Average Age of a Work Computer in the UK is Five Years and Two Months

This comes from another survey and news story, this time from Silicon Republic.  The story reports on a survey done for Mozy (the EMC owned online [cloud or SaaS] backup service).

In it they report:

“… the average age of a work computer in the UK is five years and two months … In fact, the average PC is now more than a year and half past the date it was planned to be scrapped”.

I have had the “pleasure” of working in environments where the PC was 5-7 years old.  Damn, I still need therapy from that.

The report makes some very valid points.  PC’s are not only old, but they are costing the business in many indirect ways.  Operating systems aren’t refreshed.  Applications are unmanaged – often being old, unpatched, and of various different versions.  Features are breaking – trying assessing such an old PC infrastructure using WMI-powered MAP and you’ll soon see what I mean.  End users have to deal with slow boot/login times, freezes and blue screens.  IT have a lot of fire fighting to do that could otherwise be avoided.  And let’s not forget the time and money required to go fishing for spare parts if a PC breaks and the business expects it to be repaired instead of replaced. 

What the business has is a tool (the PC) that is not fit for purpose because it is costing the user (the revenue generator/enabler) time.

Consider a Windows 7 upgrade.  Company A might have a a policy to upgrade 20-33% of their PCs every year to current business recommended specifications.  Running MAP in that environment will probably determine that only a tiny percentage of machines might require either an upgrade or replacement.  On the other hand, Company B clings onto PCs like Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands are holding onto his rifle.  Running an assessment in there will take longer because the machines are a mess and WMI is broken all over the place.  Once a result eventually comes in, the business will get the nasty report that says 90% of hardware needs to be replaced.  Ouch!

Or consider a software development house where the programmers are charged out at €1,000 per day on fixed price contracts.  PCs are old and crash once every two days.  Reboots take time, logons are slow, and work is lost from time to time.  Every developer loses 1 hour every two days.  Over time that builds up.  It’s fixed price work, so the company has to redo a lot of work, either pays out overtime or misses deadlines, and no one pays except for the company.

Or do they?  What you end up with is annoyed users.  Their work experience flat-out sucks.  The tool they need to use doesn’t work and they cannot do their job.  They find themselves redoing work, working later, dealing with stress from the boss, and never getting a badly needed replacement machine.

In my opinion, the age and often decrepit state of these PCs are a symptom of how a business values the function of IT. And that isn’t an IT mistake; it’s a business strategy mistake.

Are you an IT admin trapped in this nightmare?  I sympathise with you.  It would be easy for me to get on my high horse and tell you that you need to market internally, to deploy WDS/MDT/ConfigMgr to take control of the desktop, enable rapid standard OS image deployment, and provide self-service software deployment.  But the truth is that all that requires some level of investment by the organisation.  If that will isn’t there then making that PO request is pointless.  What might be possible is to record what the ancient hardware is costing the business in hidden losses.  How much time/revenue is lost when PCs crash?  How much time do you spend fire fighting instead of doing business enabling projects?  The reason the business doesn’t value IT is because they see it as a cost centre.  They’re focused on money and controlling spending.  If you can make an argument based on saving money then you might have some luck.  All I can suggest is that you present a very quick summary – the relevant decision makers will likely be “too busy” to be distracted by IT “geek talk”. 

I wish you luck if you are in this situation – I have not been able to change the situation when I was there in the past.

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