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With limited budget and a fast shrinking team, the last thing the CIO or IT Director of a large organisation really wants to deal with is a major desktop migration to Windows 7.

Changing the software on the lap & desktops of thousands of employees, the vast majority of whom cannot function or generate revenue without them, is a task, measured in years, that few are likely to consider with relish. But with Microsoft removing support for Windows XP in 2014, planning for enterprise migration to Windows 7 is becoming an increasingly important consideration.

Windows 7 and Juriba

So what? Technically, the desktop migration is apparently fairly straightforward. But Gartner estimates the migration will cost upwards of $1500 per device. Skills will become ever harder to attain as the deadline approaches, pushing costs up further, and this process needs to be completed without business risk and with minimal business disruption in a constantly changing desktop environment.

Enterprise-scale organisations simply do not have the time or resources to waste on inefficient desktop audit, discovery, planning and project management processes that can take upwards of 12 months simply to define desktop migration requirements. It is time to put some intelligence into desktop migration.

Migration Reality

In April 2014, Microsoft will withdraw support for its Windows XP operating system. And, despite the messages about the technical simplicity of the XP to Windows 7 move, as those involved during the last mass Microsoft migration – from Windows NT to Windows XP – will attest, the process took longer and cost more than could ever have been expected.

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 enterprise migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is relatively straightforward. However, it is believed that upwards of 40% 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.

Research organisation Gartner has predicted the cost of migration to be upwards of $1500. 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 $2,200 per device, not including hardware replacement.

Given the fact that every CIO remains under incredible budgetary pressure and that virtually every IT department has shrunk significantly in recent years, understanding the cost, complexity and extent of this desktop migration is key.

Understanding Migration

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 upon just a handful of project managers squabbling over spreadsheets? This approach can only lead to delay, escalate business risk and cause unnecessary business disruption.

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.

Without doubt the fact-finding phase of the process is arduous: companies need to ascertain the status of every single user – from hardware and applications to business unit drivers. Understanding this aspect is key to prioritising migration effort, assessing which applications require remediation and accurately assessing cost.

Yet 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 lap & desktops and the deadline is looming fast! It is this preparatory aspect of the migration programme that companies consistently underestimate. And by failing to adequately plan for a desktop migration process that has to occur in tandem with the complexity of change that happens on the desktop environment on a daily basis – from joiners and leavers, to break/fix events or the provision of new applications to a user group – organisations are incurring unnecessary risk and user disruption.

In contrast, by replacing the inaccurate spreadsheet-based recording of desktop status with a single data warehouse and business intelligence tool, organisations can remove the vast majority of debate, argument and, critically, delay. With a single source of information it is easy to undertake scenario planning, to assess the benefit of moving one set of users over another; or to understand the impact of an application not being ready for Windows 7 migration as expected.

With this insight, organisations minimise business disruption by ensuring users are not migrated before all the required applications are available. Furthermore, with a single source of usable, intuitive information, the migration can be undertaken by a far smaller pool of less skilled individuals, significantly reducing costs. Overall, the time taken to prepare for migration can be reduced by an estimated 20%; whilst organisations with this strong information foundation can then leverage automation to drive further time and cost savings throughout the migration process.

Conclusion

Windows 7 is already on the desktop roadmap for most organisations. Yet, today, Windows XP still powers approximately 75% of commercial PCs within North America and Europe according to Forrester. And many have recognised it will take upwards of two years to achieve the migration process. But despite assertions from Gartner that preparation work for enterprise Windowx XP to Windows 7 migration will take between 12 and 18 months, just how many organisations have registered the time, cost and complexity of getting prepared for migration? And, more importantly, how many can possibly justify incurring the excessively high costs associated with traditional desktop migration processes in the current economy?

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. Those organisations that replace inefficient, inaccurate spreadsheet-based process with desktop business intelligence can not only reduce the cost of readiness and deliver the project using fewer, lower-skilled resources but will also be in a position to leverage automation to transform the speed of migration, and minimise business disruption.

Click here to download the Windows 10 Project Plan Template

Barry Angell

Written by Barry Angell

Barry is a co-founder of Juriba, where he is focused on using his experience in IT migration to help drive product strategy, pre-sales and service delivery. He is an experienced End User Services executive that has helped manage thousands of users, computers, applications and mailboxes to their next IT platform. He has saved millions of dollars for internal departments and customers alike through product, project, process and service delivery efficiency.

Topics: IT Strategy Windows 10 Migration