What IBM Switching to Mac Taught Me About Spending

Kind of a janky title right? Janky is a completely scientific term. At any rate, while perusing the interwebs the other day I came across some interesting information. The IBM company is now allowing employees to choose a Mac computer as their “kit” of choice. Options are a great thing to have. But the really interesting thing is that IBM noted it saves $535 dollars per Mac across a period of four years. That adds up to a hefty chunk of change considering that at the end of 2014 IBM employed 379,592 individuals (Barinka, n.d.). Assuming that all of those employees use a Mac and no hiring, firing, or attrition happened from 2014 onward (not likely), that would result in a savings of $203,081,720 by the end of 2018. That’s some pretty significant coin there. In fact, you could probably fill up a decent amount of Scrooge McDuck’s vault with that kind of cash. But the money savings here isn’t the only interesting aspect to the story.

Another statistic indicates that of the IBM employees that use a Mac 3.5% of them call for any type of support. On the flipside of that, 25 IT staff members were able to support 30,000 Macs across the organization (Evans, 2016). That’s truly impressive. There’s no other way to describe this except as being “lean”. As a last benefit, it turns out that employees were more productive because they now had access to what they felt were better tools.

Now, before the Apple fanboys are back in town it’s worth mentioning a few things that can be learned from IBM.

  1. Pay now or pay later. Either way, you’re going to pay. I do the majority of my writing on a MacBook Pro. I am not an Apple fanatic. In fact, I would describe myself as operating system agnostic. Before making the purchase I asked a few friends and colleagues what they thought of Apple’s machines. The consensus was that they’re pricey but of good quality: a worthy investment. IBM’s findings confirm that.
  2. Initial price is probably less telling than the overall cost across a period of time. When I was a kid my dad spent $200 dollars on a pair of shoes. I thought it was a poor investment. Guess what? He still has those shoes decades later and they’re still in great shape. Till this day, he likes to say he divides the total cost of the shoes by the number of times he has worn them. I suppose that makes sense. Going back to Mac versus Windows, it’s true you can get a capable Windows machine at a lower cost than a Macbook. But where’s the longevity? IBM’s findings are a little too compelling to ignore.
  3. Spend on people. IBM found that productivity went up because their employees felt they had nice tools to work with. People know when you care and invest in them. True, an investment doesn’t have to be a financial one. It could be time, mentoring, etc. But the point is that when people feel that you think they’re worth it, you’ll get great performance.
  4. Spend for convenience. This point I’ve taken out of my sister’s playbook. The fact is that when you buy a product, any product, you want it to work with minimal fuss. If that weren’t the case you would just skip it altogether and deal with a headache you were trying to alleviate in the first place. If you’re going to spend money, make sure there’s a convenience factor involved. Whether it’s tangible or intangible. Want an example? I don’t like changing the oil on my car. I pay someone else to do it because that’s time I’ve bought myself to either work on other projects or just plain old relax.
  5. Spend on things that make sense. Not what the trendy thing to do is. I sometimes go to Starbucks. Know what I’m instantly greeted by? A sea of glowing Macbook logos. I guess that’s the reason why there’s a romanticized notion of the freelance writer that does their work from a coffee shop. But, did that in any way influence my decision to go with Mac? Nope. Not in the least. In fact, it made me not want to get a Mac. The overall value is what sold me.
  6. Don’t spend immediately. IBM’s findings probably didn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it’s a good idea to let a bigger company validate an idea for you and then go with it. This is good business and personal sense. If the need you’re looking to fill isn’t pressing, give it some time and see if there’s a trend someone else discovers. Worst case scenario you were right about your initial impulse and simply delayed a smart purchase.

Overall, I think IBM is doing what’s right for it’s company. And that’s fantastic. Part of me cringes at the thought the Apple fanboys will have found their vindication in such a high profile company’s decision. But Shakira’s hips and numbers don’t lie (right up there with death and taxes).

Barinka, A. (n.d.). IBM Employee Count Falls for Second Year in Shift to Cloud. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-24/ibm-employee-count-falls-for-second-year-in-transition-to-cloud

Evans, J. (2016, October 19). IBM says it is 3X more expensive to manage PCs than Macs. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.computerworld.com/article/3131906/apple-mac/ibm-says-macs-are-even-cheaper-to-run-than-it-thought.html