Assessing the costs and benefits of migrating to Windows 7 is practically impossible, according to CIOs at Computing's IT Leaders Forum yesterday.
Chris Puttick, consultant CIO for Oxford Archaeology, supports 400 users in five offices across the UK and France, all of whom currently use Windows XP.
Puttick told attendees that putting together a business plan for a migration project is essentially a waste of time.
"It just isn't possible to quantify the business costs and benefits," he said.
"What you will learn in the first three months is that your business plan is absolute nonsense. Lots of the impact of making a major change in an organisation like this is immeasurable," he added.
"If you roll out SAP and your company becomes more profitable over three years, was this because of SAP? Or was it because you had a new product out? Or a new advertising campaign?"
"I genuinely don't think you could say that the cost benefit can be as a result of something as small and as simple as an operating system (OS)."
Alan Bawden, operations and IT director for specialist recruitment company JM Group, plans to migrate to Windows 7 as and when business hardware expires.
He agreed with Puttick and suggested that the benefits will not come from the OS.
"In terms of lost or gained productivity with Windows 7 it is not something I will worry about, because it is not going to be the OS that makes the business money, it's the applications that run on it," said Bawden.
Bawden went on to explain that when he rolled out Windows XP as part of a hardware upgrade seven years ago, he depreciated the value three years later, and as a result it has been effectively costing the company nothing since.
"This was effective in managing the cost and I hope to do exactly the same thing with Windows 7 – roll it out, take the payment cost in the first four years, and then pretty much have a free ride after that," he said.
Paul Feldman, IS director for Cancer Research UK, where he has 3,500 users, has rolled out Windows 7 to 1,300 of these. He explained how the rest of the rollout is in progress and would be completed this year.
Feldman urged IT leaders not to worry about the costs and benefits, as Windows 7 is an inevitability for their business.
"At some point the change to Windows 7 is going to have to happen, and so I wouldn't put a lot of energy into the business case," said Feldman.
"I would argue that a lot of the costs are actually easy to quantify, such as the packaging costs, people costs etc. It is the benefits that are always difficult," he added.
"I am sure there are productivity benefits after you migrate, but I don't think you can quantify that in any measurable way. But I also think there isn't any point in spending too much time on a business case when upgrading is going to be forced upon you."