Hardware & Infrastructure
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2/18/2004
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SmartAdvice: Top-Down Strategy

Business commitment, good project management, and an incremental approach can improve your chances for a successful supply-chain-management implementation, The Advisory Council says. Also, control the costs of computer hardware maintenance and avoid the pitfalls of corporate IT-abuse investigations.

Question B: We run our own help desk and asset management and we outsource all hardware maintenance. How can we reduce our overall hardware maintenance costs?

Our advice: Across any platform, be it mainframe, server, or PC, computer hardware maintenance is often viewed by IT management as a necessary evil. Nobody likes to allocate money for failure, repair, or breakage, but everyone realizes that equipment will fail, and when it does it needs to be repaired. Yet one of the areas where a major impact can be made in controlling costs is in computer hardware maintenance.

The perceived value of a maintenance service contract is in providing long-term repair protection at a guaranteed cost. It offers a solution to high repair costs when maintenance is done on a time-and-material basis. It also represents the understanding that service technicians will be available to answer your service call within a given response time.

Maintenance services fall within any of four distinct classifications. The first two are in-warranty repair and out-of-warranty repair. To a maintenance service provider, minimizing in-warranty work (which is usually reimbursed at factory authorized rates) and maximizing out-of-warranty work (at rates set by the service provider) is a key element to maximizing profitability. For the IS department, minimizing the amount of out-of-warranty work done is one major way to control maintenance costs. The third type of maintenance is preventive maintenance, such as the inspection and cleaning of all laser printers every 60 days. The fourth type of maintenance is upgrade maintenance, such as adding memory to PCs.

Your organization can approach the deployment of this maintenance service function in one of two ways: internally with your own personnel or outsourced to a third-party maintenance provider. Companies having a homogeneous installed base of computer hardware may benefit from internalizing hardware maintenance. For most companies, especially for those with more than 1,000 PCs, the best approach to PC hardware maintenance is to go external. That way one doesn't need to maintain a skilled, in-house service staff.

Once the decision is made, the next step in reducing hardware-maintenance costs is to consider integrating several maintenance-related systems into a hardware-maintenance-management system. These systems include help-desk, asset-management, and call-management systems. The integration of two additional subsystems, the company's purchase-order system and office operations system, is also necessary to achieve optimum maintenance cost savings. How does this help lower costs? When a service support call comes in, an automated help-desk system should not only reference the caller's previous call history (through the call-management system) but also be able to list the technology hardware configuration (through a link to the asset-tracking system) and be able to reference the complete past maintenance history on the PC hardware and whether any preventive maintenance needs to be scheduled.

With the proper integration of a help desk, automated asset management, and call-management systems, IT management has the necessary tools to understand the company's technology infrastructure. The more familiar you are with the dynamics of your technology hardware base, the better you can manage and reduce your maintenance costs.

- Stephen Rood

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