OPINION: Migrating off Windows XP – balancing doing it right and doing it ‘right now’

Terry Chapman writes on the three levers for a Windows migration project and the options for moving from one platform to the other.

Last week we covered the ever present question, whether to deploy Windows 7 or move directly to Windows 8.1. In this article we’ll look at setting up your project for success.

Firstly, let’s look at what to do with the rapidly approaching Windows XP end of support in April 2014.

If your organisation is a reasonably large enterprise (relative to New Zealand’s scale at least – 500 computers or more) and you haven’t yet started your migration or gathered executive support and project funding, you will probably struggle to migrate within the 6 month timeframe.

For smaller organisations in this situation, although the smaller scale of devices needing upgrades is a positive, this same scale is likely to work against you when it comes to finding available funding and staff time to undertaken the migration. Even if your deployment is already underway, it may be taking much longer than expected.

If that all sounds like bad news, read on as you do have options.

Like most projects, your Windows migration project has three main ‘levers’ that can be moved; timeline, budget and functionality. If you are aiming to avoid Windows XP end of support woes, obviously extending your project timeline is no longer a viable option.

Of your two available choices left you can increase your project budget (assigned internal resources, use of outsourced partners, use of application remediation ‘factories’, etc) or drop project functionality. Note the use of the term ‘project’ functionality, not ‘product’ functionality. What does this actually mean?

For the typical organisation, this simply means doing a like-for-like upgrade of the Windows client. If your staff had a Windows XP desktop computer, they will move to a Windows 8.1 desktop; likewise if they were using a laptop or a thin client terminal. Similarly, if staff had access to ‘widget x’ functionality on Windows XP they will have ‘widget x’ on Windows 8.1.

This migration approach is not necessarily the worst way to get onto a modern operating system and actually represents the most common upgrade method of NZ businesses and government agencies that we talk to. This approach does however represent real missed opportunities to improve user experience and the staff productivity gains that are possible using the newer capabilities of a modern operating system. Importantly, a like-for-like migration also means that you may not be getting the best return on your investment in Microsoft software.

If the timeline and budget ‘levers’ are not available, then a like-for-like migration is probably your best and only available option to migrate off Windows XP before end of support in April 2014. Our recommendation is to carry on with this approach, however call the project ‘Phase 1’.

‘Phase 2’ can be initiated when the time pressure is alleviated and you can then look to extract that latent value in the numerous technology advancements in Windows over the last 12 years that weren’t implemented in ‘Phase 1’.

Once you have decided on which deployment levers are available, you can turn your attention to the five main streams of work that need to be completed. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at what these streams look like and how to potentially increase your project velocity through concurrency of activities and prioritising application remediation.

Next week; migrating off Windows XP – the elephant in the room.

Terry Chapman works for Microsoft New Zealand as an Architect in the Microsoft Consulting Services practice. Over the coming weeks Terry will cover some of the most common questions and challenges that Microsoft comes across while talking to NZ organisations about moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1.

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