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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall Issue 2017 / Vol 40 No4

34 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S

34 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Dennis R. Cowhey Dennis, R. Cowhey, started Computer Insights, Inc. in 1981 and is currently COB. He served for many years on the Illinois CPA Society Computer Information Systems Committee. He is a frequent author of articles for Industry Trade Magazines. Before starting Computer Insights, he served as Central District Manager for a division of Litton Industries (now part of Northup Grumman). That company offered Inventory Control Systems to Retailers. Prior to that, he was a Credit and Financial Analyst for National Credit Office division of Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. He received his education at Chicago City College and DePaul University. COMPUTERS - A MOST UNUSUAL ASSET Computer System Depreciation There are a number of things that are odd about purchasing a computer system and trying to estimate its value. The federal government treats it as a fixed asset which in general means that it would be depreciated over a five-year term. There are exceptions where it could be depreciated on an accelerated basis. Actual Physical Value When it comes to the actual value of the system, it becomes much more complicated. The computer hardware itself will be technically obsolete in 18 months. By that I mean that the computer that you purchased will no longer be being produced 18 months later. A few years after that, parts will be hard to come by and the maintenance of the hardware would be more expensive than replacing it. Real Value - Priceless to Useless At the same time, the real value of the system including the hardware, software and support can range from priceless to useless. The reason for this, is that unlike many other fixed asset purchases, the computer system consists of a variety of “soft values”. These include the usefulness of the software, the quality of the support, the relevance of the software to the job at hand and the relationship that the buyer has with the software company. Compare this, to purchasing a table or desk. The table or desk have only their physical dimensions, appearance and basic functionality to consider. 10 years after you purchase them, they will be the same as when they were purchased with the exception of some normal CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE wear and tear. Their value is quite predictable and the performance to expect is clearly understood. Useful Software Useful software is software that has capabilities that would be considered adequate. An example of a useful program might be an off-the-shelf system that handles basic functions like accounting, billing and rudimentary inventory management. A system like that will take care of basic needs and probably won’t directly cause any serious damage to the company. The risk with systems like this is that company employees must do many workarounds to get their job done. This wastes time and creates an opportunity for errors to be made. These are real costs, but they are difficult to identify. Over time, using an off-theshelf system can cause your company to lower its service goals simply because it’s impossible to do any better with the software that is being used. Poor customer service can then cause customer relationship problems and even lose important accounts. CONTINUED ON PAGE 142

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