Navigating IT Solutioning in a Supply Shortage World

By Ryan Benator November 3, 2021

How many times have you heard “long lead time,” “out of stock,” or “backordered” in the past few months? Vendors and IT professionals alike have had to get creative to solve the ever present challenges during this time of extreme demand and very low inventory.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the current supply chain issues plaguing just about every industry across the globe. Brought on by the manufacturing shutdowns during COVID-19 and exacerbated by other factors including worker shortages, inability to source raw materials and logistical issues, like truck driver shortages, has created a perfect storm where production simply cannot catch up to demand.  This is most notable in the tech industry, specifically due to the semiconductor chip shortages.

You or your business likely have already been affected by this chip shortage in some way or another.  The bad news is that experts expect shortages to continue into 2022 and may not return to normal until closer to 2023.  We are facing an unprecedented challenge in the tech industry due to these shortages. Using the term “unprecedented” may seem lazy, being that it was used to describe just about everything in 2020. However, there’s not a more appropriate word to describe the challenges it presents to customers over the next several months.  

As a Solutions Architect for ivision, it’s my job to help customers solve their IT needs. In many cases, this involves designing solutions that may require hardware purchases, usually within tight timelines and a limited budget. Hardware, that is typically reliant on these computer chips, thus creating backorders and delays stretching north of 200 days.  So how can we meet our customers’ needs amidst this global chip shortage? 

Here are 5 Ways to Deal With/Work Around/Beat the Supply Chain/Global Chip Shortage Issues:

1. Adjust your expectations

First and foremost, you have to understand the reality of the situation and try to be realistic. IT project work never really stopped when the pandemic hit.  If anything, it increased or rather shifted its focus. Companies suddenly had to rearchitect their corporate networks in order to support a completely remote workforce. Add in the fact that over the past 2 years, the number of high profile cyberattacks have increased at alarming rates, and you have just about every company focused on some type of network security initiative.   

Now, as companies return to the office or charge forward in this hybrid work from anywhere model, they are recognizing that their IT environments are overdue for modernization.  So, on top of the typical hardware lifecycle upgrades that most companies embark on every five to seven years, many organizations are ready to begin larger, transformative projects to keep up with the demands of this new technical landscape.

The bottom line is that many organizations have big things planned for 2022, and these big projects require resources – hardware, software, professional services –  all things that are being squeezed right now.  So, it’s important to adjust expectations from the beginning and determine if there are actual deadlines that will define timelines for a future project or whether there is flexibility to be able to plan ahead or even wait out some of these current delays.

2. Order now (or well in advance)

For project work that is planned for an early 2022 kick-off that requires hardware, these orders should be placed now (if not ordered already), as there may be risk of project delays if the inventory doesn’t arrive on time.  With lead times for some products extending out 200 days in some cases, it’s important to place hardware orders as soon as possible to avoid future project delays.  The goal is to try and time the orders so that even with the long lead times, it will ship at the intended project timelines.

We can also get creative with financing options to help the customer find ways to order the hardware now, but then be able to delay payments to when the product actually ships.  This is helpful for customers who want to order early to account for the long lead times but planned to fund the project with next year’s budget.

3. Do some research

Talk to different vendors or distributors to understand what products may be out of stock or have limited quantities available.  It’s also helpful to discover which products don’t have inventory shortages, as these can be leveraged as alternative solutions that still meet the overall requirements.  In some cases, it may be certain components, those add-on items that come with the base model, that are in short supply. For example, a secondary power supply that can be added on to a network switch.  The actual switch may be available, but that secondary power supply is out of stock, and therefore the entire switch doesn’t ship out until the secondary power supply is included.  When in reality, you could utilize the switch with just one power supply and then install the secondary power supply at a later date when it comes in.  So do some research, ask questions and figure out where the shortages are.  As a Solutions Architect, you have to have backup options available to go to.

4. Look for temporary options

If you are fully set on (eventually) implementing your first choice, but it’s still months out from delivery, there is another option that can serve as a temporary bridge until the new hardware arrives. Rental equipment or certified refurbished hardware are some non-traditional options that can buy you or your organization time while waiting out long lead times. 

Rental equipment or refurbished hardware is usually much cheaper and sometimes easier to source than net new equipment. Typically, this route is never going to be option #1, but knowing that it’s being used as a temporary solution to keep the project moving forward has some advantages.  Of course, this would create some additional work to swap out the temporary equipment once the new equipment arrives, but being able to meet project dates and deadlines may outweigh the extra maintenance windows.  Rental equipment provides the same opportunity but gets returned after the defined rental period and does not leave you with additional equipment to try and repurpose. The goal is to use these options as a bridge while you wait.  It is not recommended to use this as a long term solution.

5. Evaluate cloud-based options

And finally, if on-premises equipment is not a hard requirement, can these workloads or applications, that the solution is supporting, be performed in the cloud?  If the answer is yes, then you could potentially stand up servers or virtual instances within hours and bypass any hardware delays instantly.  This, of course, depends on how mature your current cloud environment is, but this should be evaluated as an alternative solution.  In fact, many companies are trying to move workloads to the cloud and reduce their on-prem locations to only user based offices.

As we wade through the next several months with these continued inventory shortages and delays, ivision is well equipped to help its customers find solutions that meet their technical requirements as well as their timeline.  Give us a call today to see how we can help you.