When we talk about Windows migration today, almost all of the conversation is about how to migrate from whatever operating system is on your clients' computers to Windows 8. In my conversations at Dell World this week, I heard people describing other factors that can complicate migration -- or turn the discussion in an entirely different direction.
I'll admit that I'm one of the people who has focused much of my attention on the difficulties of training users and transitioning from the "traditional" Windows interface to the new interface (the interface once known as "Metro") that is the public face of Windows 8. While many of the people I spoke with in the halls at Dell World talked about the substantial difference in the new interface (and the related changes required for hardware optimized for that interface), I was struck by the number of people who talked about the challenges of moving from earlier versions of Windows (especially Windows XP) to the interface of Windows 7.
Perhaps it's because I've been using Windows systems since Windows 1.0, but I tend to see a progression through most versions of the Windows interface, with a significant break as the target device shifts from the traditional keyboard and mouse-controlled laptop or desktop computer to the touchscreen target for Windows 8. The factor that I (and many IT professionals) discount is the level of discomfort many users have when there is any interface change at all.
The key point that person after person made is that the scope of change -- the degree to which one interface looks different from another -- is less important than the fact that there is any change at all. Many enterprise users, it turns out, learn computer use and skills by rote. They memorize patterns of motion and command and stick slavishly to those patterns regardless of options that might otherwise exist for action. These users must be retrained (and counseled through change-related trauma) with any change to the interface, whether that change is modest or great.
For the enterprise looking at migrating away from Windows XP or Windows Vista, a significant retraining effort is going to be required whether the target is Windows 7 or Windows 8. Interestingly enough, many of the professionals I spoke with feel that BYOD is going to help with the training requirements because many users will go to the effort of learning lots of options with their new personal systems -- effort that will pay off if they're allowed to try some of the same approaches when they bring those devices into the enterprise.
Migration to Windows 8 is going to be a challenge for both IT and users precisely because it represents a change in the way each approaches the client device. From the user side, the change is obvious: There are new interfaces, new commands, and new consequences as a result of those commands. For IT, the changes are even more profound as Windows 8 presents a compelling set of benefits for at least a limited BYOD option for mobile devices. The notion that a system as controversial as BYOD might have benefits for IT as well as users is at least as radical, in its own way, as the new Windows 8 interface.
How are you planning to retrain your users? What about the new lessons required for your IT department? If you're on any operating system except Windows 7 right now, migration is in your future. Figuring out the training requirements for everyone in the organization should be one of your first steps -- especially if "success" is one of your desired outcomes.