You’ve sold the business case on making the move to XP, chosen a deployment approach, and educated yourself about XP implementation issues.

Next, as I’ll outline in this fourth and final installment of my XP series, it’s time to examine a critical issue in managing the XP project: determining project cost elements. This step is the precursor to formulating a detailed project plan.

Examining project cost elements
The cost of XP deployment projects can vary significantly, depending on the size of the organization, the scope of the business requirements, and the number of hardware and/or software upgrades that must take place.

Even taking into account these differences, you’ll use general project best practices and expenditures that can be organized into seven categories:

  • Software licensing
  • Project management costs
  • Implementation costs
  • Data migration issues
  • Hardware upgrades
  • Client training needs
  • Contingency elements

Software licensing
The bulk of the licensing incorporates the software cost for Windows XP and Office XP. Organizations that took advantage of Microsoft’s Upgrade Advantage for either Windows or Office are entitled to upgrade to the XP version at no additional cost.

Those requiring Windows XP have two upgrade paths. The first path relates to new equipment—new PCs should be purchased with a Windows XP license, rather than Windows 2000. The second path relates to existing computers that meet recommended system requirements. These will need Windows XP Professional Upgrades, since Upgrade Advantage was not purchased for those units. At the time of purchase, consider buying Software Assurance (SA) to accompany XP. This will give you access to future upgrades as they’re released (for as long as you maintain Software Assurance). You have up to 90 days after the acquisition of a new PC to purchase Software Assurance.

With Office XP, it’s a similar story. If you didn’t acquire Upgrade Advantage or Software Assurance, your organization is faced with buying full licenses for PCs currently not running Office XP. Note that there is no upgrade version of Office XP available. Office is sold as a full license through Volume Licensing. Similar to Windows, you can purchase Software Assurance when you purchase new copies of Office through Volume Licensing. This option should be considered and evaluated at the time of purchase to avoid potential future expenses.

In addition, if you’re considering PC migration tools, such as Personality Tranxport or PC Relocator, budget an additional $25 to $74 per computer.

Project management costs
The project management effort for this initiative will be full-time for the first few months of the project, with another two- or three-month engagement on a part-time basis.

The engagement of the project manager will vary depending on the size of the project. During the initial stage, gathering information, procuring hardware, testing and certifying applications, and scheduling client upgrades will constitute the bulk of the effort.

Implementation costs
Client migration efforts represent a significant portion of the project. New PCs will require clients’ data and personalized settings to be migrated from the old computer. The migration effort can vary significantly for each organization, but a good rule of thumb is to budget 90 minutes per PC as a worst-case scenario.

With respect to existing PCs undergoing an upgrade, the worst-case scenario is estimated to be about 150 minutes per PC. I also recommend that one technical lead be involved throughout the life of the project to coordinate upgrades to maintain consistency and quality of work.

Data migration issues
One potentially large implementation cost is for data conversion of Microsoft Access and Excel files. A complete inventory of Office applications and client interviews will help to determine the extent of this work before the migration effort begins.

Hardware upgrades
This is certainly an important aspect of XP project planning when it comes to costs and labor requirements. I can’t provide an estimate for hardware replacement and upgrade costs here, however, because each organization is unique.

Client training needs
While Office XP is similar to previous versions of Office, some clients will require training to effectively use Windows XP.

Options could range from $4 quick reference booklets to half-day seminars in the range of $100 per attendee, to free in-house lunch-n-learn sessions, or individual training for senior management—likely the most expensive option. The type of training—and cost and time requirements—will vary based on the culture of your organization and the priority you give to training.

As in every project, you will face unforeseen costs. I recommend establishing a contingency fund in the amount of 10 percent of the overall project costs in preparation.

The next step
After you’ve reviewed the various project elements, and tallied up estimated costs and labor requirements, you’ll have plenty of good information to initiate a formal project plan for the XP migration.

The next steps are to find and put a strong project manager in place, draft a project charter, and get approval to move ahead.