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By Barry Angell | Published Sep 22, 2011

High maintenance

In April 2014, Microsoft will withdraw support for its Windows XP operating system. And, despite the messages about the technical simplicity of the XP to Windows 7 move, as those involved during the last mass Microsoft migration – from Windows NT to Windows XP – will attest, the process took longer and cost more than could ever have been expected.

Yes, in theory the technical challenge associated with the migration is not overwhelming. Indeed, taken on a user-by-user or machine-by-machine basis, the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 is relatively straightforward. However, it is believed that upwards of 40 per cent of applications will need some form of remediation. Furthermore, the migration process can be a major logistical nightmare.

Research organisation Gartner has predicted the cost of migration to be upwards of $1500 (£940) for each device. And while some may find this excessive, it is in fact less than the cost incurred by one financial institution during the NT-to-XP migration seven years ago: the actual cost was $2200 for each device, not including hardware replacement.

Given the fact that IT expenditure has shrunk significantly in recent years, understanding the cost, complexity and extent of this desktop migration is key.

So what is the cause of this high cost? At the heart of the problem is the seemingly archaic approach adopted by many IFAs in preparing for migration. Why are IFAs, who depend on their IT infrastructure for the smooth running of their business, reliant upon just a handful of project managers squabbling over spreadsheets? This approach can only lead to delay, escalate business risk and cause unnecessary business disruption.

These organisations have typically invested heavily in business intelligence and data warehousing to transform business insight and drive excellent real-time decision making. Applying that same technology to a desktop migration process can transform the time and cost associated with the move to Windows 7.

Without doubt, the factfinding phase of the process is arduous. Companies need to ascertain the status of every single user – from hardware and applications to business unit drivers. Understanding this aspect is key to prioritising migration effort, assessing which applications require remediation and accurately assessing cost.

Yet by relying on spreadsheet-based information, this process could take a significant amount of time. Add in the further time needed to undertake the actual migration process for all of the office’s lap and desktops and the deadline is looming fast. It is this preparatory aspect of the migration programme that companies consistently underestimate. And by failing to adequately plan for a migration process that has to occur in tandem with the complexity of change that happens on the desktop environment on a daily basis – from joiners and leavers, to break/fix events or the provision of new applications to a user group – large-scale financial services companies are incurring unnecessary risk and user disruption.

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