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Overview of Closed Loop Lifecycle Planning: A Guide to Managing Your PC Fleet

Bruce Michelson explains closed loop lifecycle planning in this sample chapter, including why it's a proven methodology and why it's so important to your business.
This chapter is from the book


As mentioned in the preceding chapter, closed loop lifecycle planning represents the overall bill of material that defines what IT needs to fund to support the client environment.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) represents the results of inputting information into a toolset that compares input to the industry averages and averages of other similar businesses. The result is a measurement output that suggests areas of improvement. The analogy that can be used is that, as a measurement strategy, TCO can identify where to go “fishing” for savings; lifecycle identifies how to “catch” the fish.

At the time of Y2K, networking and other IT policies were not as mature as they are today. The regulatory environment and management toolsets then were not as advanced either. As a result, unsecured end users could add, change, and otherwise impact what might have been intended to be a locked-down (secured) environment. For the best example of this, compare the number of application titles in an enterprise back then with the number of applications in use today in the enterprise. Whereas much of that growth has been organic (required by the business), much more of it has likely resulted from end users exercising the flexibility of the access environment.

In the late 1990s, lifecycle was mentioned in most manufacturer and service provider portfolios. However, no consistent industry definition addressed the full range of IT and business requirements to provide businesses a “playbook” from a practitioner’s perspective.

The methodology presented in this book is proven. Closed loop lifecycle planning has been embraced by many businesses as a building block of the overall lifecycle-management plan itself, as evidenced by more than 200 white papers (and counting) and its implementation in more than 500 unique businesses (and counting).

The table of contents (and hence the chapters, or structure) of this book presents a menu of closed loop lifecycle planning elements. These lifecycle elements interrelate and operate within all enterprises, regardless of size. The lifecycle elements include the following:

  • Acquisition of hardware
  • Acquisition of software
  • Staging and integration
  • Interoperability and prototyping
  • Installation
  • Moves, adds, and changes (MACs)
  • Warranty and maintenance
  • Asset management
  • Help desk
  • Networking
  • Project management
  • Technology refresh
  • Disposition
  • Management tools
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Service delivery strategies

Closed loop lifecycle planning includes user segmentation, cost of change, and appropriate incumbent behavior. This book addresses each of these topics. User segmentation and the cost of change are distinct disciplines. Properly implemented, these elements will ensure end users get what they need and do not act independently.

What Is an Access Device?

Closed loop lifecycle planning is based on the access computing model: how end users obtain data and information from a corporate repository. The bill of material described previously identifies the elements required to support an access device used to obtain such information.

Just a few short years ago, the definition of access device would have been quite straightforward: a desktop or a laptop computer. However, the technology workers now use to perform their jobs has changed dramatically. These changes have not been driven solely by business requirements, which traditionally drive behavior; they have also been driven by the consumer market and the rapid adoption of various new technologies.

The important point here is that end users access information to perform their jobs in a number of extraordinarily variable ways. To manage lifecycle today means a focus on the following devices, just to name a few:

  • Desktops
  • Laptops
  • Tablet PCs
  • Handheld devices
  • Smart phones
  • Home devices
  • Printers
  • Thin clients

Access device diversity creates both actual and potential complexity. For end users, the diversity could mean more flexibility. The balance between device diversity, control, and flexibility will challenge most businesses. Do businesses strive for more control or more flexibility? A plan that allows end users flexibility while meeting company security and other controls (such as data backup and protection) is optimal, but always a challenge to define.

Today, when personal privacy issues, intellectual property protection, and regulations hold businesses and individuals more accountable for managing corporate information, device diversity could add more complexity, cost, and risk, making the decision process more difficult than anticipated. And as part the overall context (and complexity), most businesses are trying to constrain or reduce their IT expenditures.

One metric often used to indicate how well a business manages lifecycle is the ratio of PCs to end users. Obviously, the goal is to get to as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible. However, the real metric today should be the ratio of access devices to employees. This subtle difference recognizes the fundamental change in the client lifecycle management discipline and the fundamental change in discussing end-user access within a business.

Lifecycle costs and risk associated with a diverse portfolio of access devices drive changes in IT. Today, many businesses do not include the full range of access devices in a single portfolio. As a result, costs, risk, and resources are commingled with other expenditures and are difficult to isolate.

New technology may also alter the traditional separation of IT and network infrastructures. The demand for mobile access, for instance, is resulting in hybrid technologies that combine both IT and networking disciplines. For example, is a remote handheld device that has access to email a device that IT should manage or is it a device that the networking team should manage?

The organizational roles and responsibilities could begin to become blurred as mobility becomes standard within businesses.

PCs Are Not a Commodity!

One cogent business position holds that access devices in a business enterprise are not commodities. Others believe that the pricing of the device itself makes it a commodity, and to some degree that is correct. The big picture suggests however, that a PC is not a commodity.

You might be asking, if PCs are not a commodity, why is there so much governance regarding how a device is configured and deployed? And, if PCs are a commodity, why is there so much concern about their support costs? Another question is this: Why is there such concern about cleansing the information on the device before disposing of it.

The answer is simple: After a standard PC has been customized in any way, it loses all the characteristics of a commodity. That customization can even include the placement of the device within a business infrastructure.

The definition of commodity is often confused with consumable. This confusion inhibited lifecycle practices with regard to access devices for a long time. The idea that access devices are commodities suggests that you can take one device and, without change (or very minor changes), transfer the device just by changing where you the plug it in. In a business, however, users (and their access devices) have a profile, an image, retained data, and personalization that must be considered. Transitions are complex. Therefore, PCs (and other access devices) should not be considered merely commodities. Many businesses have yet to accept this fact, and therefore access device governance is perhaps less than it would otherwise be.

Price Does Not Equal Cost

One principle of lifecycle management holds that price does not equal cost. Typically, PC manufacturers and access device manufacturers price their products within a narrow bandwidth of other manufacturers’ prices. However, the manner in which the devices are acquired, deployed, managed, retired, and so on (all factors of actual cost) may be unique to the class of device.

If a Lifecycle-Management Change Cannot Be Quantified, It Won’t Happen

Lifecycle management in an organization requires that any proposed change to an existing stable current-state environment must be quantified; this quantification is necessary to get senior management to buy in to the change and support it in practice. Further, the quantification must be expressed in terms that reflect true dollar impact (that is, the balance sheet and income statement impact).

Many businesses sincerely believe in productivity gains, downtime measurement, reduced risks, and the benefits of end-user satisfaction. However, in actuality many businesses consider these types of impact “soft” costs. Soft costs cannot be directly related to the IT budget and financial statements and so are often overlooked. As a result, most business justifications that are based heavily on “soft” costs are not embraced as quickly as those that are based on a firm dollar relationship to the budgeting process.

Even in this area, perspectives are changing. It is now understood that productivity, downtime, risk, and other costs traditionally considered “soft” can be quantified, tracked, and measured. Due diligence is required to make a business case, but that is generally understood. Administrative regulations, laws, and corporate governance have all elevated the role that these “soft” costs play in justification of a business case.

Senior management generally tends to discount business cases in which “soft” costs are the predominant driver. If the “soft” costs are explained in terms of cost reduction and cost avoidance, however, this complementary positioning adds considerably to the business case. After all, cost reduction and cost avoidance still represent the cornerstone of most business cases for change.

In closed loop lifecycle planning, the focus is on “hard” cost impact: cost reduction and cost avoidance. Cost reduction shows up on both the balance sheet and income statement. Cost reduction impacts both the capital and expense categories of the IT budget. Cost avoidance focuses on those costs and expenses that might continue or might increase if change is not embraced. Cost avoidance is the category in which many of the entrance and exit costs show up.

It should be clearly understood that cost avoidance is not a “soft” cost; instead, it is similar to a cost reduction. Cost avoidance represents the financial impact and service level impact of not making certain lifecycle decisions (in other words, retaining the status quo).

One example of cost avoidance is a business decision not to acquire a management tool for imaging, but to continue the manual process of loading an image. If the requirements or volume increases, the alternative is generally to increase staffing. The increased staffing becomes a cost-avoidance categorization.

In a general context, many lifecycle elements can be addressed by “throwing more resources” at a problem area. The increased resources represent real costs and should be identified as a conscious decision not to avoid costs, but to increase the expense to address a certain issue.

Together, cost reduction and cost avoidance underlie the business case for lifecycle management. After these elements have been quantified, management must validate the reasonableness of the numbers so that the plan can be put into place to address and effect change.

Only after cost-reduction and cost-avoidance quantification has occurred does the impact of service levels and “soft” costs become fully relevant. In many cases, a higher service level can be achieved for less cost. In other cases, the service level may be modified to reflect the end-user requirements (as in the case of user segmentation).

Note, however, “soft” costs are playing a bigger role in the overall justification of more and more business cases. Businesses are learning that the “soft” costs can be more than merely subjective. This understanding reflects as much of a cultural shift as a business shift.

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