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How to Plan a Successful Hardware Refresh

It is inevitable that all the hardware you own will reach end-of-life, end-of-support, or simply stop working. All IT equipment eventually stops working, and if you wait for it to stop working before you replace it, the device will die at absolutely the worst time. Timing makes a bad event like disaster recovery even worse when the backup SAN, router, server, or whatever dies during a disaster event. To avoid bad timing on top of bad events you, need a thorough hardware refresh plan that is accepted by your IT, finance, operations, and risk management teams.

As an IT leader engaging many other parts of the organization in your hardware refresh planning and plan adds additional views, requirements, resources, and support to the process and the outcome. Moreover, a plan developed with the input of many functions will earn executive approval much faster than the plan you imagined while sitting at your desk after lunch one Thursday. As someone who started my IT career on the infrastructure side, I can say that of all of the plans I submitted for executive approval, those with cross-functional input and buy-in were approved faster with fewer questions and less financial Q&A drama. As someone who now approves or recommends plans for approval, external engagement across the organization is one of the first things I look for in a hardware refresh plan. If a plan for anything in my organization is developed in a silo, the odds that it will be approved are about the same as winning the lottery. Yes, it happens but only for a very few.

So what might your hardware refresh plan look like or include?

First, ask around for any prior approved plans that might serve as a template or even better, a plan that is lacking implementation but already has approvals and funding to support the hardware refresh. No one needs to reinvent the wheel. COVID caused a lot of plans to slip and asking is doesn;t hurt. If you find a plan that was approved but not funded, start with that as the template to update and request funding. The fact that a plan was approved then paused or had money removed indicates that the plan itself met executive requirements. If no plan exists, you get to start from scratch, which is not a bad thing since the outcome will be your plan and address the things your organization needs now.

Starting from Scratch

To begin a plan from scratch, you need an inventory. While that is an obvious place to start, many organizations do not have an accurate asset inventory. Your new or updated inventory will also need a few bits of additional data including purchase date if you can find it, end-of-life and end-of-service dates from the manufacturer’s website. Also include any date when the manufacturer will not support your item even for an additional fee, think Windows XP. Note, you want to gather as much of this data as you can before engaging cross-functional team members. They will not want to do this part. That said, you might get a lot of useful data from the finance team such as purchase date, lease end dates, planned disposal dates, etc.

With inventory in hand, you can begin to engage other teams. As you decide which teams to engage, I suggest teams that go deeper than everyday users. All users want new equipment. The functions listed above including finance, operations, risk management can serve as a good baseline. Finance has all of the asset data and understands organization cash flow as well as the content of plans that include new spending, so they can offer insights for developing your plan. Operations understands the logistics of moving equipment, where the highest concentration of employees may be, and how the balance of work from home demands will be evolving in the coming year. Risk management including people like the CISO and team understand the risk of outdated equipment with security holes that cannot be patched or for which no patch exists. One other team member to consider adding to the process is your external equipment vendor partner. You are going to need pricing, availability, insight into new models replacing current offerings, and other information to help you select the appropriate new equipment for your organization, and while Internet pricing offers a SWAG, your hardware replacement cost cannot be based on a SWAG.

With your team assembled and inventory in hand, you will now select an approach to support with your business case. Will your approach be to replace the oldest equipment first? Perhaps you will replace the most vulnerable, least secure, equipment first. You might even decide to nudge your plan toward approval by starting at the executive level then moving to an alternative approach. Whatever your cross-functional team decides, it’s a win for you and the organization because some new equipment be requested and you as the IT leader will have support from other functions.

With an agreed approach, make your first assessment to understand how much of your current inventory needs to be replaced. Hint, if the number is 100%, you need a different approach. Just as important, define how much of your inventory does not need to be replaced, and the time frame when it will need to be replaced. By creating your “good until this date” list, you can help your executive team understand that you are not just pointing out problems, you are trying to solve a legitimate business need. Moreover, you will know where the team does not need to focus.

The Elements of a Successful Refresh Plan

Now your team has to answer the question how much at once? You cannot replace everything on the focused list at one time. Finance and Operations can provide insight into realistic funding, resource availability, and other potentially limiting factors. Those insights improve the odds that the plan will be approved. Combined you will have a prioritized need list, a financial reality check, and a logistics capacity. Those are the elements of a successful hardware refresh plan.

One more thing – if you do not have Project Management capacity, your hardware vendor partner might be able to help with resources from a simple ordering schedule to a part-time project manager to ensure equipment is ordered and shipped at the appropriate time, to an hourly rate Project Manager to facilitate the whole implementation. Adding a resource like this to your implementation, even if there is a fee, also adds inside connections with your vendor partner for things like manufacturer ship dates that might be slipping, or a collection of other working knowledge that requires being a step or two closer to the manufacturer. If you can, try it. Some of my more successful upgrades were managed by vendor partners.

A Final Thought.

Reading the title of this posting you might have expected a nine step process to migrate your old hardware including which hardware to replace first, how long the process should take, or some other step by step guide. That content is not here because an approved and funded hardware replacement plan is only step one. No money, no new hardware.

If you’re looking for assistance with your IT deployment projects, contact the certified IT experts at iT1 today.


Dr. Mike Lewis serves as Chief Information Officer, EVP of Informatics, Security & Technology for Trillium Health Resources, a managed-care organization serving more than 350,000 members in North Carolina. He earned his Doctor of Management degree from George Fox University and is a former MBA adjunct professor at Maryhurst University. Mike has worked in the IT field for more than 25 years with stints at IBM, Merisel, and Dell.


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