It's becoming more obvious by the day: Many companies' laptop and desktop fleets are quickly becoming outdated, a consequence of their decision to hold off on PC refreshes in order to conserve cash during the 2009 recession. Looking ahead, many companies see 2011 and 2012 as investment years, part of broader efforts to update their old equipment and enable a new generation of technology-savvy workers.

Yet far too many sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals expect to simply dust off their old refresh RFP and still access both business innovation and substantial PC savings. This approach will be insufficient for several reasons: Not only must RFPs be updated to account for changes in the way PCs are used, but many market changes could also end up marginalising the sourcing professional's role. For example, changing from corporate-liable to individual-liable device programs can empower your employees, but it can be done without the involvement of sourcing pros. With the commoditisation of PCs driving prices lower, your next refresh cycle could even be eliminated if your company plans to introduce an individual-liable program that shifts the purchase responsibility to the employees.

Bottom line: New trends in desk-side computing beckon a change to traditional sourcing practices. With the growing popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs and an increased number of smartphones and tablets in the workplace, old RFPs may require a major overhaul and, at a higher level, discussions about the very meaning of mobility, technology and management strategy.

However, this change also represents an opportunity for the strategic SVM professional. To help SVM in efforts to align with business mobility demand and possibly increase the role of SVM in mobile device strategy, Forrester recently compiled the following list of opportunities for SVM professionals planning their next refresh. Not all of them may be the right option for your company, but it should give you some ideas on how to adapt to the changing environment:

1. Drive savings that affect your employees' pockets in an individual-liable environment

In the new world of BYOD models, companies can do more to provide ways for employees to purchase their devices by negotiating deals with new channels. Organisations considering a switch to individual-liable programs, for example, should talk to their resellers about rebate opportunities that can be made available to employees. If employees have more purchasing options - because sourcing has negotiated the best deal possible with a core set of strategic suppliers - they will have greater flexibility to purchase the best device while also maintaining cost savings for the organisation. This represents a win/win and yet another justification for the value proposition of BYOD. SVM professionals can also play a part in developing device management policies by including this as a purchasing option in their company's individual-liable device policy.

2. Negotiate contracts with an eye toward retired device management

Look to add value in individual-liable environments by coordinating efforts to collect retired devices. At the end of the device life cycle, sourcing should ask employees to participate in recycling programs, which promotes sustainability and corporate responsibility. These programs contribute to savings (companies can decide to pocket the cash or redistribute to employees participating in the BYOD programs), and programs offered by Dell, HP, IBM, Intechra, and Redemtech have proven to be successful. In the event your company decides to revert to a corporate- liable model, take note of the existing discounts you have, and negotiate them into the contract. For corporate-liable devices, some companies have trade-in programs established with resellers to refresh upcoming aged tablets.


3. Increase your purchasing power by including tablets

If your company is planning an RFP for laptops and desktops, consider including the rising demand for tablets in your purchase. Refine your tablet requirements by conducting a survey of your users - particularly your business unit leaders - to understand how they expect to use tablets in coming years. Many business leaders are now actively using tablets but purchasing them outside of centralised IT expenditures, leading to wasted dollars and "shadow IT" spend. Combining the tablets in your refresh RFP can also lead to additional savings with vendors, as you can use the increased investment to negotiate discounts. For Apple's iPads and HP's tablets, as an example, added purchase volume contributes to higher discount rates based off of volume purchase programs. Additionally, some resellers will be willing to offer a similar program based off of the increased investments you make with the reseller.

4. Include client virtualisation as a separate section in your PC refresh RFP

Some firms tie their client virtualisation investments into a PC upgrade/Windows 7 deployment, while others view VDI as an opportunity to extend the life of existing desktops another one to three years. Both HP and Dell can offer full packages (consisting of client virtualisation consulting, implementation, deployment, PCs, and tablets); therefore, you may be able to achieve bigger discounts while also taking the organization through just one wave of change management. One best practice for a client virtualisation RFP is to conduct (or support) a user segmentation survey to identify target users and define virtualisation requirements. These surveys show what user segments will be good candidates for virtualisation and allow you to better define the desktop computing environment that you can attach to your RFP.