If you never actually own a server or a posh watch, shouldn’t it be the same for laptops and tablets?

DaaS cleans up balance sheets, makes techies’ lives brighter

Paid Feature It might have taken a couple of decades, but we’re now at a point where many tech professionals have moved away from the thinking that a server is something they have to “own.” The growth of the cloud has seen to that.

Even on-prem infrastructure is increasingly seen as something that can be used, managed, and controlled, without being bought outright.

However, when it comes to personal devices, things get… well, personal. End users can become unaccountably attached to “their” device – or alternatively see an unsatisfactory PC or laptop as emblematic of everything that’s wrong with their employer.

As Lenovo’s worldwide Device as a Service leader Rob Makin says, a laptop or a tablet is not a multi-tenant device, like a server. When an individual is not using it, say at the weekend, it’s not like the organization can utilise it for something – or somebody - else.

Of course, “leasing” has long been a part of the tech scene. And one of the key benefits of leasing is the ability to move tech expenditure from CapEx to OpEx. But that does little to improve the utilisation or management of end user devices. Or to alleviate the frustration of the user stuck with a sub-par device, or the frustration of the support staff whose time is swallowed up keeping aging or inadequate kit working.

And, as Makin explains, leasing does nothing to help CIOs manage their estate better. If anything, leasing companies’ ideal state is a combination of their draconian Ts&Cs and clients’ inefficient management. If companies don’t hand back kit, the leasing company continues to benefit – whether the company is benefiting or not.

The answer is to combine the hardware element, with the software and services required to get the most out of it, both for individual users and their employers, and offer it for a single monthly fee. You might even call it ‘Device as a Service’. Which is precisely what Lenovo has done.

Though it launched several years ago, the combination of the pandemic and the disruption it has caused to traditional corporate support models, together with the embedded functionality in Windows 10 and now Windows 11, as well as Microsoft Intune, has accelerated its adoption.

One of the starting points for Lenovo’s approach, says Makin, is personal management, “making sure you have the right device, for the right person or organisation, then considering how that device is actually procured and ordered, whether it's a new starter or a refresh.”

Because Lenovo’s range of products and services are presented as a catalogue under DaaS, tech pros can tailor devices for individuals or groups, “Then the device gets built, and the services that are required such as image load, asset tagging, any software, are put onto that device.”

Doing as much as possible before the device leaves the factory is far more efficient than customising further down the supply chain. “Every time you touch a box in the supply chain it costs money.”

Turn on… and that’s it

Of course, the supply chain still has to stretch to the customer. In “normal” times, this would overwhelmingly be to the end users’ office, whether in the shape of a steady trickle of workers to a harassed IT team, or perhaps to a kiosk in the foyer of their building for a large-scale rollout. Now, Makin says, delivery is overwhelmingly to end users’ homes.

This radically changes the support equation. Lenovo’s aim is to make deploying a laptop more like buying a cellphone, where “You turn it on and you log on to your appropriate operator using the cloud, whether it be Google or Apple, and then all of a sudden, all of your old apps are there with your data.” Rather than waiting for IT to transfer all the end user’s data, while they go for a coffee. And another coffee. And another until the transfer is done.

In the current battle for talent, putting fresh kit into people’s hands and offering a better user experience, might be enough to tip the balance when attracting key talent, he argues, depending what point they’re at in their career.

“There's nothing worse than starting a job, and someone gives you a four year old laptop out of the back of the cupboard somewhere that looks like it's been dragged around the back garden by someone's kids for four years.”

With the best will in the world, of course, sometimes people will still need support. One of the promises of Lenovo’s DaaS programme is the loving attention of “elite” technicians via their Premier Support service. So what makes an elite technician? As Makin says, while it can be difficult to define the perfect techie “I know what a good one looks like.”

But in practical terms, “we would recruit what would be a skill set of a level two tech to perform a level one function.”

On the face of it, this is more expensive. “But what it gives us is a better user experience, and a quicker one time and first time fix. So, if we can fix something quicker, first time, that actually saves us money because we don't have to keep coming back.”

And that one fix capability will be refined even further over time, as the program begins to embrace predictive analytics, which will enable predictive and proactive maintenance.

But while an improved user experience is desirable, hard financial savings are a given to get organizations to embrace such a radical change to how they procure end user kit.

There should be an immediate benefit from moving to an as-a-service model, as expenditure moves from capex to opex. This should offer an immediate benefit tax wise. It also removes the whole issue of large capital outlays to bring a team up to spec and makes costing client kit more predictable.

Going round in circles… in a good way

Arguably, the same would apply with traditional leasing. But that hasn’t always been the experience for many companies, with leasing companies happy to leave inappropriate kit in place, and continuing taking the payments.

Lenovo’s aim is to establish a “circular economy” around tech assets, says Makin: “The way that DaaS is structured, it drives a fair market value for the product over the 36 or 48 month period where you as the customer are actually not paying that full amount for the device, so you've got a monthly OPEX savings.”

Lenovo, he continues, takes a residual value at the end of the period. “We then take that value, and we allow that saving to be passed on to the customer. You’re not owning these devices anymore. You’re consuming it as a service.”

Lenovo’s program features a flex element, allowing customers to scale their “fleet” up or down. For example, “if you've got peaks and troughs and demands, grad intakes, project based work or general uncertainty, you can then actually have up to 20 per cent of your fleet where you can end up not paying for these devices for up to two years. The billing is paused.”

Asset management is a major headache for tech teams. Makin recounts a conversation with a client with 100,000s of devices who simply didn’t know where 10 per cent of them were at any given time. Or, more worrying, what’s on them. “DaaS tightens all of that up.”

Of course, the total benefit will vary. Some customers will choose to take up some of the services available under DaaS and not others. As Makin points out, “We’re not tax advisers”. But the DaaS model does enable savings and efficiencies right along the line. In aggregate, “we see at a TCO level up to 20 per cent savings.”

But arguably, the biggest benefit is freeing up IT staff and repurposing them into different areas. In-house staffers who are doing manual refreshes, or dealing with unhappy users, or walking from one desk to another to upgrade memory, are not available for supporting a strategic transformation.

Being freed from the treadmill of routine maintenance should result in a much happier tech team, as well as happier more productive users. The fact that Device as a Service means that they, too, can have the latest, most appropriate kit to help them do their jobs? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Sponsored by Lenovo.

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