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Customize your hardware refresh cycle

The idea of the refresh cycle – a planned, knowable, consistent schedule of hardware updates – is one of the foundations of IT budgeting.

The challenge has always been around timing. Refresh too early and you’re throwing money down the drain. Upgrade too late and you risk impacting the performance of your IT system and ultimately, your profitability. There has also traditionally been a strong focus on the residual value of IT hardware – essentially what it will be worth at the end of its lifespan. Much of the grey area in assigning value also comes packaged with the IT department’s new mandate to add value to the organization, rather than simply fulfilling a remit to provide computing power.

But how relevant is all this today? Ultimately, each organization must customize their refresh cycle to suit their IT and business needs. To do this effectively you need to:

  • Stay abreast of trends in hardware.
  • Anticipate user demand for features, functionality and storage.
  • Assemble systems that can take advantage of new services and applications in today’s rapidly evolving tech space.

You also need to look at the three to five years purchase cycle as a guide and consider the burgeoning equipment lease market.

Lease edges out purchase

Search for ‘workstation lease’ and most of the results you see will be for purchases of off-lease or refurbished hardware. The big reasons for sticking with a long equipment cycle are historical, and even those are quickly becoming more hindrance than help for IT executives as leasing makes better business sense.

Two criteria for refreshing

Two things you need to look at are the total cost of ownership and total business value. There are a couple of points at which those two factors meet. In the days of the five-year hardware refresh, major operating system revisions happened no more than once every five to ten years. Today, significant updates can happen every three to five years. Furthermore, software publishers that have embraced an agile development methodology can push updates to customers on a weekly or monthly basis, with any given update taking advantage of new hardware features.

Business agility is a must

A growing number of companies are deciding that ‘agile’ is how the entire organization, not just the software development group, should operate. While agile discipline doesn’t require any specific technology, it does presume that team members will be able to communicate with one another and share information and work products in immediate ways. As those sharing and communication technologies evolve, having the flexibility to update and replace workstations is critical.

Keep flexibility in your workstation fleet and agility in your organization by breaking out of refresh cycle tyranny. It’s the most valuable thing to do for your business.