Leadership

How do you decide who gets what machine?

You can only hold on to old machines for so long. Eventually equipment has to be replaced. Doing so requires a strategy. How do you decide who gets what machine in your organization?

You can hold on to old machines for only so long. Eventually equipment has to be replaced. Doing so requires a strategy. How do you decide who gets what machine in your organization?

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In Classics Rock,  I ran a poll asking how you determine when it's time to retire an old PC.  The most common reason TechRepublic members gave was when software or needs made it mandatory that it was time to upgrade.

What was more surprising, however, was the fact that only 14% of respondents said that they upgraded machines on a regular schedule. Replacing machines on a regular schedule makes it easier to plan who gets what and to standardize on machines for purchase; however, it can also be more expensive because you have entire classes of machines all going off cycle at the same time that need to be accounted for. Therefore, it can make sense to replace only individual units either when they can't be fixed or when software forces you to, as two thirds of you said.

No matter how you decide when it's time to get new equipment, you need to decide who gets it. Some organizations pass out new equipment based on needs. Others will pass out equipment to those based on who yells the loudest. Still others pass out equipment on a trickle-down approach.

The importance of proper assignments

During the discussion, I made the following comment:

Developer machines
I've always thought that developers should be forced to code on or at least TO machines that are 2 - 3 years old. Giving them machines that are faster and more powerful than the ones used by the average user merely encourages them to create "bloated" code. The programs work great on their whiz-bang units, but then drag on the slower production machines.Microsoft programmers should code on nothing but Pentium IIs...

The comment was made only partially in jest, but many of you agreed. The sad fact is in an effort to make programmers more efficient so they don't have to wait so long for programs to compile, they'll get some of the newest and fastest units in the department.  Their coding skews to the level of the equipment they're coding on and then doesn't always run efficiently on older machines in the organization. Even if programmers test on old equipment, the testing sometimes doesn't always catch the problems.

However, you can't have engineers and programmers developing on 486s while the receptionist answering the phone is running a quad-core 64-bit machine either. There needs to be some type of balance somewhere. It's important, especially in an era of tight budgets, to make sure that you properly allocate resources to those that need the power without over-spending.

The trickle-down theory

What happened one place I worked is what happens in many organizations I think. Invariably, someone higher up in an organization, whether at C-level or just a higher engineering position, wanted a new piece of equipment. There didn't need to be an official reason or business case -- they just wanted it, and it was purchased.

Then we'd play a game of shuffling the deck chairs around. We'd determine who lower in the organization needed an upgrade, and we'd move the machines down the organizational chart until the oldest and slowest machines dropped off the bottom.

This theory works only if you have a small organization or if you can restrict the number of moves along the way. It's also effective only when there's a big gap between the machine that the trickled-upon user is currently using compared to what would drip down.

Naturally one of the things you have to watch for in this strategy is a Class Envy that can occur. Users farther down the chart may become resentful of the strategy. That can translate into problems working with them if they decide to attach that strategy to you personally whether or not you have anything to do with implementing it.

How do you assign machines to users?

What strategy do you use to assign new machines to users? Take the poll below and sound off in comments.

24 comments
egarnerit
egarnerit

I work at an Architectural Firm, which means, with the exception of admin staff and a few others positions, the people at the bottom of the totem pole does the most resource intensive work and the people with the most seniority are sending emails and working with Word documents. Therefore, the newbees get the fastest PCs.

Wanda in the City
Wanda in the City

We cycle ours out on age of the machine. Yes, those who need them get the larger cadillacs, but once that decision is made, they still then cycle the 3 to 5 year refresh.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Cad users get top priority, Receptionists get lowest. From there, it is who NEEDS to have the most running at a time to perform their job. Someone that just has email and a browser is bottom of the line, while sales people that are given 600 meg power point presentations that they have to show to clients (we get them from associations that govern the industry, and have no control over content, size, or format) are the second highest priority. When people cry about it, I had them a kleenex and inform them that the system they are working on is equal or greater than what I use, based upon need. I am on my third computer in 10 years, and that is because the second one burnt up, and am now on a referb we got off tigerdirect.

g_cwright
g_cwright

Where I work we have a policy of only moving machines once. If X performance user gets a new one, than his machine goes to someone whose machine is ready to be retired. This keeps the 'musical chairs' movement to a minimum. This only happens when we actually have funding for replacing outdated equipment, which isn't happening right now for those of us in the forestry sector.

jdclyde
jdclyde

We get more rotation, but that is because of people coming and going.... Some positions are more temporary than others.

davidcoxon
davidcoxon

We assign new machines based on the age/spec of machine being replaced (so all machines over 5 years are replaced) and decided on spec (processor, ram hard drive etc)of replacement based on the posts needs.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

My manager (The ICT Manager) hands-out newer equipment to company directors first (after himself, of course), then other managers and those that complain the most, then those who are in dire need of new equipment, then his direct team. I needed a faster rig to handle the multiple varieties of tasks I had to perform as a 1st line support tech and general lackey. I had mantioned it several times. My manager finally gave-in 2 weeks ago and told me I had to have Vista if I were to have a new rig... The machine I had before was a Celeron Northwood 2.4GHz @ 400MHz FSB with 1024MB RAM. I had that for 4 years! Maybe I should have stuck with it and pushed for my 3-year overdue salary review instead...

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

On all accounts that stinks.

richard.gardner
richard.gardner

As an IT manager myself I can appreciate why you didn't get an upgrade - if you'd come to me I'd have given you another gig of RAM and wonder why you hadn't asked for it yourself as a stop gap. Having said that I don't give myself the best kit, I always over spec for people who work for me, I prioritise people who run key business processes over everyone else. The MD and FD get what they want - I give them the options, the price brackets and they choose. Does sound like your manager might be a bit of a nob though.

h2owe2
h2owe2

In our manufacturing organisation we replace our desktop PCs after 5 years (3 year under warranty + 2 year replacement if broken) and our notebook PCs after 4 years (3 year under warranty + 1 year replacement if broken). Power PC users might receive a new PC if poor performance/capacity of their old PC warrants this, otherwise they wait their turn. Monitors are replaced when they no longer meet our rule of thumb performance specs (usually due to brightness dropping below 65%). CRT monitor life can be anywhere between 4 and 10 years. We haven't retired any LCD screens as yet. High performance is not essential for PCs located in our production and maintenance areas however as these PCs are located in less than ideal (ie dirty) locations and are in use 24/7, they are replaced at the same time as office-based PCs. We try to avoid rebuilding older PCs with the current corporate O/S release as it is not worth the effort. We implement a new OS every 5-6 years and are currently awaiting release of MS Windows 7 (together with most other corporate IT departments).

dharwood
dharwood

We lease. The machine gets replaced after three years and there is no trickle down. I like this nodel for those reasons

RWOCIT
RWOCIT

We generally use a combination of approaches including trickle down with in a department, fit for purpose, and regularly upgraded workstations.

technology
technology

We have a four year replacement plan. We replace 25% of our hardware every year. This plan allows for my budget monies to be constant from year to year and keeps my equipment up-to-day.

cbader
cbader

We have a mix of new and older machines. Our developers and the IT department largely have the best computers. The agents in our call center have a mix of new and old machines, no rhyme or reason was used to decide who got the newer machines, it was largely left to circumstance. Mostly the agents get RAM upgrades as opposed to new computers.

WasabiMac
WasabiMac

Everybody gets a new machine every three years, a few people a month based on hire date. It kills morale to always be giving people used computers when their boss or co-worker gets a new one. Since most of our people are on laptops, when the three year warranty is up we get them new ones and can still sell or donate the old ones for a reasonable cost benefit to us. If you look at the hourly cost of the employee who's computer dies and the techs rate to fix it, combined with managing complicated water-falling plans to line up with staff and company reorganizations, it just isn't cost effective for us. We can budget pretty accurately when everyone gets treated the same and it really boosts morale when the CEO and receptionist are given the same priority. If the person isn't worth the cost of a computer every three years, you really have to question their value to the company.

bmay
bmay

I do allocate based on need, but someone who's been nice to me and said thanks when I fixed their problem will get higher priority than someone who treats me like the hired hand

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

They treat you like a hired hand then. It only takes a kind gesture to change attitudes. They will forever treat you the same now.

richard.gardner
richard.gardner

I usually give out machines to people who are on-side but every now and then I'll throw a curve ball in and give a really spanky machine to someone who knows they're useless to the IT department, that really disarms them and I get some work out of them for a good while then...

The Altruist
The Altruist

The pointy-haired demons (reference Dilbert) can moan and gripe all they wants, but the fact of the matter is, if they're a paper-pushing executive and not an engineer, they doesn't need a $10k+ piece of hardware sitting under their desk labeled BOXX. Hell, just give them a laptop with a good warranty (and a dock with flat-panel, keyboard, and mouse) and tell them to be careful. Accounting can make due with 4 year old machines that have bare-minimum graphics accelerators if at all necessary. If they could be forced to work with Windows 2000 era machines, I would make them. They don't need pretty. They don't need Vista. Marketing should be refused computers altogether and instead only allotted a small box of crayons which they will have to share. (What can I say? I'm an engineer; I'm biased.) Graphic designers who work only 2 dimensions can get a long with older machinery. The numbers to crunch are small and easy, even in vector-space. Developers and engineers will need something stronger, and I would strongly recommend younger machine specs - but not ridiculously young. But this is a judgment call. You need to analyze who will receive the fruits of their labors and what the targeting audience (in-house or mass-market) needs will be. Also, it needs to be kept in mind that hardware obsolete by project start will be doubly obsolete by project end. Software distribution needs to be kept down to keep costs down. Engineers and Graphic Designers who don't need fancy spreadsheets, word-processors, database, and presentation software don't need MS Office. Give them Lotus Symphony or some other freeware and tell them to shut up. Accountants and executives don't need Photoshop. Marketing will not need food, water, or oxygen. (Again, I'm biased.) As far as the trickle down process goes, make sure you keep tabs on what went where, and don't be afraid to mix and match. Have or hire a tech-team to refurb and reimage your older machines, cannibalizing parts and software as need be. The software must be handled delicately. Make sure you know where your product keys are, so you can reallocate your software legally - or the next time the BSA knocks on your door, they'll have a court-order. Remember OEM licenses mean Only Exists on this Machine. (You can't trade OEM copies of Windows). That's my two-bits. I'm sure I left something out. Someone set me straight.

davidt
davidt

Sales and Marketing = Etch-A-Sketch Accounting = Win200 & Abacus Corp = whatever they yell four, minus 1 level Engineering = latest and greatest 64-bit IT = RoadRunner or Deep-Blue & Up

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Who is going to set up a server network in your corporate?Dead of night for free isn't going to make it.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

When it's time to roll out new equipment in your organization, how do you decide who gets that equipment? I've placed a poll in Decision Central where you can compare your deployment strategies with other TR members: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=146 What strategy do you use? And how do you keep users from grumbling when they don't get the shiny new box but their office mate does?

LarryD4
LarryD4

In my current location, the IT Manager sits down with his Manager and decides who they like and don't like. The line staff gets the rejects.

flounder_pdx
flounder_pdx

We buy all our equipment with 3 year service contracts. When the contract is up, the machine is replaced. If an individual can make a business case to upgrade early they must do so through their management. Otherwise, we stick to the contracts.

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