What is IT's strategy for replacing laptops?

Deciding when to replace laptops is more complicated than just waiting for them to break.

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A business user comes to you complaining that his/her laptop is ANCIENT (you can tell from the model number that it just turned 12 months old) and wants to know why he/she can't have a new laptop. Now. You have concluded it is not that the person is engaging in some retail therapy on your nickel. 

There are two schools of thought about when to replace laptops: Before they break and when they break. Some IT organizations already proactively replace laptops. This is similar to a "relamping strategy" in a building in that it considers the cost of the new laptop, the labor to swap it in/out, and the disruption to the employee if the laptop actually fails while in use.

I am of the view that a proactive approach is the right approach.

You are going to be questioned by your business users about your strategy for replacing laptops because they are going to notice things like: Your CEO has a different laptop than they have; your development team seems to have newer laptops than the marketing team does; and, some new employees have newer laptops than some more-tenured employees have.

Your explanation to the person who asks is this:

1. Laptops are purchased to last 36 months, and they will meet the need of the typical user for that period of time.

This means they will have the fastest processor currently available with the most RAM that can be procured at a reasonable cost. Right now, that means an i7 with 8GB of RAM. These laptops will be very fast in the first year, reasonably fast in the second year, and will show their age in the third year.

2. If a laptop breaks within the first 30 months, the person is given a loaner and his/her original laptop is repaired and returned.

This prevents someone from having an "accident" to get a new laptop. If the laptop is unfixable, then the person is issued a laptop of a similar vintage, probably one that was returned from someone else.

3. If a person leaves the company, his/her laptop is refurbished and is reissued if it is less than 18 months old or it is put into a loaner pool if is between 18 and 36 months old.

The laptop still has a useful life in front of it. Use it!

4. When a laptop is 30 months old, subject to capital constraints, it is targeted for replacement in the next 12 months.

Ideally, the laptop would be replaced around the 36 month point, but if it does not break on its own, then it may end up making it a few more months.

5. A user who feels his/her laptop should replaced on a different schedule can follow a formal exception process.

This explains why developer laptops may be only two years old and why the CEO may have a three-pound laptop instead of a five-pound one.

If you already proactively replace your company's laptops at a point in time before they break, feel free to comment on how your approach differs from the one above.

If you wait for laptops to break, what is your rationale? Is it capital? Labor costs? Are you getting more than 36 months of useful life?

Please comment and share your thoughts.

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The opinions expressed in this Blog are those of Paul T. Cottey and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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