Monday, 8 December 2014

Do you Remember 1997?

Honestly, people think I am making it up. Whenever I go out to an appointment I find someone sitting at a desk with a growing pile of redundant IT equipment piled up in a corner, or in a cupboard or in a corner of their warehouse.

It’s true, I promise. Try it for yourselves, or look at your own office. (Then call me to remove it, you know it makes sense!).

It is not just small businesses either. Local government offices, schools, doctors, one seems to know what they should be doing with their old stuff so they put it somewhere, because keeping it seems the safest option I suppose.

And here’s why. I think. I priced a major job this week, which is to remove some equipment that originally cost not far short of £750,000. I know this because I was provided with the purchase price as part of the tender information. The fact that some of it dated back as far as 1997 was not particularly relevant (not to mention unusual, but specialist kit) and the sums were still sizeable.

I would imagine that replacing them will be considerably more expensive. Double? Let’s settle for double, so a £1.5m procurement project, and going out the back door at some stage will be the old stuff for considerably less.

However, the client will need to be encouraged to forget he paid £750k for this stuff and reminded that some of it is seventeen years old.

In 1997 John Major lost an election to Tony Blair. Diana, Princess of Wales died in that Paris car crash with Dodi Fayed. The Spice Girls won a Brit award for ‘Wannabe’. Channel 5 was launched to give the UK five television channels. Michael Hutchence of INXS died. Titanic, Jurassic Park 3 (Lost World) and Men in Black (One) were the three highest grossing movies.

In short, it was a bloody long time ago.

We have a pile of old computers behind our desks for several reasons. One is we know we can’t just throw them away. So it is not straightforward. Secondly we are not sure who to call, and thirdly and perhaps most importantly, we have this nagging suspicion that we are throwing away something that still has considerable value.

Well let me tell you something about second hand value. It changes, FAST. My son loves his Xbox and when FIFA 13 came out we had to replace his first 360, because the new game needed more memory than the old box possessed. Annoying but that’s progress, so a new one was purchased and I managed to sell the old one on EBay to a nice couple who wanted it for their 5yo, and who would be using much less memory hungry games. I got £20 to put towards the outlay on the new Xbox 360 I had just shelled out for.

Then this year, twelve months later, the son and heir announces that all his friends now have Xbox One and that he wanted one immediately, but if I insisted it could be his Christmas and birthday present, as long as he could have it straight away. Considering it cost double the price of my first car I readily took him up on his kind offer. I also hoped I might get some of my outlay on the one year old Xbox 360 back by finding another bargain hunter.

But the market had changed. It was not just my lad who had been attracted by the idea of the Xbox One and no one wanted our old hat 360. No value. None. Diddly squat.

My point is that it does not matter how old your kit is. The laws of supply and demand still apply. If you know anything about accountancy you will understand the concept of depreciation. IT kit will commonly be depreciated over 3 years, maybe 5 if it is a considerable investment and you can make a good case for its lifecycle being that long. Not seventeen years. You would have to be very convincing to get that one past the auditors.

If anything electrical has lasted that long you have had your monies worth and some. So this is junk that you need to dispose of, hopefully responsibly, and if there is a data bearing device in amongst your own particular pile you need to do it properly to be data safe. That is the thing that has the value now and it is yours to lose and abuse if you choose!

That is going to cost. It is a bit Paul Daniels (Not a lot) but as I have already stated in previous blogs this is actually about risk management. The fact is that unless you are upgrading something that is only a year or two old, or that you know is very high end kit, it is unlikely to have huge value. And my point is that is not what this is all about.

We recycle to make the continued production of IT equipment sustainable. That is the point. EReco and other companies like us work really very hard to keep the whole shebang out of landfill and to do it at the smallest possible cost for you. Sometimes we manage to eradicate the cost and sometimes we manage to give you some money back, but that is not the idea.

That is the message we need to get over. The recycling bit is the important bit, not the cost, or the pennies you might get back. The data bit, which is the bit that can really cost you, is purely and simply risk management.

I am not ashamed of being light green. Light, or probably lite, because at the end of the day making IT equipment at all is probably not a great thing to do environmentally if we are honest, but once you accept that we have to do it, we do actually need to make it sustainable. And I think business is forgetting that in general.

The corporate world really does have a conscience, somewhere. Lots of businesses big and small do really nice, even great things for charity and their local communities. But of course when we do them there is a part of us thinking that will look good on the website, build the brand or whatever. I don’t think we should necessarily be ashamed of that; it is our job after all.

But there are some things you cannot get publicity for. Well, not good publicity at any rate. Incur the wrath of Genghis Khan (The ICO, for those who have not been keeping up) and you will get all the bad publicity you ever need, I promise. And disposing of your waste (for that is what it is) responsibly and data safe is one of them.