Tech Buying in COVID: Hurry up and Wait
I admit it- I am spoiled by Amazon. While I purchase locally when I can (Instacart, Grubhub, Doordash, Shipt, and such when I cannot go out in person) I also appreciate being able to procure a hard-to-find item and have it delivered in sometimes only a few hours.
Other industries that compete with Amazon have worked hard in recent years to catch up with the fleet-footed fleet of smiling vans. All companies on the fulfillment- side of the tech supply chain are suffering since the advent of COVID-19, and so are the hope and dreams of all would-be technology buyers. Since the shutdowns of 2020, our clients have seen radical changes to how quickly machines arrive at their offices: what may have taken at most a week to fulfill now can take multiple months to deliver. Ouch.
Large scale organizations with immense buying power are even having trouble obtaining the technology items they need- the bottleneck at manufacturers has yet to move. What is the strategy for small and midsized businesses to procure laptops, docking stations, monitors, and, well, anything with a chip so they can keep working? We have a few thoughts.
This AND That
Gone are the days of uniformity in orders for computers. As my mom used to say as my hungry siblings warily eyed the foil covered casserole dish at dinner: ya’ get whatcha get. Changing the way we work during this time of COVID has become de rigueur. If your go-to “standard” laptop is unavailable, and it almost certainly is, order the item closest to what you want, maybe even from a different brand. Shockingly, (I know, right?) the more expensive options are often available with a shorter delivery timeline. While this is not the moment to be picky, you should be prepared to vet brands for reliability, warranty coverage, and customer service reputation. If you are purchasing computers, make certain that the chipset is trusted -does it have a TPM Chip? If you are serving the federal clients, does the equipment use restricted or banned communications technology? You make inadvertently act as a spy for a foreign power and lose your contract if you don’t choose the right machine!
The holidays are just a few pumpkin spice lattes away. Traditionally there is additional demand for tech items, and specifically laptops, as some companies close out their year’s budget. Holiday shoppers usually fill their carts with tech gifts of all varieties, and trends indicate that this year will be no different- except that many of those items are not available right away. If your business needs laptops prior to the start of the new year, plan to order them well before your order your Thanksgiving turkey. Shopping for tech as toys or gifts? Be prepared for lengthy weight times and a lack of choices for colors and options, and hurry.
If you have needed to purchase an appliance within the last year, you may have observed two things: the “dumb” appliances that are less expensive (and less enticing) are available, and very high-end appliances are available. What don’t you see on the floor? The moderately priced, smart devices since wait times can be several months to almost a year. There is a parallel in availability for laptops and other office tech: laptops from unreliable brands can be found as can some very high end (read: very expensive) machines withing a couple months of ordering. Think you can purchase last year’s laptop? If you can find one, be prepared to pay more even for older technology too since demand remains- and will likely stay- high.
You may be able to keep equipment in service longer than the normally recommended three-year cycle. Failures and slowdowns are part and parcel of older equipment. If you decide to stretch – we recommend keeping an appropriate number of replacement machine on-hand so a failure doesn’t prevent your employees from working for an extended period.
Experts don’t expect to see a normalization of supply chains until sometime in 2023 at the earliest: with COVID-19 resurging around the globe, particularly in some Asian nations where critical suppliers of chips are sourced, true supply forecasting is extremely difficult. Flexibility and patience are the hallmark of today’s business leaders.