by Thomas Wailgum

Remote Worker Costs To Go Through the Roof

Oct 18, 20063 mins

For those of you not in attendance at last week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., here’s an interesting tidbit regarding the management of your remote workforce. Gartner made this ominous prediction: “Through 2010, companies that do not implement new, more-stringent remote worker policies and network access controls, along with management tools, will see remote worker costs increase by five to 10 times and the number of security breaches increase exponentially.”

Got your attention? Gartner also threw out more statistics: “The known costs of centrally supporting remote access services will double by 2008, and the unknown costs without centralized management will triple.”

In a past posting, I wondered about the relevancy of these forward-looking predictions — to the tune of, “Does anybody really care about stuff like this?” It turns out the answer is “yes”; many people do care about stuff like this, which is why I wanted to talk about it.

First off, with Gartner’s predictions in mind, are you really concerned about managing the costs of your remote workers? And what, if anything, are you doing about it?

Gartner’s Eric Paulak, a managing vice president, sees the chief problem as a lack of a centralized remote-worker strategy. “The problem lies in the fact that different remote access technologies have been managed by different groups in the company, and new technologies are cropping up that no one is managing,” said Paulak, in a press release from the conference. “Many costs get buried in the company, and the hidden costs are growing rapidly while the centrally managed costs are declining. These costs could be controlled if they were part of a centrally managed remote access service.”

Of course what he’s getting at is what I’ve been hearing from more and more CIOs lately: a shift to more centrally managed IT. The critical caveat that most all CIOs will include with this strategy is “…where it makes business sense.” That’s good.

An interesting data point that came out of the Gartner gathering provided evidence of the dearth of centralized and standard IT policies, and the fine (and tricky) line that IT walks: While most companies maintain ownership and control over employees’ PCs, Gartner stated that arrangement “is being challenged by more employees who refuse the company standard-issue PC.” The biggest and most frequent offenders? C-level executives. That’s priceless. “Fifty percent of C-level executives will perform 80 percent of their work on a non-company standard PC through 2008,” Gartner reported.

For his part, however, Paulak was somewhat pessimistic in his comments about IT’s desire to fix the problem. “Many networking managers don’t want that to happen, however, because it takes a hidden cost that the business units have to pay and turns it into a known cost that the networking or IT department has to pay,” said Mr. Paulak. “Yet, if these costs were centrally managed, the company would be able to control its costs much better. IT/networking/remote access managers should push their companies toward more-aggregated services to control rising costs. This will require buy-in from the Chief Financial Officer because it may increase IT costs, but it should lower total corporate costs by up to 40 percent.”

It’s good advice, I think, if you can do it. (Good luck taking away your C-level colleagues non-company-issues toys — laptops, handhelds, cell phones, smart phones.) Will you heed it over the next four years? Does centralizing IT costs make sense to your organization?