Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why Total Cost of Ownership Matters

How are you going to react if I tell you that you'll end up spending 75 thousand bucks over 4 years on that li'l PC you bought a couple of days back for 30k? According to Gartner, nearly 80% of total costs occur AFTER the purchase of the unit! The decision to buy a computer may result in the following TCO analysis: the greater initial price of a high-end computer is to be balanced by adding likely repair costs and earlier replacement to the purchase cost of the cheaper bargain brand, among other factors. The initial price becomes just the beginning of the life cycle of costs. For more than 15 years, Gartner has counseled its business community clients to consider all costs associated with computing when making management decisions about computer acquisitions,upgrades, support and administration. As enterprises have begun to address the significant and rising costs devoted to computing infrastructure, the message has gained wide acceptance among technology users.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a financial estimate designed to help consumers and enterprise managers assess direct and indirect costs related to the purchase of any capital investment, such as computer software or hardware.

A TCO assessment ideally offers a final statement reflecting not only the cost of purchase but all aspects in the further use and maintenance of the equipment, device, or system considered. This includes the costs of training support personnel and the users of the system, costs associated with failure or outage (planned and unplanned), diminished performance incidents (i.e. if users are kept waiting), costs of security breaches (in loss of reputation and recovery costs), costs of disaster preparedness and recovery, floor space, electricity, development expenses, testing infrastructure and expenses, quality assurance, incremental growth, decommissioning, and more. TCO is a good metric for comparing the different operating system and server infrastructure choices which organizations face. A good TCO analysis should fit the business plan and identify the best solution to match the business goals.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Just what is a versatilist?

Those Swiss army knives are the versatilists.

Almost a year back, when I was all set to embark upon my maiden voyage to the Netherlands for an internship, the term "versatilist" first became known to me. I was reading my supervisor's blog and came across an enthralling article on versatilists. Tarry, my internship supervisor (presently, the top boss of Avastu, a friend & mentor) who himself is a true versatilist, says that Aristotle, Plato and the likes were true versatilists. But those were the good old days. They had all the time in the world. He adds -

"And then we have you. A regular IT Joe/Jane. A true specialist and even proudly touting as a generalist. But is it enough for you to stay afloat? Enough for you to keep your job? Enough for you to advice your kids to take up a Sysadmin job as a profession?Answer = NO!

How are you going to cope with the ever changing scenario and at the same time stay competitive. Its hard to stay motivated with the rapid globalisation, massive outsourcing, new technologies sweeping you off your feet and constantly feeling like a lost zombie when suddenly being exposed to some 17 year old who has done a lot of work like yours just for fun!!!"

Wikipedia would describe a versatilist as someone who can be a specialist for a particular discipline, while at the same time be able to change to another role with the same ease. The term "versatilist" was first coined in an article from Gartner, where it states: "Versatilists are able to apply a depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations and experiences, equally at ease with technical issues as with business strategy."

It is to the advantage of an organization to employ versatilist because an enterprise will be able to easily redeploy this type of employee based on changes in business requirements or strategy. To illustrate this using a math term, the versatilist has a higher area under the curve rating. Think of a person having some level of knowledge/experience in 15 knowledge areas. That person may have a very high competency (score 5) in 3 areas, a medium level of competency (score 3) in 5 areas an introductory level of competency (score 1) in 4 areas and no competency (score 0) in 3 areas. This creates an area under the curve of 34. This is different from a specialist who may score very high in 1 area and have no competency in others. This breadth of knowledge and experience is what enables faster changes to other roles.

The future IT worker will not be a technology guru but rather a versatilist. He will have technical aptitude, local knowledge, knowledge of industry processes and leadership ability. A wise investment for large firms would be to hire this guy to fuel business value.
So what are you guys waiting for? It's time for you to practice the principles of versatilism!