This is some rescue. You came in here and you didn’t have a plan for getting out?

It’s a funny thing to work in marketing and sit and listen to conversations around cloud and technology.  I feel that we are at the early stages of an “IT Big Bang” whereby there is so much that will happen to transform the way organizations operate, but it’s either too early to really see adoption, or we need a major event to push it along.  It’s even more interesting when a seemingly unrelated incident could be part of that major event.  Folks, grab your tissue, because XP is on it’s way out, and if you ask me, it’s going to be a significant part of the push towards cloud adoption.  Here’s why.

This morning I had a nice chat with one of my colleagues (who happens to have an office in between my coffee run path and my desk) about the overall state of organizations from a technology standpoint.  We often have these chats to help force the mental thought process of our customers and partners, which is one of my most effective brainstorming methods.  This is due to a) the lack of caffeine in my system at this point, and b) because said colleague has a locked closet full of gadgets.

I feel it makes sense at this point to note that a) I do work for a telco, which has nothing to do with my blog (not sure if that is good or bad, probably keeps me out of trouble in any case).

and b) as anyone can attest, I am platform agnostic.  It’s almost reverse fanboy (fangirl?).  My current stable of electronics includes iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10, Windows 8, plus a dual boot Windows/Linux laptop.  So no biases here.  Although I do really like HTC which counts for 2 of the above devices.

Ok, back to the story:  So what happens when XP comes to a sad demise next year?  Considering a good chunk of corporations use XP, we are up for a gigantic refresh of epic proportions, and a true testing ground for the conversion to cloud methodology.  While many organizations have rested on their laurels while later O/S versions came out, now we are seeing a bit of panic when it comes to figuring out what to make of this big hurdle.

Here’s some of the options as I see it.  Ofcourse by all means, please tell me if you are taking another approach, so that everyone can learn.

One option is to continue to use XP as an unsupported platform.  After all, it’s familiar, and I bet most organizations have a ton of legacy applications which are built to run in this environment. While from a cost-savings perspective it might seem like a great idea, there are some serious downsides.

First, the amount of money that is dumped into supporting legacy applications is usually pretty high.  It’s really not a good ROI since these systems take up more resources in general than their modernized counterparts.  Servers, staff who know how to code and maintain the systems, and the ongoing maintenance of keeping them on life support is just part of the downside.  Let’s be honest here, we’ve all worked for companies with systems that sit on AS400 servers and leave you thinking “Why are we not ripping this out and replacing it with something more effective?!” .  Not to mention that XP is not a fluid platform that works with mobile devices natively, so if you are looking at BYOD, it’s probably not a good choice.

Second, the number of applications supported by XP is slowly declining, especially if you are looking at newer applications that have been optimized for 64 bit.  Even many laptops now ship with Win7, so imaging it back to XP isn’t really a logical choice.  But neither is supporting 2 or 3 different operating systems.

The second option is to upgrade to a newer version, so Win7 or if you feel particularly adventurous, Windows 8.  While the licensing costs will be an upfront hit on your capital in most cases, these platforms are more BYOD friendly, not to mention better optimized for corporate environments.  Ever notice the boot time difference between XP and Win7?  The real benefits here come from the ability to support newer applications and start the charge towards system modernization and BYOD.  There are numerous devices out there that support Win7/8 and can be easily integrated into a Microsoft environment.  If your IT folks are familiar with how to run a MS environment, or even want to leverage cloud services which use MS environments as the platform, it’s easier to transition in this way than to rebuild a new environment from scratch.  Upgrading, for the most part anyway, tends to be less messy as well.

Keep in mind that employees are creatures of habit, and so the tech support calls will come in as the transition gets underway.  Not to mention modernizing your applications and systems to work with the new platform.  It’s messy, but then again, it’s a good kick in the butt to get moving down the modernization path anyway.  You’ll thank me later.

For IT folks who are really looking to do something wacky, you can also look at opening up O/S choices to employees with a BYOD approach.  While your back ends will need to be brought up to speed, much like in an upgrade situation, there is lots of room for innovation here.  Employees love choice, and as long as your organization is able to support multiple O/S, you can really help enable innovation and productivity.  Sales people using tablets instead of laptops have been shown to help alleviate device frustration and increase sales.  Marketing folks now have the flexibility to choose to us iOS or Windows as their O/S of choice, and in the back end, throwing those legacy servers out in favor of cloud-hosted applications reduces CAPEX, maintenance and coding requirements (once you get set up that is).

The downside for this model is that now you need to support multiple O/S and devices.  Luckily there are some great tools to assist with this, and in the long run, if you leverage cloud services such as SaaS and other services to modernize your legacy systems, you will actually streamline your processes more effectively than with other models.  However, it really comes down to how the organization operates.  Simplicity might be a better approach in many cases.  It’s a matter of really doing your homework as it relates to mapping systems and figuring out which model works best.

It’s no secret that the adoption of new technology is often overshadowed by the disruption that it causes.  Cloud is the same, it isn’t an easy “Hey, let’s start leveraging cloud!” decision.  Maybe the discontinuation of XP will help get the ball rolling in terms of adopting these new approaches.  It’s a perfect excuse to start down the path, and whether you consider it a good thing or a bad thing, sometimes all you need is a firm kick in the backend via a forced event to get the ball rolling.

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