the other categories.

The real work behind using TCO Manager, however, is not done at the PC keyboard. At the software’s heart are wizards, essentially comprehensive questionnaires that request factual data on every aspect of the IT infrastructure. Before using TCO Manager, you’ll need to complete an extensive data gathering process of company IT assets, including user salaries, servers, desktop machines, mobile clients, peripherals, operating systems and applications.

Once the necessary data is gathered, the second step is inputting it into the software’s measurement tool, a Microsoft Excel file. Completing the blanks in this measurement tool requires inputting the collected IT infrastructure data along with calculations on losses due to downtime. Together, these two steps can take several weeks in a large corporation.

The mild irony is that the real question facing IT departments considering TCO Manager 3.5 is the cost of the package. Instead of buying the software, Gartner will send people in to conduct the entire analysis for you, including recommendations on how to cut TCO, for $50,000. But if you need to analyze TCO every year, Gartner TCO Manager 3.5 may be a better investment.