October 20, 2017

Rethinking the technology lifecycle replacement process

Many nonprofit organizations today have a “Lifecycle Replacement Plan” for their physical assets. The process of “lifecycling” outdated computer technology in nonprofit organizations often looks something like this:

  1. Determine that the equipment is more than three years old.
  2. Get approval from the Board of Directors to dispose of the property.
  3. Donate said property to another “lucky” nonprofit.

But this process may not be the best solution for your organization. By making better technology decisions at the time of purchase, you can significantly increase the longevity, usefulness, and overall value of your technology investments.

How to get the best price and value

Think about the most recent purchases of significant value that you personally made. Did you shop around for the best price for the new car you bought? How many test drives did you make before you decided on the perfect vehicle for your family?

The same scrutiny should be applied when purchasing technology equipment. A sound practice involves comparing the best price and package from at least three or more reputable vendors.

Saving money does not mean shopping at big box stores with “extra low prices” for technology, either! Big box stores often receive bulk stock of computer equipment that is cheaper in quality and designed to sell for less. But you get what you pay for: Your computer equipment will become obsolete more quickly and will most assuredly have issues that require repairs just after the store warranty has expired.

It’s a best practice to shop directly from the manufacturer when investing in technology equipment so you can get the most up-to-date model, with a solid warranty plan. Outside of future software compatibility issues, your equipment could last 5, 7, or even 10 years!

When not to buy technology

Many nonprofits have a July to June fiscal period. Technology vendors are keenly aware of these fiscal cycles and often increase prices on their items during this time. Schedule your technology purchases during low-volume periods, such as January through March, to get the very best deals.

When you are ready to make your purchase, don’t be afraid to contact your vendor to ask for additional discounts or benefits that they may offer to the public sector!

When you must cycle out your technology

Once it’s time to cycle out your outdated technology, consider using a process that I like to call “leapfrogging.” You segment your equipment into one of three categories and then take the appropriate action:

  1. Oldest or worst-functioning: Purchase new equipment to replace the oldest or worst-functioning equipment.
  2. Functioning: Flag the “functioning” equipment for a future (next fiscal year) purchase. Upgrade this equipment with new components, such as more memory, as needed.
  3. Newest or best-functioning: Continue to utilize the “best” functioning equipment on your network. These systems will eventually fall to a lower category and be replaced in the future.

When you get rid of old equipment, make sure to recycle it appropriately or consider donating it to a refurbisher.

Here are a few of my favorite vendors for purchasing nonprofit technology:

With thoughtful preparation and a little research, you will see great savings in your future technology purchases.

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Rebecca Beck
Rebecca Beck, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a technology professional, training facilitator, and leader in the public sector. She began her career in technology with the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County in 2000 and serves as the organization’s Vice President of Information Technology. Rebecca is also a proud graduate of the award-winning business program at Fayetteville State University. Her strengths include; technology infrastructure planning, organizational leadership, and social media strategy development. Rebecca has hosted speaking engagements on social media planning and business leadership at the National Smart Start Conference, the NC Tech4Good Conference, and other venues throughout North Carolina. She shares advice on a variety of technology topics via Twitter and her blog, IfItHasButtons. Rebecca is also an active participant in volunteer opportunities that strengthen her community. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys attending statewide festivals, shopping at the local farmer’s market, and visiting the beautiful, North Carolina coastline.