It has been six years in the making, but Microsoft has now released Windows 11, the latest version of its operating system. New laptops and computers pre-loaded with Windows 11 will start appearing in shops soon, and businesses will need to start planning and considering how this next big Microsoft update will impact their IT Strategies, applications, and users.
According to Microsoft, Windows 11 has a lot to offer businesses. The new operating system is billed as being faster and more secure with a simplified design. It offers new app layouts to support multi-tasking, improved integration with Microsoft Teams, and widgets for displaying personalised content.
While most organisations will not want to be early adopters of this new technology, they should not leave the migration until the eleventh hour, as Microsoft announced that support for Windows 10 will be withdrawn. A hasty, ill-planned update can lead to system downtime and a loss of user productivity that few organisations can afford.
So what do organisations need to do to get ready for Windows 11?
- Device readiness
Firstly, organisations need to ensure that their desktop computers, laptops, and other mobile devices have the minimum (and ideally the recommended) hardware specification for the software update. For Windows 10 updates, this is generally quite easy, as routine feature updates rarely require any hardware changes. However, Windows 11 will only work on desktop computers and laptops that support Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0, a computing chip that improves data authentication and security. Laptops and computers that are three or more years old may not have TPM 2.0, so will need to be replaced.
Planning a hardware refresh, alongside the migration to Windows 11, inevitably makes the Microsoft update more complicated, more expensive, and more time-consuming. Not only do organisations have to invest in the new hardware; they also have to consider how they are going to build the desktops and deliver them to users. Now that many employees are working from home, this isn’t as straightforward as it might have been in the past. However, organisations can use Windows AutoPilot, a suite of solutions for pre-configuring new devices, to enable remote workers to download their personalised desktops and get up and running with new hardware more quickly.
- Application readiness
Microsoft has made bold assurances that its app compatibility rates are over 99.6% with each Windows 10 update[i]. In practice, however, our experience at Camwood is that only around 70% of organisations’ applications will work without any problems following a Microsoft update – unless interventions are made up-front to ensure their compatibility. There is currently no way of knowing what impact migrating from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will have on applications, particularly legacy apps, apps that have been heavily customised and in-house developed solutions. The likelihood is, however, that many applications will not transfer seamlessly across to the new operating system without issue.
The challenge of app compatibility is augmented by the number of applications used within many businesses. Mid-sized organisations typically have around 250-300 applications, while larger organisations can have over 1,000. Testing all these apps manually to ensure that they are compatible with Windows 11 could take weeks, if not months or even years. This is why organisations need to adopt automated compatibility testing, which can complete test cycles for hundreds of apps in just days, and highlight those apps that need to be re-engineered or replaced for use on Windows 11 devices. Organisations should undertake steps to audit and rationalise their portfolio of apps alongside compatibility testing. By removing apps that are no longer needed, and ensuring all users have the same versions of apps, organisations will be able to simplify not only the migration to Windows 11 but all subsequent feature updates.
- User Readiness
Once you have devices with the right specification and have checked that your apps are compatible, the next step is to roll out the Windows update to users. Some organisations will go for the big bang approach and hope for the best – but, let’s be honest, the best is unlikely. No matter what size your organisation is, a staged and phased migration approach is the most prudent option to reduce the risk of business interruption.
Ideally, Windows updates should be introduced initially to a small team of IT-savvy ‘pilot users’ who can start using the new software and identify any potential user issues. Then, the roll-out should continue on a team-by-team or department-by-department basis, taking into account business pressures. For example, it would be unwise to migrate the financial team to a new operating system during month-end or year-end. It can also be helpful to create ‘product champions’ within departments who can support their colleagues with any questions and initial user difficulties. With this considered, user-centric approach, Microsoft updates are more likely to be a success.
Plan, test, test, test
In practice, most medium and large organisations will not start adopting Windows 11 until next year. They will want to wait until at least the summer of 2022, by which time Microsoft will (hopefully) have ironed out any initial software problems.
This however doesn’t mean, that organisations should not start putting new processes and systems in place now for managing Microsoft updates. New build updates and feature updates for Windows 10 will continue to be released for a few more years to come, and IT managers will need to have dependable processes for making all these routine updates, right up until they make the jump to Windows 11. ‘Patch Tuesday’ updates, released on the second Tuesday of every month, are often a source of great frustration for IT managers, and a more structured and automated approach to app testing now could save them a huge amount of time and effort every month.
Critically, IT managers should not underestimate the amount of time that will be needed to manage a significant Microsoft update, such as the migration to Windows 11. Even the seemingly straightforward step of purchasing new laptops and computers could take much longer than anticipated, given the current global hardware shortage caused by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yours won’t be the only organisation sourcing TPM 2.0 laptops or speaking with consulting firms like Camwood about automated app compatibility testing services.
My advice to you is to: start evaluating the specification of your existing laptops and computers; plan your migration strategy, taking user needs into account; and get ready to test everything, then test it again and again. It is fine to wait twelve months before implementing Windows 11, but don’t wait twelve months to start planning for it.
For more information on how to begin planning for your Windows 11 migration, contact a member of the Camwood team today.