TCO or "Total Cost of Ownership" is a notion that one can calculate (with some accuracy) the complete cost of owning something, including all the weird side effects of acquiring and owning that thing.
For example, I can by a new 3.2GHz notebook for $2,000 and it comes with Windows XP. But odds are that I'll spend 20 hours in the first year dealing with device drivers, spyware, and viruses. If I value my time at $50/hour, then the total cost of owning that notebook for the first year is actually $3,000.
Then I'd take that number and compare it to the Powerbook I was thinking of getting. It'll cost me $2,600 and have a "slower" CPU, but I'll only spend 2 hours screwing around with it in the first year figuring out why my scanner doesn't work when I plug it in. That puts the total cost of the Powerbook at $2,700 in the first year.
Anyway, you get the idea. It's why we think about maintenance costs and gas mileage when looking at car's sticker price. We want to know which car is cheaper in the long run.
(Those numbers are completely made up. If they were real, the "cost" of spyware and viruses would probably be higher.)
IT organizations often use TCO numbers as way to justify inflicting poor technology choices upon those they exist to serve (or abuse, as the case may be).
"But this saves the company money."
Often times, organizations try to take TCO driven decision making to the extreme and mandate a single standard for this or that. My previous employer was, unsurprisingly, good at that too. In fact, at my old job we often referred to "The Cost of Being Different" (TCBD?). It was used to win arguments and sometimes short-circuit groups who began to stray from the heard and look at software that was not on the "approved" list, regardless of their reasons for doing so.
In theory, this all works well form a high-level organizational point of view. But if you ever venture down the ranks and ask to folks who must live with the results of TCO and/or "standardize at all costs" decision making, the tone of the discussion changes quite a bit.
We need a way to quantify the negative effect that these decisions often have on the day to day folks (who'd rather be left alone to get their jobs done). The pain they endure. The countless hours spent fighting with a technological choice that was clearly not optimal. The effort required to work around product glitches or to bring in a replacement "under the radar" and keep it there.
I think this should be the TPU or Total Pain of Using.
I have no idea how to setup the scale and ultimately convert it into a dollar figure (because that's all the CTO and board of directors seem to give a shit about), but it'd be worthwhile to compare the relative TPU of "similar" products, I think.
Hmm. I guess TPU could also mean "total pain units." That'd be just as accurate in many cases.
Posted by jzawodn at August 16, 2004 01:52 PM