Technology continues to play an important part of our business landscape—and a critical part of besting your competition—but, at what cost? Trying to match budgets with the tools and technology your users need to succeed is getting tougher every year.
To help you sort through the carefully-worded marketing material from office equipment suppliers and vendors we’ve asked thousands of procurement veterans how to get the most bang for your buck. What these equipment-buying pros told us is this…you need to focus your decision making and buying information on the traditional equipment procurement cycle of 5 to 7 years.
Frame your purchasing decisions by examining your traditional buying cycle (typically 5 to 7 years, although yours may differ) and determine the equipment and contract changes advances that have occurred since your last purchase(s).
Equipment Technology Advances: technology advances exponentially, so the machine you purchased last time around may not even remotely resemble the ones on the market now. The added bells and whistles (features and functionalities) have moved office technology closer to computers than what we think of as our traditional office devices. These computer-like devices are growing quickly, with rapidly increasing processing power. These features not only offer powerful capabilities to your users, but there is another, surprise, benefit: despite these drastic equipment improvements, many hardware and service costs have been reduced due to increased competition amongst vendors.
New Developments in Contracts:
This decreased hardware and service costs come at a price. In recent times we’ve seen a shift in office equipment costs, from front-end loaded expenses to back-end service costs. In order to offset these decreasing hardware costs, suppliers need to create clever service contracts that allow the service provider control over the devices’ service. These changes in the terms and conditions of contracts are ways for suppliers to include hidden fees and added surcharges—to help them recoup margin they lost on the front end.
How To Navigate This New World
Navigating this new technologically-enhanced procurement world can be tough, which is why we’ve put together the 5 most-critical questions to ask from our panel of experts; questions to help you cut out the guess work and make sharper purchasing decisions:
Question #1: Parts…Will the parts and supplies used for the entirety of the contract be Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or third-party?
Before signing your life away to a service contract, ask them what type of parts will be used in the service of your devices. Aftermarket parts are lower cost than their OEM counterparts, but not necessarily of the same quality. They may also void parts of the device’s warranty.
Question #2: Replacement Responsibility…Who will decide if/when equipment needs to be replaced?
If a device is beyond fixable and needs replacing, who decides if and when a device should be replaced: you or them? Of course you will want yourself as the decision maker, and they will want them to control replacement decisions—but perhaps clearly defining what classifies as being “in need of immediate replacement” could be reached prior to signing a contract.
Question #3: Security…What security/safeguards are included?
Seeing as office equipment are practically (if not completely) computers, it stands to reason that you need to protect them just as you protect your PCs with antivirus. Ask your vendor, pre-purchase, what security protocols are included with their contracts. Ask if these will be component-based or full-system security.
Question #4: Data...How will your system’s hard drive information be handled? Hard drive handling and disposal is important to securing your company’s sensitive information, so ask how your service provider will dispose of sensitive data. Will it be done by them personally or by a third-party provider (who may not be required under your contract with your service provider to be data-sensitive)?
Question #5: Hidden Fees…What Additional Fees are Required in the Contract?
Ask the service provider to highlight every fee in the contract. Then comb through each one to know exactly what you will be paying. Pay special attention to provisions for the following charges:
- Printing, copy and impressions costs that are associated with technicians’ diagnostics and equipment testing
- Charges for two 8.5”x 11” impressions for a single 11” x 17” copy
- Fees for the shipping and delivery of toner and/or toner cartridges, including returns and recycling fees.
The above 5 questions gleaned from the experience of our panel of procurement veterans are sound advice—but are still just the tip of the office-equipment-procuring iceberg.
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