Windows 7 Migration Challenges for Large Enterprises

Forrester Consulting recently completed an online survey regarding the migration plan to Windows 7 in which 200 large organizations in the US, Canada, and UK participated. The study found that 93% of the companies planned on completing their enterprise wide migrations before 2014. IT managers worldwide are facing a hard deadline to completely remove Windows XP from their environments by April 8, 2014, when Windows XP’s extended support from Microsoft comes to an end.

A Windows 7 migration comes with challenges such as:

  • Assessing hardware readiness – IT managers will have to conduct a full asset inventory to understand which machines are Windows 7-capable. They must consider the cost of maintaining the old hardware, and whether the firm could benefit from an alternative computing strategy, such as application and desktop virtualization. To overcome this challenge IT leaders will have to do the migration together with a hardware refresh. Sixty percent of firms are exclusively deploying Windows 7 on new PCs, and an additional 29% are taking a hybrid approach, meaning they’re deploying Windows 7 both on existing PCs when they’re capable of running it and new PCs when it’s more cost-effective to replace the hardware.
  • Lack of governance over the application library and the presence of rogue applications that are not managed by IT, but are critical to the business. This usually entails inventorying applications, tracking down application owners, tiering applications, testing for compatibility, and then remediating applications via retirement, upgrading, recoding, shimming or virtualizing.
  • Overcoming web-based application compatibility issues associated with the upgrade to a newer browser like Internet Explorer 8 or 9. IT managers often overlook web-based applications when evaluating their readiness for a Windows 7 migration. Therefore to minimize any disruption to the business they will have to test in advance those intranet applications.
  • Determining which users to migrate first and developing a training process. IT managers must designate trainers that will show the users what has or has not changed within the new operating system or applications.
  • Automating a “zero-touch” deployment strategy. Although most IT managers strive for a zero-touch deployment, just 5% succeeded and only 25% were able to deploy with a light-touch approach. Determining the right approach is heavily influenced by IT resources available across sites, whether the sites are in low-bandwidth, the number of users within the environment, and how well-managed the local network is. Achieving light- or zero-touch deployment is possible, but requires application packaging as a prerequisite.

Windows 7 is the first OS that companies are aggressively pushing to existing PCs as well as new PCs. But because approximately half of organizations existing applications are not natively compatible with Windows 7, firms are risking project delays or failures. They will have to thoroughly discover, test and validate all their applications before starting enterprise wide. And because very few companies have internal application testers, firms need to find the right balance of investing in internal and external resources to ensure the most secure, manageable, and flexible end user computing environment.