At Solid Systems, we believe in exceptionally human customer service, in going above and beyond to help your business in every way that we can. And sometimes, that means that we make complicated processes, like acquiring hardware, look like a piece of cake. But in reality, every email you send, every request that you make, goes through a process that runs like clockwork. And sometimes exceptionally human service takes time to achieve.
Procuring hardware is one of those processes that often takes more time and human intervention than your business might imagine. Which is why we thought we’d break the process down to give you a good understanding of what happens in the background.
The SOLID Journey For Procuring Hardware
Because Solid Systems isn’t a physical store like Game or Incredible Connection, we don’t keep hardware in stock. Every item that you request is sourced from our suppliers, and delivered to our office for setup, or to your doorstep when no setup is required. The process is far more like ordering a device off Takealot.
1. You Request A Piece Of Hardware
Maybe you’ve got a new team member starting and need to get a new laptop. Or perhaps your headset, mouse, keyboard or webcam has given up the ghost. If you live in South Africa, there’s a good chance that you may be looking into backup power like a UPS, generator, or inverter solution, especially since Eskom recently announced that loadshedding is likely to continue for at least the next two years.
Whatever the case may be, you know that you can rely on Solid Systems to find you the right hardware solution. You send through an email request, and our Sales team jumps on it.
2. Our Sales Team Gets You A Quote
At SOLID, we work with a number of different suppliers. This means that we are often able to find you the best possible quote on a piece of hardware. But it does take time. Each supplier has their own processes in place for quoting, which can at times lead to delays. We need to get in touch with suppliers, find out who has stock and at what prices, and from there we can put together a quotation for you. This will usually come through within one working day of your request being received, but it is also dependent on your Service Level Agreement, since we are often inundated with requests for quotations that need to be prioritised.
And I know what you may be thinking – sometimes our quotes are a bit higher than you might find at Takealot or Game. But it is worth bearing in mind that when you organise hardware yourself, you are also responsible for that hardware’s maintenance and warranty. If anything goes wrong, you will need to deal with the supplier yourself. Whereas when you get hardware through Solid Systems, we handle warranties and returns on your behalf, reducing your risk and your stress levels substantially.
3. Quotation Approval
The next step in the process is getting your approval for the quotation. Sometimes we are able to offer exactly what you need the first time around, and you’ll approve the quote within an hour or two. Other times, there may be back and forth as we try to find you the best possible solutions which also fit your budget. More often than not, the person requesting the hardware is not the person who needs to approve the quote – it will be passed along to a manager for approval.
This is one of two areas where orders often get delayed. We unfortunately aren’t able to place orders with our suppliers without your approval, and the longer this takes, the longer it takes to get your hardware to you.
4. Accounts Sends You An Invoice
As soon as a quotation is approved, the order is processed by our system and our Accounts team is asked to generate an invoice for you. You can expect an invoice to arrive within one working day of your quotation approval.
5. Invoice Payment
This is the next step in the process that often leads to delays.
If you have a contract with us which includes terms for payment, our Procurement team can order the hardware from our suppliers straight away. But for those clients who don’t have payment terms, we need to receive payment before we can place your order with the suppliers.
In the same way that the person requesting a quote for hardware is often not the same person who can approve it, it’s often the case that payments need to go through your Accounts team or your Accountant. Sometimes this takes as little as an hour, other times it can take up to a month.
Every quote that we send through includes an estimated delivery time, but for clients who don’t have payment terms with us, this delivery estimate only applies after we receive payment for the hardware invoice.
6. Procurement Places The Order With Our Suppliers
As soon as payment has come through for your invoice, our Procurement team places the order with our suppliers.
In cases where an invoice has been paid within a few hours or days, hardware will usually still be in stock and available to be shipped. But in cases where payment has taken weeks or months to come through, our suppliers are often unable to keep stock on hold, or the pricing for the hardware may fluctuate, which may result in the hardware needing to be requoted or sourced from an alternate supplier.
7. Our Suppliers Deliver – Either To You Or To Us
In the same way that we are not a retailer like Game or Incredible Connection, our suppliers also don’t necessarily have stock on hand. It will often be stored in warehouses in either Cape Town or Johannesburg, and needs to be retrieved from the warehouse before it can be sent out for delivery. In cases where the stock is stored in a warehouse in your city, delivery can happen over the course of two or three business days. If it needs to be transported from another city, it will take more time to arrive, and the estimate may be 4 to 6 working days instead. In cases where we need to import hardware, the ETA can be between 4 and 6 weeks, and in these cases fluctuating exchange rates can lead to small adjustments in pricing.
In most cases, hardware gets delivered to our offices for setup. The benefit of this is that we will then have the opportunity to configure it where necessary, ensuring that when we bring it to you, it’s ready to be plugged in and work right off the bat. But this isn’t always necessary. There are plenty of hardware devices that don’t need setup or configuration and can be delivered to you directly without an IT pro being need.
7. An IT Pro Is Allocated For Setup
For devices that need to be configured, or which need to be brought through to your offices by one of our IT pros, we need to make sure that the right person is available and set aside time in their diary.
One of the first steps when our IT pros receive the hardware, is that they’ll send through an onboarding form for you to complete. This is an opportunity for you to let us know the details of who will be using the hardware, which apps need to be installed if it’s a laptop or tablet, and any unique setup that you might require.
Because our IT pros have multiple appointments, meetings across the city, and emails that they need to answer, they will not always have a block of time available to configure the device and come through to your offices straight away. This is why you can expect an IT pro to deliver your hardware within 3 working days of your onboarding form being received.
Sometimes We’re Able To Work Some Magic
As you can tell, an 8 step procurement and delivery process can take quite some time to accomplish. If everything goes smoothly, with minimal delays in quotation approval and invoice payment, it can still take 6 to 8 working days for hardware to be quoted, procured and arrive at your offices.
But the fact is that if there is a way to get it done quicker, we go out of our way to make sure that it happens. We pull rabbits out of hats on a regular basis and somehow manage to make sure that hardware arrived within the same week that it’s ordered. But this is the exception rather than the rule, and every small delay in the process makes it less likely that we’ll be able to accomplish an early delivery.
With this in mind, we always encourage our clients to order hardware as early as possible. If you need a laptop for a new hire, it’s best to order it as soon as their contract has been signed, rather than waiting until the end of the month when they start on the first. If you are looking at getting a power backup solution, don’t wait until your UPS crashes. In fact, loadshedding has caused such high demands for power units that they are flying off the shelves, and the ETAs from our suppliers are weeks rather than days for these devices. Ordering your hardware as soon as possible will make sure that we can get it to your with as few delays as possible.