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The Hidden Cost of Outsourcing Desktop Support

By Alex Kozlov, Compass America

Many organizations seek to reduce the cost of PC ownership by outsourcing desktop operations. In doing so, they may unwittingly be passing the cost burden on to end users.  

A recent analysis by Compass (, a global management consulting firm specializing in business and IT performance improvement, shows that outsourcing the desktop tends to increase the cost of end-user ‘self support.’  Specifically, Compass data shows that if 10 percent of desktop support is outsourced, the total annual cost of end-user self support is $391 per employee.  When 40 percent of desktop support is outsourced, this cost more than triples, to $1225 per year. 

The study is based on several hundred cost and quality analyses of desktop environments conducted by Compass in 2004.

Compass defines end-user self support as time spent by employees fixing or trying to fix their own or their colleagues’ PCs.  While rarely measured, self-support is a longstanding hidden cost of PC ownership, and a significant drain on business productivity.

In addition to distracting employees from their primary job responsibilities, self support contributes to a wide range of performance problems.  For one thing, do-it-yourselfers often introduce inconsistencies between standard configurations, thereby reducing compatibility and increasing demand for central support activity.  Self support can also hide problems from the central support team, so instead of a single investigation and resolution, the same problem is repeated and resolved many times over. 

Controlling self-support activity is particularly difficult in outsourced environments because a third party – while well-equipped to support standard services such as e-mail and MS Office products – struggles to develop the internal knowledge base needed to effectively support business-specific applications.  To address this challenge,

Compass recommends the following to organizations planning to outsource desktop support:

· Provide the outsourcer with sufficient training and expertise to ensure a strong first-line support function.  Specifically, focus on training in business applications and provide an up-to-date and effective configuration management database.  Remember that first-line support serves as the primary point of contact with the customer base, determines how business users will judge their IT supplier, and potentially provides a critical source of business information.

· Establish a first-line incident resolution target rate of at least 70 percent, and provide the support and resources needed to achieve this. An outsourced single point of contact with a poor first-line resolution rate is simply adding cost without adding value.

· Avoid paying for the Service Desk on a per call basis. Such a pricing structure is counter-productive, as it discourages the use of the Service Desk and encourages additional self-support.

For more information, contact:
Alex Kozlov
Compass America
571-437-5322 (mobile)



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