Consumerisation of devices has contributed to a three-fold increase in the Wellcome Trusts's personal computing costs, its CIO has revealed.
The UK's largest biomedical research charity introduced 130 Apple iPads into the business 18 months ago. It also provides a corporate desktop, laptop and BlackBerry, with additional device-agnostic access to email.
"We have seen, in a Microsoft Enterprise environment, that compared to about five years ago, where the majority of employees solely used a £500 to £500 fixed desktop PC, many now own and use a laptop (about £800), iPad (about £600) and BlackBerry (about £350).
"When including the additional screen, keyboard, mouse, docking station, software and so on, this 'personal' cost of computing rises to more than £2,000," said Mark Bramwell, the Wellcome Trust's head of IT.
The Wellcome Trust's IT department supports and maintains the iPads. It provides a standard set of applications to the devices, including email, Skype and iAnnotate, as well as an enhanced secure password service.
Beyond this, staff are allowed to download and install their own applications as part of a 'trust' policy, with purchases registered to their own corporate or personal credit cards.
Despite the increase in costs, Bramwell said that they are outweighed by the benefits. He said that the iPads have helped to improve efficiency and ease decision-making processes at the organisation, for example.
A senior executive was the first person to bring an iPad into the Wellcome Trust, to support paperless, grant application committee meetings, which used to require documents with hundreds of pages to be printed.
"Yes, the cost of personal computing has significantly increased as a result of consumerisation.
"But yes, it has also actively supported increases in productivity. People are working longer and smarter as a result of it, because they are always connected and available. Motivation is also enhanced as a result of supporting employees' working preferences. In these difficult and challenging economic times, enhanced motivation equals improved performance," Bramwell explained.
Although laptops may not usually be counted under the 'consumerisation' umbrella, Bramwell believes that the wide variety of choice and pace of technological development in this area means that employees are increasingly going with their own personal choices about what they bring to work and use.
He holds a positive view of consumerisation, which is frequently cited as a business cost, rather than an enabler.
"[Consumerisation] is one we have to embrace and we must embrace because it's going to happen anyway," said Bramwell.
But he cautioned: "IT investments need to be bought into by the business and set by the business leaders."
The Wellcome Trust has more than 1,000 desktops, and is currently exploring the virtualisation of the devices, following a major server virtualisation programme with HP.
One in five information workers uses an Apple product for work, according to a recent Forrester survey of 10,000 respondents across 17 countries.