How to quantify OS X productivity gains?
August 20, 2008 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Is there a good way to quantify productivity gains on Apple computers?

I'm in the enviable position of being able to get an Apple computer for work if I can make a business case that it is a more productive system than the alternatives.

I'm a Mac user at home, and I _know_ intuitively that I'm way faster using those systems for most tasks, but I'm having some trouble coming up with ways to quantify that. What makes OS X more productive to use? Applications? The interface? How?

Any Apple users out there have any ideas?

(this is a scientific computing/software development role, for what that's worth, but I doubt I'd be relying on stuff like XGrid, so unfortunately using that as an reason is out)
posted by oostevo to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The system by itself is neither more nor less productive; you are productive. Personally I get infuriated if I try to use a Mac, but for you it works well.

There should be no reason why your business case can't be based around your own improved efficiency when using a Mac.

Having said that, Macs aren't all that common in the scientific computing sector, so you might well experience some resistance.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:09 AM on August 20, 2008

"Is there a good way to quantify productivity gains on Apple computers?"

One good metric to start with is continuous uptime. An OSX workstation needs few-to-no reboots, has very few "log out and log back in and try it again" problems, and fewer failures due to driver quality issues. If Windows users spend, say, an arbitrary ten minutes a week dealing with this stuff (and honestly, I think that's lowballing it) that's a maximum cost of 10m * N users * (Hourly Rate / 6) dollars per week.

IT support costs tend to be lower as well as it's pretty customary for Macintosh users to be primarily self-supporting, freeing up valuable desktop support monkeys to deal with other problems. That's a productivity gain right there!

"I _know_ intuitively that I'm way faster using those systems for most tasks"

"Way faster" is something you can quantify with a clock. Use one and then you have some data instead of an intuition.
posted by majick at 9:11 AM on August 20, 2008

Macs aren't all that common in the scientific computing sector

I disagree with this. In computational biology at least, Mac laptops at least are extremely common. Desktops are less common.
posted by grouse at 9:16 AM on August 20, 2008

Easy backups/restores.
posted by Good Brain at 9:17 AM on August 20, 2008

It's the job of your IT department to weigh whatever gains you get from working on a mac against any additional support burdens it presents. Despite what some posters here think, macs are definitely NOT self-supporting, and there are still some bumps in the road when integrating a mac into a predominantly windows environment. Make your case that it will 1)increase your personal productivity and 2) that you can do every bit of your job on that machine without additional support resources, and the IT department is much more likely to go along with it.

Also, for the record, Time Machine is absolutely not a replacement for enterprise backup.
posted by Oktober at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2008

it's pretty customary for Macintosh users to be primarily self-supporting

This was true in the OS9 and earlier days, but my team supports over 3,000 Mac users, most of whom do not know how to do much outside of their creative tasks. Most don't have administrative rights to their machines, and would be hard pressed to support themselves if they did.

I tend to agree with le morte de bea arthur that you need to address this from a personal productivity standpoint, as one OS is not inherently more productive than the other. I say this as someone who uses both, choosing between them based on the task at hand.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, Macs have got UNIX under the hood, which simplifies working with scientific code that was written to run on Linux. No screwing with CygWin. No worrying about different path separators if someone else made platform specific assumptions.
posted by Good Brain at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2008

Also, for the record, Time Machine is absolutely not a replacement for enterprise backup.

True, and yet, "enterprise backup" is really no replacement for being able to take charge of your own downtime, get the computer swapped, and have your entire computing environment up and running again without having to wait for helpdesk queues and having to recreate your entire computer environment because the supported system images don't include the tools you depend on.
posted by Good Brain at 9:31 AM on August 20, 2008

Document cases where notable software companies choose OSX over Windows?
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:32 AM on August 20, 2008

No screwing with CygWin.

Word. It comes with Ruby, Python, Perl and Apache installed. If your bash chops strong, Terminal will be a great friend. If you are a web developer, a MacBook Pro is just a great machine to use.

I get infuriated if I try to use a Mac

I had the very same experience switching from Linux to 10.1. That goes away.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:38 AM on August 20, 2008

This is not an argument you can, IMO, win with logic. Your IT department is basically telling you they don't want to give you a Mac, most likely because they don't want to support it. They know there is no concise set of data on this thing (for any platform, for that matter). Every piece of evidence you present will be countered with some incompatibility/expense/hassle.

I've been in this scenario, and I've watched it happen from the sidelines. It's a completely political argument, not a practical one. One of 2 things is going to happen, depending on your work culture:

- IT calls the shots. You're not getting that Mac.

- Developers call the shots. Whomever runs your group tells IT to fuck off and buy you a Mac because it's what you want and he wants his developers to be comfortable.
posted by mkultra at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2008

It should be a fairly straightforward argument that YOU will be more productive because this is the computer system YOU already know. No?
posted by scarabic at 9:51 AM on August 20, 2008

Your IT department is basically telling you they don't want to give you a Mac, most likely because they don't want to support it

This was also my interpretation. I don't know how it's used where you work, but over here "show us a business case" is code for "prove that this will save the company money or take a hike". My guess is that you are not going to be able to say that this will save X number of dollars in a way that will convince anybody.

The only way I've seen to get around the business case requirement is to escalate the issue high enough up the corporate food chain that some bigwig tells them to forget the business case and just do it.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:07 AM on August 20, 2008

Just because you work faster on a Mac than elsewhere doesn't mean that it's better for your employer if you use a Mac. Perhaps IT doesn't have the necessary background to do a good job keeping your system in line with everybody else's.

I'm wary of majick's comments. The "OSX has superior uptime" argument is one generally made by people who haven't used Windows in a long time. My Vista machine stays up as long as I want it to. And this argument also completely ignores Linux, which of course has excellent uptime as well. Bottom line: all the major operating systems are mature enough at this point that uptime is not a significant concern, unless you're doing something wildly non-standard with your machine.

Similarly, "Mac users are self-supporting" is meaningless in the context of an office. It's not just that your individual computer needs to stay on and functional, it's that your individual computer needs to play nice with whatever network infrastructure/other office-wide technical issues are at play. If IT doesn't have the expertise, then you having a Mac is going to cost them time as they play catch up. If the office is using some Windows-only software, having to come up with a workaround for you is going to cost time and money.

While you don't mention anything about these issues, my guess is that since they want you to make a case as to why you should be able to use a Mac, there are issues that would crop up because you've decided to think different. After all, if there was no problem with letting you be off in your own little world, they'd just tell you to get whatever you like and be on your merry.
posted by sinfony at 10:20 AM on August 20, 2008

Likely arguments against you having a Mac from the IT department:

* Incompatibility with enterprise inventory system

* Incompatibility with enterprise anti-virus software

* Incompatibility with license management and audit tools

* Incompatibility with software deployment tools

* Incompatibility with enterprise backup system

* Integration issues with enterprise authentication/authorisation system e.g. Active Directory

* Inability for helpdesk staff to provide support

Those are the arguments I would use if someone where I work wanted a Mac on their desk. None of those problems are showstoppers for someone who knows Macs well, but if there's little or no Mac expertise on the IT staff, are we really going to hire someone just to support you? Probably not.

You may say; I'll never call the helpdesk, I'll manage my own antivirus, I'll do my own backups, I'll integrate the machine with AD myself (just tell me the domain admin password...) I'll keep my own JVM up to date, etc etc. And maybe you really can and really would.

But in the kind of environment where I work, the IT department is audited each year, and we need to be able to say we know exactly how many MS Office licenses are in use, and be able to confirm that certain security patches were definitely installed. It wouldn't be acceptable to say "oh, the guy with the mac, yeah, he says he doesn't have any pirate software on there."

Furthermore we are responsible - to the board - for data availability in the organisation. If you screw up the backups, and delete the wrong file - which belongs to the organisation, not to you - then we get the blame, not you.

Finally, we're responsible for security, and in particular, for being able to immediately revoke a user's rights to do anything at all if necessary. What happens when you die, quit or get fired? Who else can access the machine? Who even knows how to?

Not every environment is like that, of course, and obviously a research environment is likely to be more relaxed. But still; those are the sorts of issues you're probably up against.
posted by standbythree at 10:23 AM on August 20, 2008

Response by poster: Oktober, mkultra, and burnmp3s pretty much surmised the back-story.

There are quite a few (home) Mac users who would sure like to be able to use them at work. IT and management seem to be open to the idea, as long as a decent case can be made for buying and supporting them. I have for some reason been asked to create this case.

I know Apple pours an awful lot of money into Human Computer Interaction studies (moreso than Microsoft and certainly moreso than Linux) to make sure people can work well with their systems. I'm sure I've heard a figure for this somewhere, but I can't find it ... anyone else recall it?

Thanks for the ideas so far, folks.
posted by oostevo at 10:24 AM on August 20, 2008

Best answer: There are quite a few (home) Mac users who would sure like to be able to use them at work. IT and management seem to be open to the idea, as long as a decent case can be made for buying and supporting them.

Ah, that's quite a bit different from "one guy wants a Mac". If there's an overall willingness to at least see what that road looks like, you've got a shot. Here's what I'd do:

Sit down with someone from IT and make a checklist of all the server software you'll need to interface with. Make sure there's a way for your Mac to connect to it; this is the hard part, because almost everything will be a deal-breaker. Figure out what the licensing costs of your Mac will be- even if you have group licenses for software, a lot of times the Windows licenses won't translate to the Mac software.

If you've cleared that hurdle, suggest that you be a 6-month guinea pig. Get IT to appoint someone to be your "partner" on their end, who you check in with regularly (and he, in turn, reports up to his boss, all while you're stealthily teaching him Mac stuff). If you come across a show-stopper during those six months, your Mac can run Windows just fine, and you've maybe spent a couple grand to figure out it, no big deal.

If you can live for six months, you're pretty much golden, and you've got (a) a direct ally in IT, and (b) documentation on how to repeat the process.
posted by mkultra at 12:08 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Really, "more productive" is going to depend on what you're familiar with and how you work. Personally, I'm way more productive on Windows or Ubuntu than I am on OSX (variety of reasons, not really important here). I don't think this is a one-size-fits-all kinda thing.

As other people have said, it's about support really. My company is pretty much all Windows XP (on Windows machines, people also run Ubuntu and OSX), but I've been using Vista at my previous company (starts with an M) and home for years [starting in beta] (without problems, thank you, though I acknowledge that experience isn't universal). I convinced them to let me upgrade because (a) I demonstrated that I knew what I was doing, and (b) agreed to not bug them for support. So far this has worked out great and they've been able to learn from my experiences.

If you really understand OSX and think you can handle all your own administration, then you may have a case (of course there's a few things you probably dont have permission for, like loading certs or something, but that should be minor). If not, IT is right that if they have a shop now that is uniform, they will increase their own costs and headaches by allowing deviations they have to manage. They certainly could allow it, but I don't think it's necessarily to be expected.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:24 PM on August 20, 2008

Show your IT people Expose and Quicksilver, that combination as saved me time and countless mouse clicks.
posted by limited slip at 2:29 PM on August 20, 2008

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