Back to lifecycle basics. Which is preferable- warranty or maintenance. The Great Recession has had another unintended consequence. By extending the useful lives of desktops and laptops, devices are outside of the warranty window. Should this be a concern, and if so what should your business do about it? I would like to ask you to share your comments.
As always, the opinions and views expressed on this blog are mine and do not represent those of my employer.
If I had my "druthers" I would always defer to warranty, the reason is simple. The conversation that I would never want to have with an end user is - "let me check and see if the device is under warranty". From an end user perspective, this is also the discussion you never want to have with IT.
The recession changed a bit of the dynamics; end users know and perhaps understand that the lifecycle has been extended and that being outside the warranty window is break/fix. End users have their home PC experience to reflect on as well. However, the end user needs to get back up and running regardless of whether or not the service level is warranty or maintenance.
My research suggests that maintenance is at least twice the cost of warranty. This is logical when you consider reimbursements of parts and labor. The real costs are driven however in the business requirements to enter the break/fix operation either by third party or internally. Entering the maintenance business itself may prove to be a greater cost than you may think. First, you have to be good at asset and inventory management. Second, you need to have a logistics approach and warehouse space. If you out task or outsource maintenance you have cracked part of the code I believe, scaling counts and matters. Do not confuse, though, that maintaining older devcies will extend further the useful life or that the monthly cost to support is small. Do not over look the downtime, help desk call, incident management process just to get to the break/fix provider.
If you are a global business, your challenges are even greater.
As the technology refresh gets in gear, and Windows 7 is deployed , what about all the investment in inventory and parts. If you maintain internally do not overlook the training aspect and the impact of the new chipsets. Driver and application issues may initially appear as hardware issues to the end users.
In essence we are at a crossroads of sorts. If the trend continues, the real total cost and lifecycle costs need to be identified and measured. That too presents a challenge.
In many of the meetings and sessions I conduct, we frequently discuss the fact the end users and business units are reluctant to return older, replaced equipment. I often refer to the "Star Trek" episode where the "hoardak" collects things and never returns them. Part of the rationale is that this becomes the hot spare, back up and maintenance strategy at the end user or business unit level.
Aside from the security, costs, risk and practice issues raised, it is an unintended consequence of the warranty vs. maintenance dialog. The recession may have clouded this issue but the economics are very straightforward.
There is a business case for maintenance to be fair. The basis is to align the useful life and a solid inventory control system in place. Businesses that decide that that investment is a part of an overall lifecycle strategy will do well. Defining a maintenance SLA is likely the initial step. The major question is this - does the maintenance SLA mirror the warranty SLA? If the answer is yes, then I would submit that pehaps a new SLA could be defined. Giving maintenance the SLA identical to warranty avoids the issue that it is not the same and that there are conscious trade offs. Maintenance works, and works best, when the SLA's can be comfortably and consistently achieved (without escalation).
The maintenance business has been around a long time and will always be around considering the requirement to support legacy by industry segment, regulations and preference. With this upcoming technology refresh cycle, it may be the time to recalibrate our operational defintions up front. Both warranty and maintenance are mature offerings, so as I always state- there are no right or wrong answers only conscious and unconscious decisions.