For many small businesses, acquisition of new IT products doesn’t necessarily involve consideration of how the product will fit with existing understanding and expectations. That’s unfortunate, because an IT product that fits poorly can cost thousands of dollars in lost time and frustration.
For example, consider the purchase of a new multi-function printer (MPF). Such printers print, copy, scan, (and some still fax) — but has a completely different interface, software, and configuration. For users and the IT folks alike, each different model requires a learning-curve.
The cost of unnecessary IT product diversity starts right out of the box. IT specialists could easily spend several extra hours becoming acquainted with the nuances of an unfamiliar product. Once the product is deployed, users may not be able to find features, so they struggle — or worse, learn to live without what they need.
The solution is to emphasize continuity in IT strategy and at product acquisition. Going back to the example of printers, a company can’t meet all needs with a single model, but they also don’t need a different model at each location. A good IT policy for our printer example might be to limit the selection of models, having one model cover a group of requirements. For example, many of our clients have just 4 printer models that would be considered for acquisition. One model for each of:
Of course, the exact strategy/ printer selection should be customized to each business. Continuity sometimes requires compromise: for example, some users may have to walk a little farther when they need to print in color. Another compromise might involve acquiring a higher-capacity printer than absolutely necessary — preventing an exception (a strange model) for a single location.
The compromises and additional strategizing is well worth it, though, to give users and IT staff the chance to truly master their machines. The strategy leads to increased productivity through reduced hassle and increased user comfort.
IT product continuity even helps make it easy to stock spare parts and consumables. Parts are interchangeable, so IT staff can more quickly respond to equipment failure — with less downtime. This applies to all kinds of IT equipment — imagine a laptop, server, or network component restored instantly with parts from the storeroom rather than having to wait for parts to be shipped-in.
In conclusion, continuity promotes simplicity and reliability. It is well worth additional planning and discipline.