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  • Adam Walter

The Scrap Pile

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Episode 115

Whether it’s kept in a small box or storage shed, every IT worker has a reserve of old, “just-in-case” equipment on hand that they refer to as the scrap pile. If you’re a business professional who wasn’t aware this existed, just know that somewhere in your company, there’s a closet holding old tech treasures that may or may not be collecting dust.

These scrap piles can be extremely valuable and save your life when looking for a last-minute solution. But if your pile grows too large, it can be overwhelming and detrimental. As an IT person, it’s your responsibility to know the difference between hoarding ancient, unusable technology and keeping a strategic backup stash for emergency situations.

Back in the day, for example, Adam broke an old IBM laptop screen in half and rewired it to create a slideshow photo frame before they even existed. Once that technology became cheap and mainstream, however, he had a decision to make: does this half-IBM get thrown into the scrap pile, or does it get thrown into the trash?

In this day and age, you likely should only reserve your scrap pile for 3 a.m. crisis situations. Otherwise, if possible, buy something new that works right the first time to avoid hastily piecing things together and sacrificing quality.

That said, ensuring that IT workers have the proper budget and resources to do their job right often falls into the business’s hands. Owners and managers must be willing to fork over some cash to their IT departments so they have the tools they need to create streamlined, modern and long-term tech solutions without defaulting to their scrap piles. So, businesspeople: when you see an invoice from IT that seems larger than normal, trust that the reason is to make your company function at its best.

To take it even further, check in with your IT department often to see if any projects have had quick, halfway fixes lately. Ask, “Do you need a day to do maintenance or polish up on anything that was rushed?” “Do you need to buy any new wires and cables?” Adam and Skip guarantee this person will very gratefully say yes.

Your business will perform at its highest potential if IT’s job isn’t solely to put out one fire after the other until the next thing breaks. The more tools and time they’re given the first go-around, the better results you’ll see over time.

Years ago, for example, Adam was forced to jam a plastic spoon into a switch to hold cables together. If you touched the spoon, you’d reset the network. The company didn’t want to pay for the cable that could easily fix it; they instead simply told employees, “don’t touch the spoon.”

The point is, take care of your IT folks and buy the darn cable. Don’t make them use a plastic spoon. A malfunctioning tool is a loss to your business, so buying tech for the long haul is more than worth it.

As for IT providers, keep your scrap pile for when you need it, but make sure it’s as high quality as possible. Discard what you don’t need, but keep a variety of cables, USB ports, old laptops, etc. on deck for when chaos arises.

If the fields of business and technology can collaborate to give each other the time, effort and resources required to skillfully carry out their duties, companies can reach their fullest potential, run smoothly and stay ahead of the curve.

Be sure to listen to this episode’s Fail of the Week — “the shock of doom” — and stay tuned for the return of Tales from Around the World next week!

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