Companies are buying their employees the best laptops available, not because they’re executive toys but because they can raise productivity and retention, boost efficiency, and even save on per-user IT costs.
By Wayne Rash
If you’re still buying your users the cheapest notebooks you can find, then you’ve fallen behind the times. In the last few years, there’s been a major shift in the way companies buy computers, especially laptops, for their employees. Where it was once common practice to find something rugged and fairly cheap, today the focus is on laptops that are fast, light, thin, and have maximum processing power and manageability. Gone are the days when companies bought something that resembled a brick for most employees, with only a few employees getting high-end devices.
“Everyone wants the highest performance they can afford,” said IT consultant Jack Gold, Principal Analyst at J. Gold Associates. “No one buys 300 dollar laptops.” Gold said this practice now extends to IT staffers who were once saddled with hand-me-downs that were taken out of service in other departments.
“There are two problems,” Gold said. “If they’re not running the same thing as the business users, how do they relate to that?” According to Gold, it’s a fallacy that office workers and people in IT and elsewhere at lower ranks in the company don’t need a lot of power on their laptops. He said there are lots of data analytics, remote diagnostics, data visualizations, and the like running at all levels and in many job functions these days.
“Who wants to wait three hours for a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to run?” Gold continued. More importantly, he asks who wants to pay for that much lost productivity? He said those myths just don’t hold water anymore. Gold also noted that you can measure the lost productivity in dollars fairly easily. “If I reduce your productivity by 5 percent over three years, then I’ve just lost $5,000 per year for three years,” he explained.
His assumption is that the average worker is making about $100,000 per year, on average. He said the difference in cost between a mid-level and a high-level computer is probably about $500, which is a very small percentage of what the company would lose in productivity over buying better, faster computers. “A lot of companies don’t look at that,” Gold said. “Companies need to look at it from a broader perspective.”
Improved Productivity Bolsters Morale, Retention
Another factor that some IT experts have mentioned is that getting employees higher-performing computers is not only a great way to improve productivity, but it’s also a factor in boosting morale. Improved morale, in turn, helps retain critical employees-especially in technical fields where the improved technology is especially valued.
Gold noted that, while these high-end laptops are fast because of their processors and supporting systems, there’s more to it than speed. The fact that all laptops are managed in the same way and are supported in the same way makes a big difference to a company. He also noted that, when the IT team has the same laptops as everyone else, their helpdesk support issues are eased because they’re already familiar with the same hardware.
Gold said this is especially true when the devices being managed are designed specifically for business environments. This means they should support management, performance, and security features at the hardware level, such as using the Intel VPro management interface. “VPro really is…targeted at a line of business users,” he said. “It makes it easier to onboard, manage, secure, and profile user devices.”
This week, Intel announced the latest update to its vPro-enabled 8th-gen CPUs. While the Whiskey Lake architecture hasn’t changed since I wrote about it last, the capabilities of vPro have. Intel is now offering new capabilities around remote management, hardware-level security, business-grade Wi-Fi, and especially performance, including not only app processing but also battery life.
“The new VPro stuff is really about ‘how do I make the whole environment secure?’” he added. Unfortunately, VPro isn’t currently available on Intel’s 9th-generation processors. However, it’s not clear that the newer generation is fast enough to affect the cost-saving calculations.
High-End Laptop Purchases Increasing
Computer makers are noticing the trend towards enterprise-wide purchases of high-end computers. According to Jeffrey Witt, Director of Global PR at Lenovo, enterprises are the major buyers of their highest-end laptops, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme. He said there’s also a great deal of interest from small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and employees in creative design categories. Lenovo is one of the most experienced manufacturers of business-oriented computers, especially notebooks, and it will also be one of the first companies out with an Intel vPro-enabled offering.
Stephanie Hallford, Vice President and General Manager, Business Client Platforms at Intel Corporation, said the Generation 8 vPro systems are about a lot more than just speed. She said their ability to handle tough multi-tasking jobs without slowing down significantly improves productivity. According to Hallford, the performance of such designs also features longer battery life due to efficient design and stability so that IT managers don’t have to worry about changes to the silicon-breaking applications.
Hallford also said that some of the features of the supporting chipsets helped improve performance in ways beyond what you’d find with having just a faster processor. These include having Optane memory and the storage on the same chip, which reduces latency within the system. This makes things such as documents load faster, with the net result being a faster user experience (UX), which improves productivity.
Reducing Bottom Line Costs
Overall, the improved user productivity from faster, more stable machines, coupled with the productivity gains from having a common platform for faster, easier support make computer buys where everyone has the same, high-performance platform reduce the overall lifetime costs of computers for your workforce. While the exact savings depend on the details of each business, the marginal cost of going to a high-performance platform is minimal compared to the costs of productivity losses when that’s not done.
Incidentally, the savings from buying high-performance laptops can mean a great deal to your organization’s bottom line, but that doesn’t mean that every computer should be a laptop. There are important reasons why the sheer horsepower of a workstation-grade computer may be required, especially in industries where image rendering or data analysis needs to go beyond what’s available in a laptop. But even there, buying a common, high-performance system can result in increased productivity and lower costs.
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