When is your hardware ‘good enough’? Creating a hardware replacement plan to support productivity.

The consumer space gets tons of research because it tends to be a global and large business space. This article from Tech.Pinions (3/22/13) explores what happens when everyone already has a smartphone. It outlines the changes in ways new products are introduced in mature consumer markets – when you are no longer selling to people who don’t have that product but instead to people who are upgrading their previous version of that product.

For example, we are well into the stage where every business has a desktop or laptop for each employee. Today, companies are trying to find the balance between whether they should go all laptop or save money by continuing to buy desktops, not to mention where tablets and smart phones fit within company spending and support costs.

Businesses need to start thinking about their hardware spending the way Apple and Samsung will target their potential customers: focus on the features that really matter and on the people they matter for.

Can half your company run on desktops or is mobility so important that everyone should have laptops? Are you ready to commit to supporting tablets and smartphones?  

You may think that these devices never break but the reality is that Apple, Samsung and other companies are doing a good job of keeping their replacement cycle to around one year. This means over a 3-year cycle you are spending more on these devices compared to a traditional desktop. Is your budget ready for this increase? Make sure as a business you are ready to commit in budget, not only in preference, for tablets and smartphones, and plan accordingly for the maintenance costs and replacement cycles.

There is also the cost and efficiency of the solutions you have in place today. Is that accounting package ready for tablet use? If not, when do you plan on upgrading it so that it is? There is a strong interdependency between the hardware you use and the systems your company relies on. Make sure they are in sync and if mobile is your focus, your solutions should be strong on this front.

Bye-bye 7-year hardware cycles. There was a time when companies could keep desktops for 5-7 years. This was also the era of WordPerfect. Those days are over. Now many people are upgrading their smartphones every 1-2 years. The desktop and laptop makers have taken the liberty Apple has given them and greatly accelerated their replacement cycles. Intel, software makers, and the shifts to web browsers and the cloud, make a 3-year cycle a must. If you are running computers that are 4+ years old, you will find they won’t run the latest OS (Windows 8 or OSX). 

To drive my point home, a local charity recently rejected my donation to them of an iPad1 – and that is only 3 years old (released April 3, 2010). Schools and charities are concerned that any apps in the iTunes store now require the latest iOS (6.x) so they do not want to accept devices they fear will not run the apps they think people need. 

So make sure your budget reflects a 3-year replacement cycle on desktops and laptops and a 2-year cycle for mobile devices. Your business should be proactive about defining what is ‘good enough’ for your company and its replacement budget, and track where your hardware stands in this cycle. You will find that with today’s 3-year hardware cycle you should budget to replace 33% of your desktops and laptops every year to stay close to this replacement cycle.

The better you plan this budget, the less surprised you will be when the costs come along and the less likely you will be to try to stretch the use of hardware past the point of slowing down your team. Nothing costs more than your people’s time so make sure they have fast tools to help them deliver the most results for your company.