Upgrading to Vista? Proceed with caution

If you're thinking of leading your enterprise into Vista country, adding Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 might make the trip worthwhile

Certainly no coincidence, Microsoft has decked out its much-anticipated OS upgrade with beautiful landscape wallpapers -- vistas, to be exact. But, as calming as these background images may be for end-users getting acquainted with Vista, for IT directors, the landscape approaching an enterprise rollout of any new Windows operating system has always been rocky. Convincing management with compelling ROI, quelling grumpy user rebellions, and making sure the whole thing doesn't blow up in your face are by now well-known impediments along any Windows migration path. It's enough to make IT departments considering the journey downright cautious.

And cautious many are. "The majority of companies, particularly in the medium and large sector, are telling us that it's going to be between one and two years when they actually adopt Windows Vista," says Stephen Minton, an analyst at IDC. According to a recent Equs Group survey, 26 percent of companies plan to migrate to Vista this year, as opposed to 53 percent in 2008 and 16 percent in 2009.

All this reluctance despite the fact that Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make the Vista deployment process as easy on IT administrators as possible -- probably more so than with any previous version of Windows. Yet deploying Vista will still be as big an architectural leap as going from Windows 98 to Windows 2000. As such, expect no shortage of hurdles along the way. Chief among these hurdles, ironically, will be users themselves, as many IT managers already en route to Vista land are finding that their users simply don't want Vista. What they're really after are Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 -- business-critical apps they perceive as essential to getting their work done. So much so that almost any thought of winding your way toward Vista should lend credence to bringing one or both of these platforms along.

The whole hog or not at all?

"It's the Microsoft trifecta," says Mike Connelly, vice president of IT at training and productivity-tool provider FranklinCovey, referring to the confluence of upgrades to Exchange, Office, and Windows. Connelly has already rolled out Exchange 2007 and is currently rolling out Vista and Office as a single package. "Microsoft's marketing has made the combination really compelling to our users. And it's easier all around, since for our users, Vista hasn't been that much of a learning curve. Office is the big jump, so we're trying to give them all the functionality up front."

"Office 2007 is definitely a driver for Vista deployment," says Larry LeSueur, vice president of infrastructure and security at Avanade, an Accenture-owned consultancy that specializes in large Microsoft consulting projects. Avanade currently has 33 Vista rollout projects underway worldwide.

"The ability to create custom and ongoing applications using Vista and Office 2007 is simply too attractive for our customers to ignore," LeSueur says, citing custom business research apps Avanade is helping to create in the oil and gas industry and the health-care sector using Office 2007, Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Exchange 2007.

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