Windows

3 Lessons a CIO can learn from Windows 7

A CIO can learn many lessons by investigating Microsoft's missteps with Vista, and attempts at redemption with Windows 7. These lessons apply to nearly any organizational effort, be it rolling out a new corporate application or delivering millions of copies of a new operating system.

Windows 7 has been regarded as a make or break product for Microsoft, with many inside and outside IT left with a bad taste in their mouth from the company's Vista operating system. While I have enjoyed my experience with Windows 7 thus far, we certainly do not need yet another review of the software here. In my mind, perhaps even more interesting than the new operating system are the lessons that a CIO and his or her IT shop can learn investigating Microsoft's missteps with Vista, and attempts at redemption with Windows 7, as these apply to nearly any organizational effort, be it rolling out a new corporate application or delivering millions of copies of a new operating system.

Lesson 1: Don't forget the core "experience"

While this may sound like consultant-speak, critical to any application is the experience of using the software. Microsoft touted Vista as having lots of improvements to the user experience, from an enhanced UI to improved ancillary applications. While all this was well and good, merely booting up Vista was a painful drawn-out experience. No matter how wonderful your interface looks, beginning your interaction with a computer with five minutes of "Please Wait" is difficult to recover from.

Regardless of what application or project you are deploying, determine the handful of key "experience" related metrics. Just as Microsoft focused on boot times with Windows 7, ensure that basic expectations of how users will interact with your system, process or application are met. While employees at your company likely have far less choice about which applications they use as compared to the average consumer, the "sale" will be a lot easier if initial impressions of the system are positive, and critical business scenarios are intuitive and easy to perform.

Lesson 2: Acknowledge your problems

Arguably it took Microsoft too long to acknowledge the problems with Vista. Many were fixed or mitigated as service packs for Vista were released, and once the release timeframe for Windows 7 was clear, Microsoft openly acknowledged Vista's flaws, made the case for how Windows 7 would fix them, and moved forward.

Similarly, you are not going to win every battle as CIO, and will likely release an application, system or two that is a turkey. If complaints are legitimate, impact performance and usability of the system, and continue after the initial adjustment period of implementation, acknowledge and attempt to fix or mitigate them. Avoid the old platitude of "managing expectations" or using management-speak to avoid labeling anything a problem and address the problem head on, and detail how you will attack it.

Lesson 3: Let the users in early and often

While there was much hullaballoo about all the usability testing that was done with Vista, I personally encountered few people that had laid their hands on the operating system before it was released. On the contrary with Windows 7, even minimally tech-savvy people were downloading the release candidate and running it on all kinds of hardware, providing a massive testing cycle as well as free PR and buzz for the new OS. With enterprise systems, the sooner you can let "real" users get their hands on a new system the better. Not only will they provide valuable feedback and exercise the system in ways you may never have imagined, they will also keep your IT organization honest since they will provide immediate, honest and trustworthy feedback about what you are working on.

These lessons are simple to understand and conceptually quite obvious. Yet the world's largest software company clearly forgot these caveats as it released one of its most important and visible products. This example should serve as a model for CIOs to remain vigilant and, like Microsoft, not take their dominant position in the "market" for granted. Your IT shop is no longer the only game in town, with competition ranging from old threats like outsourcing to the emerging availability of off the shelf applications in "the cloud." Microsoft seems to have redeemed itself with Windows 7; hopefully your IT organization can learn a far less expensive lesson by contrasting the Vista and 7 releases.

Patrick Gray is the founder and president of Prevoyance Group, and author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology. Prevoyance Group provides strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at patrick.gray@prevoyancegroup.com.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

8 comments
Harry-0
Harry-0

#4 google search"usb problem x64 windows 7" Get it Right!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Your IT shop is no longer the only game in town, with competition ranging from old threats like outsourcing to the emerging availability of off the shelf applications in ?the cloud.? Any company doing that deserves what comes it's way. People would be better out!

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

not on any PC that had a decent hardware spec that could at least run xp with a decent experience.

FatNGristle
FatNGristle

XP must be the most popular operating system by percentage of operators that ever was. No matter what operating system replaces it, even if it was better, the roll out would be marginalized by the success of XP. Rehash the pasht. Consider the Metric system in the US. I was young, so my dates may be off, but I believe it was in the mid 70s there was a push to change from our entrenched British measurement system to the far superior Metric one. At the time, even as a kid, I put my obstinant feet down and said 'no way, man', not because my current system was superior, but because I didn't like change. Legitimately, there is a high cost of that scope of change, but that wasn't my greatest objection and that cost would have been overcome long ago. If only... So what would have happened had the Peruvian measurement system (picked at random)been introduced first in the US and then the alternative and much superior Metric system been offered as a resolution? Well, it's hard to compare as nobody controlled the measurement market like MS controls the OS market, but how many of us at some point in our lives have offered a parent or supervisor an option you know they wouldn't go for to soften them for what you really wanted? (wow, that's a lot of hands. Let's do a wave) Straw-Man Vista I am often dumbfounded by the awkward or ill conceived functionality of some of MS' product features, so they are certainly capable of blundering Vista, but I don't think they could have learned so little from Millenium for Vista to be an 'accident'. Perhaps Bill Detwiler can demonstrate the advantages of Drunken Monkey PR in the Dojo. Fortuitous? Stupid I am. P.S. Do you really think we could go to the moon in the late 60's early 70's and be unable or uninterested in going back since??? Ok, one conspiracy theory at a time.

jim.mantle
jim.mantle

True Vista sales were overwhelmingly through pre-installed operating systems on consumer computers. Microsoft sold businesses a Vista license which allowed Microsoft to book revenue against Vista, but allowed businesses to install an alternate OS (like XP). The net result was that businesses avoided the turkey, and Microsoft was allowed to show some revenue and gain much-needed time.

ozchorlton
ozchorlton

My work laptop is junk, under Vista, the users running XP, on the same spec machines, don't have these issues! I've sent off to Lenovo for my 'free' upgrade to Windows 7, and, boy, am I looking forward to that:-)

QASIMARA
QASIMARA

We all know that gravity is not a constant in force fields, so mutual trust is more important than standardization between regions. Those few individuals operating in the international arena have money, precious items, IP, assets and data to protect from theft and viewing by the uninitiated. I hope that is clear enough.

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