The CoSN-Gartner tool was released in 2003 to help school technology leaders understand the costs associated with the computing environment. This free web-based tool has been used by over 2,000 districts, independent schools, and state and regional agencies.
Tips and Recommendations for Using the TCO Tool
1. Get Executive Support
A TCO assessment includes time to gather input and analyze the results. It requires cooperation from other departments, including HR or payroll and the business office. Executive support is important to raise the level of awareness and to garner support from other departments.
2. Request Access
You will need to “request access” to the tool before getting started. Allow one to two days for verification that you represent a school or district or related regional or state agency, and that the request isn't a duplicate. Start with Step 1: Preparation which contains full documentation, definitions, and tables that help with the data collection effort.
3. Use a Baseline
To understand current baseline costs, conduct an enterprise-wide study of your current year costs. This can then be used for comparison scenarios or subset studies.
4. Survey Users for Indirect Labor
The best way to determine the indirect labor components (time spent by users in training or dealing with computer related issues) is to survey a statistically significant subset of users. Since it will take a couple of weeks to get the results back, it helps to get the survey out early. Surveying students is optional, but teachers, aides and administrative staff should be surveyed. The TCO tool is looking for the total number of indirect labor hours, not an average. Use the survey form and results spreadsheet in “Data Collection Aids” on the first page after login to collect and input indirect labor.
5. Make Educated Estimates
TCO is not an exact science. A good educated estimate for any input field with some limited research is adequate; over time your processes and accuracy will improve. For instance, to obtain the amortized cost for client computers purchased over the last four or five years, you don't need to pull all of those invoices. If you know how many client computers you have bought over that timeframe and about what they cost on average, you have a good estimate.
6. Include All Direct Labor
Direct labor includes all personnel who have at least a part-time responsibility for supporting the computing environment, measured in FTE . This may include teachers, school personnel who are not part of the district computer services organization, outsourced services, and no-cost students and volunteers. Understanding this direct labor allocation will allow you to evaluate the most efficient approach to support. Note that technology education teachers should not be included unless part of their time (pay) is designated to technology support.
7. Include As Much Data as Possible
Depreciate major software purchases (initial licenses) and include annual licensing fees. Contracted labor services, such as hardware maintenance contracts, can be included under Direct Labor/Outsourced. ISP and other external services go under Technology/Other/ External Application Providers.
For more information:
Download a factsheet about the Total Cost of Ownership tool.