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Upgrades During An Economic Downgrade: How To Refresh In A Recession

After owning my laptop for 5 years, strange things started happening. My nightly ritual of watching The Daily Show on Hulu ended when flash player stopped working. As new technology grew incompatible with my 5-year-old operating system, every item I had downloaded stopped working. The solution was clear, it was time to buy a new laptop and I knew that refreshing hardware costs money and time. Not only would I have to pay for a new laptop, I would also have to spend the time transferring my files and learning how to use a new operating system.

Now, imagine that situation on an agency-wide scale. Then, imagine that situation during budget sequestration and an economic crisis.

HP’s Bruce Michelson shared 4 reasons in a recent blog post why now is the time for a comprehensive upgrade, not a phased approach, and how to make the process save you money. HP’s example demonstrates that refreshing is even more important in trying economic times. In addition to Michelson’s comments, our recent infographic also shows the need for agencies to refresh hardware, as upgrades will lead to IT not wasting time on servicing outdated machines and employees being more productive on a reliable and secure machine.

1. Don’t repeat past mistakes

“We have inadvertently delivered on two things that may/will come back to ‘haunt’ us,” shared Michelson “First we did more with less, and we made the older devices work in the environment. Second, we have conditioned our end users to accept existing age and speeds as an acceptable response.” Because agencies have gotten used to an outdated and slow environment, it is hard to convince management change is essential. Therefore, make sure to make a case for a refresh explaining why past decisions may have been mistakes and how the environment of your agency has changed since those decisions were made. For example, according to Michelson “End users are seeking a better experience” and expect more from technology than a few years ago.

2. Go big or go home

In the midst of budget cuts and a tough economy, it may make sense to choose a phased approach to refreshing technology instead of an entire overhaul of your system. As counterintuitive as it may seem, in a tough economy a complete refresh is a better investment than a partial one. With a “big bang” refresh (updates for at least 70% of your system), “We can make the business case that the benefits lost in terms of operating expenses [in an outdated system] may well offset much of the budget required for this upcoming refresh,” said Michelson. In the long run, a “big bang” refresh is more cost-effective than a phased approach because it puts everyone on the same new system simultaneously, maintains consistency for end users, and makes future updates easier. Simply stated, “If you do not have the budget, then there is only so much you can replace. I understand that, but (and this is a big but) if it is all about the capital, at some point you will refresh the fleet, all we are doing is postponing the inevitable.

3. Gain an edge in hiring

An agency is only as effective as its ability to hire and retain talent. If you want to attract the best and brightest, you must have the most up-to-date technology. As Michelson puts it, “If you are hiring new personnel attracting them with 5 year old technology (or greater) may prove to be interesting.” Many agencies tackle this issue by using a phased approach. Yet, Michelson points out the difficulties of having new hires on new technology while existing staff uses older models. This can create difficulties in collaboration and communication within an organization, not to mention resentment. Michelson pondered, “How does a business justify more current technology to new hires and 5-year-old technology to its existing staff?”

4. Look to the future

The agency of the future will be expected to be as up to date with technology as their users are. Outdated technology will make your agency lose an important competitive edge. If agencies do not prioritize refreshes or stick to the old model of phased updates in today’s environment. Michelson said, “[Agencies] will compromise end user experience, productivity, security, and access.”

What struggles do you have making the case for tech updates in today’s economic climates? What are some tips and best practices?

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HP’s mission is to invent technologies and services that drive business value, create social benefit and improve the lives of customers — with a focus on affecting the greatest number of people possible. Check out their HP for Gov group on GovLoop.

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