Half of the remote access projects underway now will fail by 2000, creating a serious backlash against the trend to home working.
This is the forecast from analysts at the Gartner Group, which said that large companies worldwide have failed to appreciate that a move to remote working will increase IT budgets and will create new management and organisational problems.
However, research director John Girard - speaking at Gartner's conference on 'Building the workplace of the future' in Florida yesterday - believes remote working will inevitably grow, but needs to be implemented with greater care and preparation.
"Remote access is not a reversible trend," he said - although failed projects may slow it down or even temporarily halt it in some companies. "Organisations must anticipate growing remote access requirements and modify their business processes and IT budgets to compensate for new work paradigms."
Companies that work in this way will reap massive benefits, he claims, but believes many have leapt into remote working, believing it will cut overheads and reduce management workload.
In fact, the reverse is true. Installing equipment for remote access, meeting increased communications and travel bills and increasing availability of technical support are all factors in ballooning IT budgets. Remote workers cost more to support both in IT and management terms - they incur IT costs between 63 and 157 per cent greater than an office based colleague, Gartner estimates.
Despite this, there are rewards to be won - Girard identifies the main ones as being improved productivity, savings in non-IT overheads such as large buildings, benefit to the environment, and "having the right employees in the right place so they can capitalise on business opportunities as soon as they arise".
By 2003, Gartner believes companies will be implementing remote access projects more responsibly and 137 million employees worldwide will be working from home or offsite.
But there are many issues, apart from IT costs, to address if the experiments are to work, and employment law needs to change in most countries, Girard believes. "Organisations must adequately address issues of supervision and morale, legal liability, occupational safety, productivity metrics, security and cost," he pointed out.
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