Estimating Value in End-User Computing
The last few years have seen a major shift in the way organizations plan, select and deploy technology capabilities to their workers. The range of choice has expanded at every level; in devices, applications, ways of working, potential suppliers and ownership. Expectations have rocketed too as users have become more knowledgeable and better equipped. The rapid uptake of mobile devices and applications has accelerated everything, turning ‘day zero support’ from a dream into a requirement. All of this means that business decisions around how, when and which EUC technologies to invest in have become far more complex than with any previous generation of technology.
An Industry Problem
In the face of these complexities, most organizations are finding it much harder to build business cases for their EUC projects. We at VMware are acutely aware of this: our own business case practice (we’ve built around 700 detailed business cases for larger customer projects so far) has seen a rapid surge in requests for assistance and in many cases the requests are much more ‘open ended’ than before. We also know that it’s not only us; our partners, other EUC providers and analysts have all highlighted the growth in demand for such support. To better understand this growing need and the best ways to respond, we spent the first months of 2015 doing some additional research and our conclusion was stark: most customers are struggling to identify and estimate measures of value, but almost everyone knows how to measure cost.
As an industry, we face a challenge in helping customers see value in ways that matter to them. A large part of the issue is the nature of the previous technology generation (the things, not the people); EUC assets, processes and procurement approaches were industrialized, making standardization the norm. PCs and their software became very commoditized, eroding the marginal benefits of upgrade and renewal. Best practices were increasingly built around homogenization and most organizations re-invested when the old was worn out, not to acquire the ‘new’. EUC became a cost of doing business and our business case approaches were built around the concept of a return on investment driven by savings.
The new technology era, whether you call it ‘Mobile Cloud’ (as we do) or something else, needs a different approach when determining value. Savings and cost still matter, of course, but so much of what’s available now is evolving or new and so these must be offset against value. We need to invest (and re-invest) to gain business benefit, whatever that looks like to us – otherwise we will struggle to embrace the new generation of technologies that can drive workforce productivity, change how we operate or open new markets. If all we can focus on is cost, then everything will seem like an unnecessary expense.
Value Lies In The Eye Of The Beholder
The difficulty with value is that it is very context specific, whereas cost is objective and almost universal.
Consider the example of a company investing in what the analysts now call a ‘Workspace Aggregator’ – it could be VMware Workspace Suite or something similar. Workspace Aggregators typically make two things very easy: adding new users at near zero cost and maintaining an activity trail for access to services. If the company engages in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), these capabilities should drive a significant reduction in the time taken to close out M&A deals. How much time would depend on the nature of the technology in use today and other factors, but it could be assessed. However, the value of that time depends on the company’s cost base and area of business; on it’s top line characteristics. Conversely, if the company doesn’t get engaged in M&A activity very often, the value they seek from these capabilities would likely be expressed very differently.
Earlier this year we spoke to a customer who had already made their decision about EUC architecture and (great news for us) had decided on our Horizon approach. However, they were unsure as to whether they should build this ‘in house’ with Horizon 6 or access as a service through Horizon Air. Their question to us was ‘how do we think about this?’ In response, we asked about the predictability of their requirements and their balance sheet strategy; there was no simple, industrialized answer – the best approach was specific to them.
What Is Value To You?
End-user computing has moved rapidly from being a ‘one-size fits all’ technology domain to one in which it’s now ‘any size that you like’. Architects and business executives can now deliver many more capabilities, so should be excited by the new value on offer – but they must also be ready to express that value in business terms so they can communicate it with other stakeholders. It might be business continuity, or better security, auditability or happier users. What is the source of value that matters to your organization? Unless you can articulate it to others, it will be harder to win funding for projects and your dependence on ‘cost-only’ business cases will encourage you to renew the old assets you have.
So here’s a suggestion: when you determine what it is you want to achieve with end-user computing, note it down and then try to explain it in business terms. That will give you a great starting point when it comes to deciding whether the cost is worth paying for the value you plan to receive. Of course, you can always ask us too – we probably see many more EUC business cases than any one of our customers.