Press Release

STAMFORD, Conn., June 16, 2008 View All Press Releases

Gartner Says Organizations Must Look Beyond Reducing Costs When Considering Employee-Owned Notebook Programs

Programs that permit the use of employee-owned notebook computers for work are gaining in popularity, but many organizations mistakenly pursue them in the hope of reducing costs, according to Gartner Inc. Analysts said that the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a well-managed virtual machine (VM) running on an employee-owned notebook is similar to that of a well-managed notebook provided by the employer, but the visible cost elements are greater due to the notebook allowance (an extra compensation element) that must be paid to the user.

Growing numbers of employees are asking to use personally owned notebooks for work. Some companies meet these requests through employee-owned notebook programs, which define policies for use, technical requirements, and processes for maintenance and support. Feedback from Gartner clients since 2006 has indicated that a significant number of enterprises already run employee-owned notebook programs, but only for a small subset of workers.

"Successful employee-owned notebook programs have the potential to improve user productivity, create a clearer boundary around IT responsibilities and pass some IT costs to the user," said Brian Gammage, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "Conversely, poorly conceived and executed employee-owned notebook programs can have the opposite effect."

A recent Gartner study compared the profiles of two typical workers: the "day extender," who is predominantly office-based and might take his or her notebook home once or twice a week, and the "travelling worker" who works outside the traditional office environment 80 percent of the time.

For both user profiles, the total annual cost of a locked and well-managed VM on an employee-owned notebook was found to be broadly similar to the annual TCO of a well-managed notebook (2 percent more expensive for a daytime extender, 1 percent less expensive in the case of a traveling worker). However, in three other scenarios, where management of the VM on an employee-owned notebook ranged from "moderate" to 'base," total annual cost savings varied between 9 percent and 44 percent.

However, Mr. Gammage maintained that the comparisons of direct and indirect costs reveal more-pertinent information. "Although total annual costs are typically equal to or better than for company-owned notebooks, the savings mainly occur in indirect costs," he said. "In all cases, the direct costs related to hardware, software and personnel are higher. This is driven by the additional compensation paid to the user in lieu of hardware acquisition and third-party maintenance and support."

Gartner said that this shift in the balance of costs should not be surprising. Although costs are moved to the user, they are not eliminated. Nevertheless, Gartner believes that for many organizations, this consideration may initially discourage the launch of an employee-owned notebook program because indirect costs are rarely made explicitly visible, and only direct costs are considered.  Discussions with Gartner clients highlight that cost and licensing constraints of the Microsoft Windows OS also remain an inhibiting factor for many organizations.

  • Although a purely cost-based argument looks unlikely anytime soon, Gartner believes that there are other strong motivations for organizations to consider employee-owned notebook programs based on a locked and well-managed VM approach:

    They provide a mechanism for "containing" the operational environment of existing rogue users. This category usually consists of executives and key knowledge workers, whose personal influence is sufficient to be able to flout corporate policy (with exceptions permitted on the basis of trust).
  • They help overcome user dissatisfaction arising from the (necessary) functional restrictions imposed by IT management and security initiatives. Although it would be difficult to quantify through a cost-benefit analysis, a happier user is generally considered to be more productive.
  • They improve the level of predictability of ongoing management and security responsibilities on user notebooks. Once the user has his or her own "space" on the notebook to install personally owned applications and data, the profile of the corporate VM is much more likely to remain consistent and highly standardized.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report "The TCO of Employee-Owned Notebooks Running a Corporate Virtual Machine." The report is available on Gartner's Web site at


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