In this time of limited budgets and over-stretched personnel, the last thing the CIO or IT director of a large organisation really wants to deal with is a major desktop migration. Changing the software on the laptops and desktops of thousands of employees, the vast majority of whom cannot function or generate revenue without them, is a task that few are likely to consider with relish.
But with Microsoft removing support for Windows XP in 2014, planning for a migration to Windows 7 is becoming an increasingly important consideration.
So what? Technically, the migration is apparently fairly straightforward. Yes, in theory the technical challenge associated with the migration is not overwhelming. Indeed, taken on a user-by-user or machine-by-machine basis, the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is relatively straightforward. However, it is believed that upwards of 40 per cent of applications will need some form of remediation. Furthermore, for any organisation with hundreds or thousands of users distributed across multiple sites and using perhaps hundreds of different applications, the process is a major logistical nightmare.
In fact, research organisation Gartner has predicted the cost of migration to be upwards of £930 per upgrade. And while some may find this excessive, it is in fact less than the cost incurred by one major financial institution during the NT to XP migration seven years ago: the actual cost was £1,370 per device, not including hardware replacement.
So what is the cause of this high cost? At the heart of the problem is the seemingly archaic approach adopted by organisations to preparing for migration. Why are companies with leading-edge technology implementations, supporting multi-billion pound businesses, reliant on just a handful of project managers squabbling over spreadsheets? By relying on spreadsheet-based information, this process could take as long as 18 months. Add in the further two years to undertake the actual migration process for several thousand laptops and desktops and the deadline is looming fast.
These organisations have typically invested heavily in business intelligence and data warehousing to transform business insight and drive excellent real-time decision making. Applying that same technology to a desktop migration process can transform the time and cost associated with the move to Windows 7.
Windows 7 is already on the desktop roadmap for most organisations and as every day goes by, Windows 7 expertise will become more expensive. Project management skills will become ever more scarce, and the business risk will escalate. Yet, today, Windows XP still powers about 75 per cent of commercial PCs within North America and Europe, according to Forrester. But just how many organisations have registered the time, cost and complexity of getting prepared for migration?
Barry Angell is chief technology officer at software development and consultancy services company Juriba