Dont Take Your Eye Off the Basics

I've been covering this industry for a lot of years. Hell, I even remember the '80s.

Ive been covering this industry for a lot of years. Hell, I even remember the 80s. So, its with some chagrin that I report in my final column in this space that I have discovered what drives IT purchases and upgrades in the new millennium. Its vanity. Yup. Its the need to have something cool and the need to have something that is at least equal to, if not better than, the thing your co-worker has. Perception is indeed reality, and how people perceive themselves is immensely affected by what kinds of computer systems are on their desktops, laptops or in their hands.

Case in point: One IT manager told me that a few years ago, he took TCO (total cost of ownership) with the earnestness of a Boy Scout and put the kibosh on upgrades unless absolutely necessary. Even 486-based systems would be retained for employees who needed no more than that level to do their work. You can bet his TCO numbers looked marvelous.

There was just one thing: His end users hated it.

Every time a system crashed, it was blamed on the fact that it was "obsolete" equipment, regardless of the cause. We all know that hardware, with the exception of hard drives, almost never breaks down. And new software with its bugs isnt any more reliable than older software with its bug fixes. Yet users were convinced that their "old" systems were to blame.

Finally, corporate IT broke down and upgraded the employees. And everyone lived happily ever after.

So, folks, vanity is serious business, and you ignore it at your peril. After all, why is it necessary that a company have a building with marble, brass and mahogany in the lobby? Because employees and clients feel better when they walk in the door.

As the economy slows, you may hear a lot about drawing the line against unnecessary technology. Beware. People who take that approach have all the understanding and tact of Dilbert on a date. They just dont get it.

Keep your companys employees in respectable systems, and theyll respond with their best effort. And youll look good in the bargain.