Shifting the focus off IT and on to what matters most

Your computers are supposed to help your business, not consume it. Here’s how to find a service and support package that will help you concentrate on the important work at hand.

Many companies are finally ready to replace aging PCs, including some that remarkably predate Y2K. But the optimistic predictions of renewed investment in IT — IDC projects an 11.4 percent surge in PC sales in 2004 — must be balanced with the ongoing need to contain costs and improve productivity.

One way for companies to balance their business and computing needs is by negotiating a service and support package when purchasing IT equipment. Service and support focuses on increasing productivity for end users and saving valuable time and money for IT workers who can then focus on their day-to-day priorities.

Many elements comprise a vendor’s service and support package and it is the responsibility of IT managers or purchasing officials to decide which are the most important for their business. A few components that should rank high on their priority list are (a) the available types of support resources, (b) the warranty terms, and (c) the selection of integrated tools offered to address such concerns as security, software image management and data migration.

A Wealth of Resources at Your Disposal
Service and support garners much attention among customers today, leaving PC vendors with no choice but to continuously expand the depth and breadth of their support offerings to remain competitive. Many vendors offer an array of support options, whether they are directly on the system, over the phone or via the Web.

Support resources located on a PC, such as manageability technologies, provide access to valuable problem-solving tools. Rather than contacting their company’s help desk when a technical issue arises, users can employ manageability tools to solve the problem themselves. These timesaving tools cut down on the need for outside help and provide users with a more
intuitive computing experience.

E-support and automated solutions found on the Web are increasingly being used by customers. From informative texts to downloadable software upgrades, users have instant access to support materials wherever they may be, whether they’re traveling on the road or working in the office.

Another resource companies may turn to for technical support is the old fashioned telephone. By requesting worldwide personal phone service and choosing a vendor that offers guaranteed support, businesses can be assured assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Support That Warrants Satisfaction
When it comes to evaluating a vendor’s warranty service, there are several things to consider, including the availability of a parts network, business partner service, international service and the flexibility of a warranty’s terms and conditions.

In the event of a hard drive crash or a display malfunction, it’s important that your warranty service provide for the exchange of defected parts for new or functionally equivalent ones. The turnaround time for replacement parts varies among vendors and the sooner the switch can be made, the better.

A business partner network is another value-added service that many customers find useful. The network offers support throughout the PC lifecycle, from purchase and deployment to maintenance and disposal. Connected to an entire network of people, customers are ensured guaranteed assistance to accommodate all of their computing needs.

In the case of a global organization, an international warranty service is a must-have. Managing technical equipment, from refresh cycles to interoffice shipments, can get confusing. An international warranty service offers the convenience of having each machine’s expiration and refresh date mapped out for busy IT managers.

Technologies to Ease the IT Burden
Designed to significantly lower lifecycle costs by decreasing downtime and maintenance in PC networks, integrated technologies, enable customers to shift their focus from fixing computer problems to growing their business.

The technologies available include everything from software designed to manage wireless connections to recovery software to security solutions created to protect information and PCs from intrusion over both wired and wireless networks.

Manageability tools, such as migration assistant aides, offer customized solutions for meeting an organization’s individual needs. Such technologies reduce the amount of technical time and assistance needed to migrate PCs.

Bringing it all Together
Each of these service and support elements are important and when used together, are instrumental in saving businesses time and money, as well as increasing productivity.

With only 20 percent of a PC’s purchase price being related to the actual cost of hardware and software, that leaves 80 percent of the cost for managing and supporting the PC environment. By choosing a tailored service and support package at the time of purchase, businesses can expect to see significant cost savings.

Although it may take IT managers and purchasing officials a few extra minutes to thoroughly review a vendor’s service and support offerings, when the cost savings begin to add up, they’ll be happy they did.

Bill Owens is vice president of service and support at IBM¡¯s Personal Computing Division. He is reachable by e-mail at [email protected]

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