The annual Forecast for Management survey asks local CIOs to identify the three major challenges ahead for them in the next 12 to 18 months [For an overview, see the June issue of CIO]. One of the options presented is ensuring effective use of desktop computing. Each major release of Windows sees this challenge rise through the issue ranks. So it was no surprise when an InTEP member asked if I would convene a lunchtime discussion on upgrading to Windows 2000. He wanted to consult with his peers regarding roll-out strategies, resourcing requirements and see if any lessons had been learned by early adopters.
Seven organisations attended the discussion group. To begin, everyone was asked to outline the business drivers propelling the adoption of Windows 2000 in their organisation. Interestingly, no one really argued that the added functionality was too good to ignore. Rather, it appears that market forces are driving adoption of Windows 2000.
For some in the government there was no choice; it was the mandated standard operating system. Everyone felt upgrading would facilitate the exchange of documents between their organisation and their associates. Those using ERP believed the OS would ensure the compatibility between the client and the server components in these applications. Finally, it was thought that being up-to-date would help when recruiting staff, especially temps.
However, all this came at some expense. Those who had implemented and benchmarked the OS felt it needed a minimum 350MHz CPU with 128MB of RAM and 2GB of disk. In organisations with over 1000 PCs the required hardware upgrade would be a major price to pay for something that offered comparatively little additional functionality.
In addition, it was also seen that the OS will introduce a number of dilemmas that will not be easy to solve. In particular, because of the new directory services in Windows 2000, there was much debate on the choice of the network operating system. Should organisations with satisfied Novell users now abandon it in favour of Windows 2000? Notes users wondered if this functionality might be a better match with Exchange and Outlook for their workgroup and e-mail applications.
The CIOs were also uncertain what to do about training. They wanted training tailored to help users transition from Office 95 or 97 to Office 2000. Instead they found most training assumed users knew nothing. Experienced users felt it a waste of their time. Nonetheless, the group felt that some training commitment was important to ensure some ROI on their Windows 2000 upgrade investment.
In the end the group decided to reconvene in November. One member is rolling out Windows 2000 to 7000 users in phases and by November Office 2000 will be installed across the network. It was agreed that the experience would provide valuable insights and help the roll-out strategies of the others. It will be interesting to see how this organisation addresses the challenges we discussed.
Peter Hind is the manager of User Programs, which includes InTEP, at IDC Australia