Imagine having your refrigerator break due to a chip issue on the motherboard and being told there is no ETA for the parts. After weeks of waiting and coming up with temporary solutions, you finally decide to purchase a new one, only to find it will take 16 weeks for delivery due to those same parts delays.
This recently happened to me, and while the family bonding time of running a hairdryer to melt the ice off the back of our fridge is priceless, I’m probably not alone in wishing global supply constraints could just get resolved.
The issues we are seeing with supply shortages for components like computer chips, LCD panels and integrated circuits may inconvenience home life, but they are more worrisome for the workplace. IT industry experts predict the constraints will last into 2023. Consequently, answers to managing shortfalls and adapting your procurement habits need to be addressed immediately within your organization, so you don’t end up on the weak end of the supply chain.
Since my company works alongside most technology OEMs and has helped clients of all sizes optimize IT procurement processes for more than three decades, we have a unique vantage point. We find that incorporating a few key strategies can help your organization through challenging times:
1. Extend your device life
One way to manage IT constraints is by maximizing what you already have. On average, we find that clients carry around 25 per cent more assets than people. It’s important to routinely evaluate the current state of your hardware and ever-shifting user needs by answering questions like these:
- What is the average lifecycle of your current devices?
- Have you created user personas to identify compute requirements by role, knowing that some jobs bring greater wear and tear on computers?
- What are you currently doing to prolong the life of devices?
- Are you getting the most out of warranties and investing in them in the right areas?
If you have devices that run well and have minimal issues near the end of their normal lifecycle, consider alternatives such as refurbishing for new uses within the organization, or re-marketing to help recoup some of your original investment. Having a solid asset-disposition program not only gives a fresh purpose to older devices – making your organization eco-friendlier and more cost-efficient – the formalized processes of running technical and physical audits to clear hardware of sensitive data leaves you better protected.
Automating warranty and renewal management based on user personas also can help the organization maintain a 360-degree view of device life, creating greater predictability for when new purchases are needed, and identifying where the most common maintenance issues occur. Understanding how devices fail can illuminate where additional investment in warranties is best served – for example, covering office laptop batteries that rarely give out during their normal lifecycle may not make as much sense as extra protection on tablets that experience greater wear and tear in the field.
2. Expand what you can use
It may sound cliché, but thorough planning is never more important than when you really need something. The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic caused computer sales to hit all-time highs, as companies scrambled to get what they could to mobilize their workforces. Demand is still soaring, but now it is more project related as organizations play catch-up on refreshes after sweating assets for as long as they could. Demand also is shifting to newer business realities (like application and infrastructure modernization) to better serve a hybrid workforce or engage customers more digitally.
Most technology manufacturers currently are telling customers to plan at least 10 weeks ahead on orders. Forecasting can be the difference between being at the front or back of the line when your actual requirements come about. Planning and project management is critical, and partnering with reliable solution providers with deeper access to OEMs and supply chain data can narrow lead times.
IT decision makers working with resellers and manufacturers also need to be transparent about their true needs, and not create a sense of false urgency. That’s where good planning conducted mutually with the supplier can save time and help prioritize your needs over others.
In the current climate, we encourage more long-term investments through advance orders that produce customer-owned inventory held in supply by the industry partner and delivered as needed, rather than customer-reserved orders that are intended to solve 30- to 60-day issues. Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) programs also create greater procurement predictability and scalability based on changing needs. DaaS also can simplify device configuration, delivery, and day-to-day support managed by the experts, but it requires a thoughtful, organization-wide strategy to avoid the costs of shadow IT.
Steering away from custom or configure to order (CTO) builds also greatly opens supply channels. Most off-the-shelf devices work just as well, cost a fraction of the price, and are more readily available. Standardizing “good, better, best” scenarios for configurations gives access to greater inventory, where in most cases, the “good” and “better” more than meet your business requirements.
3. Invest in cloud
There is a lot of compute power in the cloud, and companies are making the investment. Gartner predicts worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services to grow 23 per cent this year. Going virtual brings several benefits to end users, like increasing device lifespan by lifting compute requirements off the machine. It provides smoother onboarding, training, and networking as more full-time staff and gig workers permanently transition away from the traditional office workspace.
After 18 months of remote work, employees have greater expectations of working from anywhere, on any device. We can almost go back to treating devices as terminals thanks to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and cloud-based applications. For example, I have a personal laptop, a home desktop, a tablet and, of course, a work laptop. I can do 90 per cent of my work on my personal equipment, including taking sales calls through our collaboration platform, since most of my tasks are accomplished through Microsoft 365 applications. Compute and communication have been made ubiquitous by the cloud.
Security is a more complex concern given the more dispersed nature of hybrid workplaces. In fact, 83 per cent of IT teams in a recent HP Wolf Security survey of workforce security trends believe the blurred lines of home and work life have made enforcement “impossible.” But it doesn’t have to be, if the right measures are taken, as I previously shared.
Adapting means planning ahead
Although it is hard to predict when supply constraints caused by the current global conditions will lift — or to know when the next complications will hit — preparing smarter procurement and forecasting processes for your IT inventory will help you regain certainty amid the pain points of the unexpected. Make planning a top priority, modernize and automate your lifecycle management, and find partners that can help reduce wait times and lift the burden of daily management of devices, applications, and VDI from your plate.
One thing that should never be in short supply is an ambitious mindset of constantly improving your business processes.