We have just about completed the Windows 7 Year of the Refresh Roadshows throughout North America. For those of you that I have had the pleasure to meet and chat, I thank you. The sessions and the follow on Q&A flagged several issues and concerns, and validated many of our beliefs about this upcoming refresh cycle. First the disclaimer.
The opinions and comments expressed on this blog are mine, and do not represent those of my employer.
One of the key points that we validated in the sessions, was that this refresh cycle will, for the most part, require a detailed business plan with concrete ROI and contribution calculations. Moreover, this refresh cycle wil require a definitive statement of benefits to the enterprise. We also validated that with Windows 7, new product features, new technologies (virtualization), practice improvements, security, (I could go on and on, but the point is made) suggests that this business case simply is compelling as any we have collectively seen in the industry.
Interestingly, when I asked the question if the business case would be the key mobilizer of the technology refresh cycle, the response was almost universal in its positioining - not without addressing the politics of the refresh.
We have known from previous research that a good (or even great business case) can be trumped by politics, social issues, cultural concerns, and emotional issues. In this refresh cycle it is clear that there are inhibitors to the refresh cycle. This may or may not be a "bad" thing.
In Closed Loop Lifecycle Planning (my research) we have concluded a number of findings in regards to the emotions of change:
1) You cannot overcome emotional argument with business logic
2) Even the best ROI and business cases need to address the emotional, political, and social aspects to succeed
3) The Great Recession is a game changer
Based upon this, the question is how to manage and address organizational behavior. To a high degree, we in IT are our own "worst enemies" in this respect. When we were asked to do more with less, we did a lot more with a lot less. When asked to make older technology work, we made the older technology work (and work well). Now we are at a point where client technologies need to be updated, but the political realities take over- cash is stil short, the economy is still uncertain ... so IT , "squeeze out another year". This tends to be played invariably in one form or another.
To some degree this is really a cause and effect that could be predicted. For many years, PC's and many technologies in general were viewed as "commodities". None of us would argue (or for that matter win the argument) that there is clearly a commodity aspect to PC's. But allowing the argument to go unchecked over time, leads us to the scenario that when we can innovate (such as virtualization, W7, etc) , the commodity perspective takes over. Quantifying the business case will not be enough in many cases since there will be a perspective that at the end of the day, how can you improve on a commodity? Politically, those who believe this may be likely less receptive to a technology refresh of scale since that would suggest that delaying the cycle could have had a less than positive impact to the enterprise.
In the blog we have discussed the potential of continuous process improvements (8% to 10%), the opportunities for step changes (>25%), energy management >$30 per seat, improved productivity >68%, and other amazing statistics that could accompany this refresh cycle. Much of the technology that is available now did not even exist pre-Great Recession.
Addressing the potential of this refresh cycle, requires IT to understand the organizational biases and ground that has already been staked out in terms of position. If once a commodity always a commodity exists, this is an inhibitor.
Perhaps a logical technique to engage is to focus on the economics, identify the perceptions, acknowledge them, and incorporate the objections up front into the dialog. Ignoring the objection will likely result in a sub-optimized IT refresh. Emotionally, convincing teammates that the refresh cycle is not about a commodity discussion will be decidedly different than other refresh cycles.
To some degree, this refresh cycle is about "green field"- a new playing field that is driven by a unique set of circumstances.
This is my perspective, I would like to hear yours!
This technology refresh cycle is, of course, our first refresh cycle post Great Recession. Many businesses are wondering - should we phase the refresh cycle or should we just "bite the bullet" and big bang the refresh? As in all matters of client lifecycle management, there is no right or wrong answer, only conscious and unconscious decisions. Having said this, however, one can make a strong business case in either scenario depending on your particular business, however, the phased argument is now more challenging to make, to a high degree I have changed my view on this as well.
As in all of my blogs, the opinions represented in this blog are mine alone and do not represent my employer.
Spring is here, baseball, NBA playoffs, Final Four and budget cycles for businesses (I know that this is a stretch but the baseball season begins today).
This year, the budget cycle has some unique aspects to it for client computing. As a counter measure for the Great Recession, many of us (actually most of us) extended the useful life of desktops and laptops. Now our PC fleets are aging. In many cases the new software releases, energy management and power management options, applications, are not quite ready to optimally run on these older devices. We have inadvertently delivered on two things that may/will come back to "haunt" us in IT. First, we did do more with less, and we made the older devices work in the environment. Second, we have conditioned our end users to accept existing age and speeds (and hour glasses) as an acceptable response.
Now we are going forward to leadership and asking for funding to improve the PC fleet. This refresh cycle will likely require a detailed business plan.
This refresh cycle is different than all others before it as we have discussed in several of our blogs- Windows 7, new Intel chip sets, new form factors, new technologies, virtualization, the list is quite an impressive one.
Y2K was our last major IT refresh where it was not a "business as usual" refresh cycle. No one will forget the remediation efforts, and the big "sigh" that happended at 12:01 am. (perhaps big "yawn" is a better reference)
The choice this refresh cycle is whether to embrace and continue the phased refresh, to get back to the 25% to 30% annual model or to embrace the "big bang". For definition purposes, let's consider a big bang as a greater than 60% to 70% refresh pattern.
Most of the industry experts have published and written that the phased refresh cycle is the optimal. (Myself included in the past). The idea that disruption to the end user is mitigated, the resources can be leveraged, budgets are constrained, and a host of other valid considerations are still applicable, however, my opinion is that this perspective may be dated.
In the past 24 months while we were extending the useful life of the fleet, the technology footprint has dramtically changed. We could actually make a business case that suggests that the benefits lost in terms of operating expenses may well offset much of the budget required for this upcoming refresh.
If the conversation with leadership is solely about Capex it will be a short conversation. If you do not have the budget, then there is only so much you can replace. I understand that, but (and this is a big but) if it is all about the capital, at some point you will refresh the fleet, all we are doing is postponing the inevitable. Leasing, PC as a Service, consolidation of the PC budget to IT, all begin to play in this refresh cycle.
In providing guidance in this area, I would not be surprised if up to 40% of the Capex costs are offset by gains in Opex.
End users are seeking a better experience, if you are hiring new personnel attracting them with 5 year old technology (or greater) may prove to be interesting. How does a business justify more current technology to new hires and 5 year old technology to its existing staff? These are examples of some of the trade offs that you may need to consider.
Normal times the phased approach works, I am of the opinion that this refresh cycle has drivers that are unique. The fleets are so old by PC standards that we are almost left by default in a big bang scenario.
The recovery from this Recession, suggests that access to information is a competitive edge (for real this time).
What are you businesses doing to address this issue in your company?
I believe that going forward, it will be a challenge to go back to the phased refresh model.
There is an expression in New England that - "you can't get there from here". I am not so surre that we can return to the pure phased refresh approach in the near term without comprising end user experience, productivity, security, and access.