No matter what line of work you’re in or what job needs to get done, having the right tools is important. From painting a portrait to fixing a car to baking a cake, this rule is universal. The right tools help you do the best job possible. However, it is important to not confuse this rule with talent. Just because you have the right tools doesn’t mean you have any skill.
The most prevalent and important tools in the modern workplace are computers and software (including smartphones and tablets). The problem is that tools break, wear out and become obsolete. As I think through all of the people I’ve worked with from varying companies and organizations, a great many of them are plagued by obsolete computer systems. It seems the larger the company the worse the problem. Obviously money is the main reason organizations hold onto old computers for as long as possible and delay upgrading software. However, I have yet to come across an organization that understands that a good working system improves employee morale and retention. For example, at one particular consulting firm every employee worked on computer systems that consistently took too long to boot, minutes to launch software applications and open files. Not that there is complete correlation but it’s important to note that this company has a very high employee turnover and that the tools provided clearly indicate an organization’s appreciation and regard for its workforce. The problem worsens when the decision makers and the IT department are making purchasing decisions completely based on price and not performance.
In an attempt to effectively communicate the design department’s woes I translated this lost time into dollars. So imagine an employee working with a slow and obsolete computer averaging 30 minutes per day booting, starting software programs and opening files. Note that this would be 30 minutes above and beyond what a new faster computer would take to do the same task. Assume the average days worked per year is 220, resulting in 6,600 minutes wasted per year to bad computer performance and that the average employee costs the company roughly $0.66/minute (that’s about $85k a year in salary, insurance, etc). With this estimate for employee cost, which I consider on the low end, the total comes to $4,356 of wasted time and productivity each year due to outdated computers and software. Spread this cost out across 100 employees and you end up with $435,600 wasted yearly!
Throughout my career I’ve seen this issue debated from the perspective of a business owner, employee and client. It’s a hard argument to win when budgets are tight and during a tough economy. Business owners want to spend the least on equipment, employees get frustrated when they have to fight their computers just to do their job and clients don’t like being billed for unproductive time. If you’re having similar issues at work, you should try translating your frustration into dollars and cents. This will surely get the attention of management and possibly earn you a new system. Good luck!