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!
For the past two weeks (and for the upcoming month) I am delivering a series of field sessions with teammates from Intel and Microsoft. To date, there have been a series of questions and comments that I would like to share and secure your commentary and feedback.
As always, the content on this blog are mine, and do not represent my employer.
Overall, the feedback on Windows 7 has been positive. Most businesses recognize the business case and are seemingly moving ahead. I tested my belief that this refresh cycle requires a really well documented business plan with quantified details and, for the most part, there was agreement. The following represent 5 of the top questions (with apologies to David Letterman's Top Ten list, by the way we did go to the same high school).
Question #1- Should my business adopt 64 or 32 architecture? My response, is that as long as the cost differential is minimal, 64 is the way to go. The idea behind this is knowing that we do not want to even upgrade a desktop or laptop once deployed, having the higher architecture makes sense. For newer applications, multiple sessions, and futures the 64 architecture will return the investment.
Question #2- Does my business need a new PC to make W7 work, or can I add disk and memory if needed? My opinion differed from others in the sessions to a degree. One of the points about W7 is that W7 is optimized on the new Intel iCore technologies and newer platforms. It seems to me that deploying a new operating system on older technology simply defeats the purpose and sub-optimizes. If the technology is new(er) within an 18 month window, different story, but even then I would encourage a look at a trade in strategy. I joked that the answer from the hardware company was to buy more hardware, the software company solves all ills, and the chip company encourages newer chip for benefits. The point I have made in other blogs still remains true- if you line up six consultants in a room and ask the same questions, you will recieve six different answers and all will be correct. The business plan will be unique for each business.
Question #3- Is your business virtualizing? Not surprisingly, a lot of hands go up when this question is asked. There still seems to be a lag in the timing to go from the pilot and proof of concept phase to production. The hands that go up when I ask if there is scaling are fewer,and when I inquire if the roll out plan is defined, there are clearly concerns. This suggests that this to some degree remains a work in process.
Question #4- I asked the follow on question of whether the virtualization is to be deployed before W7, and the response seemed to be, "we would like to" but unsure if the business case, user segmentation, and other factors could be vetted in time. The application stack is almost always identified as the issue. Having W7 run in XP mode for these may be a viable option to consider.
Question #5- Last question (for this blog), What is the timeframe for W7 adoption? Almost all businesses are looking at this today. The constraint is obviously stated as cash. We discussed leasing, PC as a Service, big bang vs. phased and other topics in this area of interest. In most businesses, the business case is in process of being defined.
After the sessions, I remain of the opinion that 2010 is indeed the year of the refresh. The benefits that are counter measures to the gross acquisition pricing approaches 30% to 40% of the overall total. This makes this refresh cycle unique in terms of the economics.
Let me know your thoughts.