Playing the numbers

Are you ready for this? According to Gartner, an average PDA costs about $US3000 per year once all costs have been factored in.

ManagementSpeak: This isn't a cost-effective solution.

Translation: This is going to be charged to my cost centre.

-

- IS Survivalist Bill McIntosh supplies us with a very effective translation.

Gartner has finally achieved perfection.

Not content to rest on its laurels, it has supplemented its thoroughly meaningless total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation for personal computers with a perfectly ludicrous companion calculation for personal digital assistants. Are you ready for this? According to Gartner, an average PDA costs about $US3000 per year once all costs have been factored in.

This is a wonderful number, once put in context. To do so, allow me a bit of nostalgia. Back in September 1997, I published my TCO calculation for an average day planner:

"Figure the day planner costs about $US150. The time-management course itself probably costs the company another $US150. And it requires a day of employee time, so at $US40 per hour for eight hours, that equals $US320. And every year you buy refills for about $US50 -- $US200 over five years.

"Add up the 15 minutes every morning you're supposed to spend planning your day and you get $US12,000 over five years. During the day you may spend 10 minutes putting things on your to-do list and scratching them off. Over five years, that comes to another $US8000. In the evening, you are supposed to spend another five minutes recapping the day -- over five years, the cost is another $US4000. Then there is the time you spend fiddling with refills. That adds another $US600. Add it all up, and the TCO for day planners is shocking: $US25,420 over five years."

Yes, that's right. According to Gartner Accounting, a run-of-the-mill Franklin Covey day planner costs more than $US5000 per year, which means our friends at Gartner have unwittingly demonstrated that your average PDA will save your company about $US2000 annually.

Let's do just a bit more maths. An average PDA costs about $US200 and lasts at least three years. Using standard rate of return calculations, we find PDAs deliver a tidy 2400% return on investment.

Life is just wonderful sometimes, isn't it?

None of this means anything, of course. With a modicum of ingenuity, I'm pretty sure I could push the TCO for a simple desk to at least $US6000 per year, without even including the ergonomic chair.

Last week I launched the Value Prevention Society (VPS), an organisation for IT professionals who focus on costs while ignoring benefits. In recognition of Gartner's unflagging support for value prevention through its ongoing promotion of TCO, I'm happy to announce that the VPS board of directors has awarded Gartner a charter membership.

Their first task: computing the TCO of a Gartner subscription.

Lewis is a contributing editor at InfoWorld. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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