Now, as an IT manager, you have to consider other factors before taking the migration leap.
Not if, but when?
Despite the usual organizational resistance to change, the real question isn't if you will migrate to Vista, but when. Organizations that have just recently upgraded to Windows XP will probably remain slow adopters despite the benefits. Early adopters and organizations that upgrade operating systems with their hardware refresh cycle in 2007 will want to look at Vista as soon as possible. Many organizations prefer to wait six to twelve months after a major operating system release to allow the industry to discover any significant issues and then deploy after the first service pack has been released. This may be a prudent move for Vista; Service Pack 1 is expected to be a significant upgrade as it merges the final code release from Windows "Longhorn" as well as roll up any security patches and bug fixes.
Test, Test, Test
Don't forget user training
For your end users to get the most out of Vista's productivity enhancements, managers should consider creating 30- to 60-minute orientation sessions for users. The sessions ought to cover new features, navigation options and the IE7 tabbed browsing interface. This is even more important if you're deploying Office 2007, SharePoint 2007 or Groove because the tight integration can reallyboost user productivity -- if your employees know how to leverage its benefits.
Calculating Vista ROI
The potential benefits of Windows Vista will vary depending on the maturity and agility of the IT environment. There may be some direct line item benefit for some organizations that use third-party software to deploy OS images or improve the security of Vista. However, many Vista improvements will be reflected in indirect costs that may be harder to quantify.
Reduces the time spent by users searching for documents by three to nine hours per week. Assuming an annual cost per employee of $50,000, the indirect annual savings from one hour of additional productivity would be $1,250 per employee
Reduces the number of OS images in an organization, including images in multiple languages. Some estimates place the annual costs of maintaining OS images as high as $20,000 per image Reduces remote support costs and decreases the amount of time that a mobile user spends trying to connect to remote networks Improves OS security features, which are expected to reduce the number of annual security incidents Upgraded Windows Firewall reduces the need for third-party products, saving $10 to $30 per workstation Reduces data security risks for lost or stolen laptops through the use of BitLocker and additional encryption measures Reduction in desktop management costs and improved ability to lockdown desktops New Windows image format (WIM) may eliminate the need for third-party drive imaging tools Energy savings from utilizing Vista's hybrid sleep mode have been estimated at $55 - $70 annually per PC
Application and compatibility testing: While these costs are incurred for any OS migration, Microsoft has released new application compatibility testing tools that should make this task easier and less labor intensive. In addition, an online application compatibility portal that combines the testing results and compatibility ratings from customers and ISVs should help provide guidance that can reduce testing requirements. Deployment costs: In the past, deploying an operating system could cost between $300 and $1,000 per workstation depending on the methodology. Microsoft has upgraded its Business Desktop Deployment methodology and tools to allow automated deployments of Vista with SMS 2003 or Remote Installation Services. That can reduce deployment costs to around $100 to $250 per workstation. Training costs: New operating systems will require training for IT support staff as well as end users. To receive the full benefit of Vista's new features, users need to know what the new features are and how to effectively use them.
Despite the industry press' focus on Vista's new interface, there is a lot more to this operating system than simple cosmetics. The underlying changes to the code base, improved security and manageability and the hundreds of usability improvements to the operating system will make Vista the most important release since Windows 95. While Windows XP has proven to be a capable and reliable OS over the last five years, its utility will quickly fade over the next few years as organizations begin to appreciate Vista's capabilities and ease of management.
Bernie Klinder is an IT Project Lead with Blue Chip Consulting Group in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the founder and editor of LabMice.net, a comprehensive resource index for IT professionals who support Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 and BackOffice products. For his contributions to the information technology community, Bernie was selected as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.