I was surprised to hear this week that Sony will be discontinuing the production of floppy disks. Surprised because I haven’t bought floppy disks since Nirvana was topping the charts, and yet, someone, somewhere was obviously still getting some use from floppy disks, or they wouldn’t be selling them.
This idea of obsolescence tied in with a number of initiatives I worked on this week. With every penny scrutinized, minimizing spend on unnecessary items is the rule of the day. My experience has dictated that the challenge is identifying “unnecessary items”.
In years past, I’ve seen retailers cut costs by upgrading only the processor or the point of sale device itself, and opt to keep the old peripherals. This is particularly common in franchise based situations, and I can understand it – it seems like a waste to discard a printer, keyboard or LCD that may have good mileage on it, and, more importantly, the cost comes out of their own pockets. The benefit of experience has dictated to me that the savings of not replacing or upgrading peripherals as part of solution refreshes has a few unintended results:
- Peripherals take most of the wear and tear in a retail environment, and even on a service agreement, will fail more than the POS unit itself. Not replacing the peripherals means that reductions in service calls on new equipment are not as pronounced as with an entirely new system.
Result: increased system downtime and increased customer (and staff) inconvenience as aged peripherals fail.
- Most retailers utilize their point of sale equipment for 7-10 years. Peripherals will not stand up for 14-20 years without replacement, so they will have to be replaced before the POS end of life.
Result: Higher costs in the long run with missed savings on a decreased discount on a partial purchase, and a return visit and costs for peripheral installation.
- Screen and printer technology have come a long way in the last 10 years and older solutions stick out. Remember CRTs? Remember tiny Monochrome LCD’s? When you see ancient equipment in a retail environment, it leaves a negative impression of the organization.
Result: Aging infrastructure leaves a negative impression of your business and a missed opportunity to reduce energy usage with progress on items like 80 Plus power supplies
- New features are often available in peripherals that are not leveraged. Often no time is made by busy organizations to tweak software, settings or drivers. New interfaces like powered USB reduce the need for power adapters under the counter are an example of technology that tends to be overlooked because of legacy environments.
Result: While organizations are able to leverage homogeneity across their platform base for support purposes, they are unable to take advantage of new technology until the current base is so old that major change are required. This drives extra development effort and cost for updating the POS solution all at once, along with all of the pain involved in major shifts, instead of small incremental changes over time. It also means lost opportunities for enhanced functionality and cost savings that could result from upgraded or entirely new peripherals.
While the ongoing drive for cost savings, the persistent resistance to change and unrelenting workloads drive all organizations to avoid change, I encourage any organization to consider the incremental benefits of slight changes to their systems over time. A little pain now to change will certainly drive greater benefit in the long run.