1. Plan for effective onboarding: Startup companies want their employees to be productive on their first day, but companies without a well-formulated onboarding process that includes hardware and software procurement and provisioning will slow down as they scale up. “We strongly advise that it be a conversation from day one,” says Mike Hogan, a mobility solutions architect with CDW. “For example, if you are going to purchase Macs, your organization should be utilizing Apple’s free deployment tool known as Apple Business Manager. In conjunction with a unified endpoint management solution, ABM allows you to deploy all Apple devices in a near zero-touch fashion and saves the IT department countless hours of work. If you set this up later, you may have to wipe every machine and redeploy them as new in order to use ABM.”
2. Identify employees’ specific roles: Not every employee is going to have the same technology needs. Some will need only what’s accessible through a web browser, and therefore a low-end laptop will suffice. Those doing more specialized work, such as video editing or software development, might need access to a high-performance laptop or desktop machine capable of tackling more graphically intensive jobs. While employee use cases may differ, they can be planned for ahead of time. “Employee ‘kits’ are what users needs to do their jobs every day, and they differ by job function,” Goddard says. “So from a budgetary planning perspective, it’s critical that you identify that pretty early.” By defining those use cases, startups can set up base configurations that can be provisioned whenever a new device or solution is needed.
3. Understand the logistics of device procurement: Startups knew a thing or two about remote work long before the pandemic, with many using distributed workforces by design. The ability to distribute preprovisioned hardware to various locations can help get teams up and running quickly no matter where they are. “In this world, users are all over the place,” says Nick O’Shea, high-growth startups manager at CDW. A third-party device configuration service that performs the work of provisioning and shipping devices can ease pressure on the small, overworked IT teams that are typical of startup companies.
4. Roll out device and access management: Given the nature of a startup’s growth, things can change quickly — people can leave, devices can be stolen, and security risks can emerge as a result. But building a device management solution with scaling in mind can help organizations gain a handle on this process. From a security standpoint, for example, device management makes it possible to easily give people access to application suites and just as easily close off that access if necessary, says Jason Kaser, manager for small business integrated technology solutions at CDW. That’s often more important than protecting the hardware. “As the company matures, they put in different safety protocols and measures around what it takes to spin people within the productivity suites and applications that the company uses to drive business,” Kaser says. “At the same time, it acts like a light switch — if somebody leaves, the company can just flip that switch and deny access to everything as well.”
5. Avoid burning through cash with hardware purchases: As startups experience more rapid employee hiring, equipping new users with the hardware and software they need becomes costly. “Startups should think strategically about expenditures that fall as capital expense line items in their budgets,” says Goddard. They should avoid using equity dollars on depreciating assets such as computers, monitors and servers. Remaining asset-light and investing in personnel, customer acquisition and R&D maximizes company value, Goddard says. “For startup operations, cash is king and burn rates are real. Through CDW’s startup program, we have very strong partnerships with financing companies who lend to startups by design, and we are successfully approving nondilutive credit facilities to companies who are sometimes even pre-revenue.” Startups should also look for special deals that technology providers such as Apple and Lenovo offer but don’t widely advertise.
For many startups, the need to scale up quickly in the face of heavy competition can be blistering. When it comes to equipping a growing staff with technology in an efficient and cost-effective way, it often helps to have a partner who has guided other startup companies down a similar path.