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Remember the days when no one had a PC at work, let alone at home? When a few people punched cards to be fed into computing machines that occupied whole rooms? Probably not. These days, an employee might not go on holiday with the family without half a dozen computers among them—laptop, a couple of tablets, phones (that are really computers), e-readers, smart watches, and so on.

 

The bar for technology started being set in the home not the workplace long ago. This means IT departments must recognize that choosing computers is not merely about finding the sweet spot between cost and functionality.

The computer on the Apollo lunar module had 64 Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043 MHz. That is less computing grunt than a pocket calculator, let alone what’s under the touchscreen of a smartwatch.

Like it or not, that is where the bar is:

  • Powerful
  • Functional
  • Nice to look at

It doesn’t matter whether you’re ordering desktops, laptops, or tablets. Your desk warriors don’t want to look at a beige box, and your road warriors don’t want to be embarrassed in front of clients or competitors. The evidence shows that employees will look for another job if they don’t think the IT in their current workplace is good enough.

What’s the answer for IT?

1. Think outside the old model

Conventional procurement methodologies had IT departments balancing cost and functionality. Today, you have permission to take a broader view of cost.

What will it cost the company if employee retention rates fall because employees won’t work on clunky, ugly devices? What it will cost the company if can’t attract quality employees because they don’t want to work in a dated workplace?

2. Loosen the reins

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies create freedom (great for your employment brand) and, to an extent, put the ball back in the employee’s court. Think ours are ugly or clunky? Bring your own.

The technology to manage employee devices—selecting software, rolling out security features, and so on—is mature enough to create room for a policy that allows both parties to get what that they need.

If you’re uncomfortable with BYOD, a choose-your-own-device approach is a solid alternative. Employees don’t get to bring their own device but they do get to choose from a range of devices curated by IT. There’s less freedom, yet there’s self-determination.

3. Shorten your cycle

Refreshing organizational IT every three to five years means falling behind quickly. Advances in computing are faster than they were when those cycles were set. That means productivity losses occur sooner. Going back to the question of cost, the cost of refreshing faster should be considered against the productivity gains that come with new hardware (and employee retention).

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