A guest post from John Monroe, editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.
It’s only human nature: An old clunker of a laptop computer doesn’t seem so bad when money is tight. Especially to the manager who has to watch the bottom line and who doesn’t mind waiting two minutes for a PDF document to load.
It might not be ideal, but it’s good enough.
Many of us use the same rationale when it comes to buying a car. Faced with our own tight budget, we are willing to put up with a growing number of glitches until the cash outflow becomes intolerable – or the junker simply breaks down.
The problem is that in the workplace, such decisions might have unintended consequences. At what point does old technology go from being an inconvenience to being a productivity problem?
Unfortunately, it’s tough to put a price on productivity, while the price tag on a new laptop is visible for all to see. Putting off the inevitable purchase might only save a nickel here and a dime there, but do that long enough and it all adds up.
Worse yet, in the current budget environment – which might be getting much worse in the months and years ahead – “good enough” is likely to be an evolving standard, and not for the better.
Is your agency cutting corners on IT operations? And what are the unintended consequences?
Posted by John S. Monroe on Nov 18, 2011 at 7:26 PM2 comments
Home improvement doesn’t always keep itself to your preferred schedule. If your sink drain backs up beyond your ability to repair it, you call a plumber and pay the bill, even if it’s not an expense you had intended to incur.
This is something that the deficit hawks in Congress should keep in mind. As the so-called “super committee” faces a looming deadline to identify more than $1 trillion in cuts or else trigger even more draconian automatic cuts, they should not lose sight of the value of flexibility.
Lawmakers are fond of trying to cut “discretionary” spending, as if they imagine that term to describe pizza parties and other such frivolities. But discretionary spending is how much of the work of government gets done, and it’s where the flexibility to meet unexpected costs often comes from.
Although it’s obvious that some politicians want to cut the government down to its most essential skeleton – trimming the fat and most of the lean tissue, to continue to anatomical analogy – that would be a bad idea. Trying to cover emerging situations when you have no funding allocated to doing so ends up costing a lot more.
Posted by Michael Hardy on Nov 16, 2011 at 7:26 PM1 comments
Who in your department needs an iPhone?
Think about it: Who really needs one?
As mobile devices have proliferated, it's become increasingly common for federal employees to expect to get them on the job, either issued by the agency or at least supported by it. But the recent executive order that instructs agencies to limit the numbers they provide is likely to undercut those expectations -- and likely not to be the last such measure.
As we move into the new era of reduced funding, this kind of measure is going to become more common, and the wise manager will start thinking now about how to accommodate it. In this case, figure out who really needs a smart phone to do their jobs. You don't need to provide them for all or even many of your employees. It may be that only a small number of them actually need the functionality of an apps-laden smart phone. It may even be that nobody really needs one. In either case, providing them for only those who really need them saves money.
The order instructs agencies to "assess current device inventories and usage, and establish controls, to ensure that they are not paying for unused or underutilized information-technology equipment, installed software, or services." It also tells them to limit the number of devices issued to employees, consistent with the Telework Enhancement Act, which adds a layer of complexity to the question.
Nevertheless, it's a safe bet that this order is just the start of a new regime of limits. Rather than fighting it, take charge and get ahead of it. You'll be glad you did.
Posted by Michael Hardy on Nov 10, 2011 at 7:26 PM0 comments