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Trust, quality, and alternate coverage models

By Patrick Schmidt 

I own a minivan. Yes, I left cool in the rear-view mirror a long time ago. The fact that I own a minivan is not that interesting, but it leads to an interesting story.

My family lives in a metro area with lots of stop and go traffic. We move kids around, go shopping, etc., and car parts wear out. Because of cost, I rarely use the dealership for repairs after the warranty period. So, after the initial set of brake pads wore out at about 32,000 miles, I had a brake job done at a well-known national chain. But I was surprised to learn that my brakes needed to be repaired again at just over 43,000 miles – only 11,000 miles later.

I asked the chain store manager about it and he asked me about my driving habits. He said it was probably all the stop and go traffic. OK, I could accept that. After another brake job (this time with pads AND rotors), I felt a bit more confident and watched how I was braking. Bad news, at 55,000 miles they were shot again.

What was going on here?

I asked my friends and neighbors who they trusted for car repairs. Nearly everyone told me about the independent, family-owned garage about block from my house. This was the same shop that I drove by each time to go to the national chain.

When I asked the service manager at the family-owned shop about the national chain he tried not to throw them under the bus but admitted they generally negotiate directly with manufacturers for the lowest prices on marginal products. It didn’t surprise him that I was only getting between 11,000 to 12,000 miles from their parts. He continued, saying his shop only used parts of at least OEM quality. Could I trust what he was telling me?

I took a chance and paid just a bit more than the national chain. The risk paid off when I didn’t return to the independent shop for a brake job until 81,000 miles – 26,000 miles later. The moral of the story is that I had never considered an alternate shop for car repairs because the national chain is famous for their brake service. But it turned out I could not trust the big name for the quality I needed. They had great marketing, but poor quality.

Just like my white, seven-passenger grocery-getter, sometimes an alternate coverage model makes sense for your IT environment. Perhaps your company has never considered varying from OEM maintenance. But implementing alternate coverage models can give you greater control over your IT hardware and software assets. Far from being a risk, many organizations are effectively implementing different approaches.

For example, sometimes IT enterprises become so complex with so many vendors, managing multiple contacts and service levels becomes a real headache. In this case, using fewer providers who can cover multiple OEMs can simplify your coverage. Some OEMs even offer maintenance on other OEM’s equipment. In addition, third-party maintenance (TPM) is very mature and offers a wide variety of options that can simplify your coverage.

By leveraging these other options, enterprises can adopt a hybrid coverage model where more recently acquired equipment stays on the OEM’s warranty or contract. For the older equipment, TPMs can be used selectively to extend the life of assets and control cost.

What about a self-sparing model? One use case is when IT assets are widely distributed or in remote locations. Consider this – A national network of radio stations places OEM high-failure spare parts at all 185 of their stations.  When an item fails, a lightly trained employee uses prewritten instructions called a runbook to replace the part. The benefit of speed to repair is augmented by control over access to their infrastructure.

Finally, some IT assets benefit more than others from an alternate coverage model. For example, community open source software is being used more regularly in enterprises of all sizes. The software is free, but the normal support model has the cost of time. Online searches and community forums don’t have a promised service level, may not return the right answers, and take valuable time away from other projects. Now, support from large, national providers is changing the open source community by delivering consistent service levels with tested and trusted solutions.  

In terms of my personal vehicle, I benefited greatly from taking the sound advice of others. Now, all my auto repairs are done at the local shop. In the same way, nearly every enterprise can benefit from a type of alternate coverage model. Today we have only discussed three, but there are many more.

If you would like to learn more about where they fit in your business, fill out the contact form below and one of our specialists will schedule a time to meet with you.

About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 20 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.