Desktop Management Saves IT Dollars

The Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.) estimates that an organization with 2,400 PCs spends an average of $20 to $30 million annually in direct and hidden costs for end-user computing. Companies could save an average of 10 percent of their total IT budget if they implement a desktop asset management plan that measures cost savings, according to the Desktop Management Index recently issued by Comdisco Inc. (Chicago).

However, after speaking with 200 businesses throughout the United States, Comdisco found that only 18 of those surveyed currently meet the highest standards of effective desktop asset management. Chip Rodgers, VP of Desktop Management Services at Comdisco, says many companies haven’t optimized their systems for a variety of reasons, such as competing priorities for implementing a plan, no sponsorship from senior executives, or lack of a centralized database.

Comdisco defines a desktop management plan as "processes and procedures that will leverage systems, tools and partners to manage the life cycle of technology costs and obsolescence."

"If a desktop management plan is not in place, or properly implemented, companies could find it very difficult to manage their assets without a set of standards," Rodgers says. "The right technology will not be deployed, making it difficult for technicians to troubleshoot and solve equipment problems. This will result in higher costs, lower productivity and unsatisfied customers."

Of the 200 businesses surveyed, 108 reported they currently have a desktop management plan in place. Desktop tools, such as a database to help track assets from procurement through disposal, were used by 132 of the respondents. Assets included in their plans are desktop PCs, LANs, servers, notebooks and software.

The Desktop Management Index analyzed the following standards and practices that measure an organization’s ability to reduce costs, improve productivity and optimize use of distributed assets throughout the company:

  • Written communication plans within the IT organization for end users to reference.
  • On-going involvement and interest of senior management in desktop management throughout the enterprise.
  • Use of outsourcing as needed across the lifecycle of desktop assets.
  • Documented or written companywide standards or user profiles for distributed assets.
  • Use of leasing to acquire and manage the lifecycle of distributed assets.
  • Central database specifically designed to track and manage distributed assets.
  • Inclusion of desktop management in company’s business goals or plans.
  • Centralized procurement of hardware and software.
  • Use of tools to reduce number of physical visits to end users, such as help desk support or systems management.
  • Strategies for proper disposal or retirement of distributed assets at the end of their useful lives.
  • Process for benchmarking lifecycle costs (including procurement, hardware and software, maintenance, support and disposal).
  • Process for benchmarking service levels.
  • Accounting procedures for charging back hardware/software support to "client" organizations.

Three in four companies in the survey decided to implement a plan in response to the impending Y2K issue. Other contributing factors are sales force automation, decision support, migration management, maintenance of hardware and software standards, collaborative computing, and enterprise resource management.

Comdisco found that the while a vast majority of a company’s information technology resources and investments are focused in developing and implementing critical business applications, many of them have neglected their underlying infrastructures. Rodgers noted this was especially critical when implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP).

"ERP is a very specialized business application," Rodgers says. "If you don’t have good information about your current setup, you can’t very easily determine if your system can even support ERP applications. The major impact is that you may not have the right infrastructure, and you will be forced to devote a growing amount of time and money to improve your underlying system first."

Jim Shepherd, VP of research at AMR Research (Boston), an analysis firm specializing in enterprise applications and related trends and technologies, is a bit more pragmatic about the need for a desktop asset management plan before attempting an ERP implementation. "While a functioning desktop and proper management of assets are always beneficial, it’s just not a requirement. There is no correlation between spending money on desktop management functions and establishing an effective ERP application."

For businesses that decide to implement a desktop asset management plan, the most important factor is to first make it a company priority, with approval of senior executives. In addition, an implementation team and a program -- created either internally or purchased from a manufacturer -- should evaluate and define the components to be included. The plan should also be executed adhering closely to the established guidelines.

If implemented and maintained properly, the gamble may pay off for businesses; the Gartner Group estimates that organizations with 1,000 or more desktops will save a minimum of $100,000 in just the first year by implementing an effective enterprisewide desktop management system.