Whether you're purchasing brand new computers for a brand new department or upgrading the technology in your office, purchasing computers for your employees can be a stressful undertaking. Between different software and job requirements, personal preferences, and space and cost considerations, it can often seem impossible to buy the right computer for the right employee.
The process doesn't need to be stressful, however, and can actually play an important role in making your business more efficient as well as in cutting costs. In fact, determining the technology you use is a critical part of the operations of a successful business. Under-buy, and your employees struggle to accomplish their tasks in a reasonable time frame or have no computer at all if the device to needs to be sent away for warranty repairs. Over-buy, and you are paying for unused technology that is largely being wasted.
Finding the perfect middle ground is the key to making your IT budget really shine. This requires three distinct steps: first, inventorying job responsibilities and the employees who perform them; second, inventorying the software you use; and finally, putting together a set of minimum specifications while determining your long-term plans.
Inventory Job Responsibilities
The first step to successfully purchasing new PCs for your office is to determine what needs to get done and who needs to do what. In some companies, like law offices and medical practices, the requirements for each computer will be largely similar without any real deviations. Every employee will have more or less the same needs, and the purchasing process is much simpler because you can lump all employees into one category. In other companies, for instance printing, engineering, or architecture companies, the requirements can be wildly different.
A graphic designer will need an extremely powerful computer capable of handling the latest drawing software. Getting such a high-powered machine for a secretary who uses email, word processing, the occasional spreadsheet, and a web browser would be a tremendous waste of resources.
Also, if you have a mobile workforce, consider the weight, size of display and whether they will need 4G access in the field. Some staff may also need a touch screen for capturing signatures, or a tablet style for presentations.
So, the first step to figuring out the perfect employee PCs is to identify how many broad job categories that require separate PC purchases exist within your organisation.
Inventory Common Software
Now that you have broad groups that all require similar hardware, it's time to start identifying what kind of hardware each group needs. The first thing to do is to compile a list of the most commonly used software for each group of people. The easiest way to do this is to simply talk to your staff, or have them complete a questionnaire, about what programs they use and how often they use them. The latter is particularly important — your staff may use a high-end application, but it might not be worth buying a computer capable of running it extremely well if they only use that application every couple of months.
Keep in mind that this inventory process is also a good chance to look at your future software needs. Employees might have suggestions or requirements for software that you aren't currently using, but that might make their jobs significantly easier and make them more productive. Take these into consideration when putting together your list of common software.
Create a Minimum Viable System
Once you have the lists of common software used by the different groups, it's time to start putting together a set of specifications. This is where your IT department or outsourced IT company can really help. Go down your list of software required, and write down the highest system requirements from each one. This might mean mixing and matching the RAM requirements from one piece of software with the video card requirements form another, but at the end you should have a list that will meet or exceed the minimum level of every piece of software your teams are likely to run.
Now it's just a matter of matching PC hardware specs with your lists, right? Almost. At this stage of the process, you also need to determine how much future-proofing you might want to do — after all, you don't want to have go through a major upgrade next year, right? Some computers rarely need to be upgraded — for instance, requirements for major office suites haven't really changed much over the last few years, and aren't likely to change much in the near future. Graphics, video, and other specialised software, on the other hand, require fairly major upgrades every few years. Carefully consider how far over your baseline you want to go.
An important consideration is also warranty support. Best practice for business computers is a minimum 3-year next business day onsite warranty. As reliable as today's computers are - they still break down at the most inconvenient times and you need your staff to be productive as soon as possible.
Now that you have all your lists in place, choosing the right PC is as easy as matching hardware to software specs, and then finding the best, reliable source who will offer the right support after the sale.You should buy the least computer possible for each group of employees that you can while still allowing them to do their jobs effectively.
Remember, that although cost is always important, $1,000 saved only works out to $1 per day over the life of a PC. Compare that to the productivity gains of having the right PC for 3 years. Get that balance right, and not only will your investment last for years, you'll have a happier and more productive staff!