Aiming for elegance, one thought at a time

Multiple monitors

Posted: August 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: IT | No Comments »

Anyone who has used dual monitors (or a very large monitor) will know that the extra screen real estate makes work more productive and less difficult. However, it can be difficult to convince your boss – who works exclusively on their laptop’s 11 inch screen – that it’s worth the cost.

So I put together a business case.

First step: is there a benefit? From my own experience, yes there is. Any time I’m doing any sort of serious work at home, be it research, coding, or writing a blog post, I set my laptop up at my desk with a second monitor. It’s a much faster, more pleasant way of working with multiple windows. I might have reference material open in one window, and my be writing a post in another, for example. A quick google reinforces that there isĀ ample anecdotal evidence that multiple monitors are a smarter way to work. I needed something more than that, though. I needed an empirical study.

EnterĀ Productivity and multi-screen displays. According to this NEC-Mitsubishi study, “Respondents got on task quicker, did the work faster, and got more of the work done with fewer errors in multi-screen configurations than with a single screen. They were 6 percent quicker to task, 7 percent faster on task, generated 10 percent more production, were 16 percent faster in production, had 33 percent fewer errors, and were 18 percent faster in errorless production. Multi-screens were seen as 29 percent more effective for tasks, 24 percent more comfortable to use in tasks, 17 percent easier to learn, 32 per cent faster to productive work, 19 percent easier for recovery from mistakes, 45 percent easier for task tracking, 28 percent easier in task focus, and 38 percent easier to move around sources of information.” Admittedly, one study is not sufficient cause for certainty, but one study combined with strong anecdotal evidence and a logical theory to explain the results is very compelling.

For my business case, I’m most interested in the 10% gain in productivity. Where I work, it’s reasonable to assume that at least half of these productivity gains will come in the form of chargeable work. This is because I’m currently less than 100% chargeable (a large percentage of my work is ‘business as usual’), and we’ve got a large amount of chargeable work on the horizon that we just don’t have the resources to take on. This makes it really easy to demonstrate that getting multiple monitors will generate more benefits than it costs. For others, who might already be at 100% chargeability- or who don’t do any chargeable work- this argument won’t apply. In those cases, it will be more difficult- but not impossible- to demonstrate that multiple monitors generates value.

So, finally, to the figures (download the Excel spreadsheet). Assuming a 10% productivity gain, I’ll have time to do an extra 24 days work per year. If half of that is chargeable, that’s an additional 12 days work. At my chargeout rate, that equates to $AUD6,600 per year in additional revenue. The cost of dual monitors is $AUD250 for a dual-monitor video card, and $240 per year to lease the monitor. Over three years, the total benefit per employee with dual-monitors works out to be $AUD18,830.

That’s pretty clear cut.

Update: (13 Sep 2009) The business case was accepted and I now have two monitors on my desk.

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