The Value of Vista, Office, and Exchange

Is "People-Readiness" a convincing business reason to upgrade?

“People-ready business” was the primary catchphrase at the November 30, 2006, “Business Value” launch of Microsoft Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007. Office General Manager Kirk Koenigsbauer said, “It's the synergy among Microsoft Office, Windows Vista, and Microsoft Exchange Server. Together, they deliver the core platform for a people-ready business—one that puts an organization's employees at the center of driving business outcomes and success.”

Although I can't argue with the reality that employees drive success, I have to wonder how effectively that slogan will convince IT to hurry and upgrade. In a letter to Microsoft customers, Steve Ballmer said, “The joint launch of Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will open the door to an era of even greater productivity and innovation.” But I know that the IT department in the company I work for won't even consider any of these products any time soon—especially not based on Microsoft's message that end users need them to be more innovative and productive.

A recent nonscientific poll of our readers indicates that IT is not rushing to deploy Vista: 59 percent of the 350 respondents have no plans to upgrade; 16 percent plan to deploy within 18 months; 11 percent within 12 months, and 13 percent within 6 months. So, as Ballmer asked, “Why should you risk disrupting your business to take advantage of these new features and capabilities?” His answer: “Because business has changed and new tools are required. No one questions the competitive advantages that come when we can communicate and collaborate instantly with colleagues and customers around the world.”

Maybe I'm cynical, but that reason sounds a little too squishy for me. Lots of businesses are getting along just fine with the old tools, thank you very much. But are there factors that would be compelling enough to make you eager to upgrade?

Don't Say “Time and Money”

A marketing expert once warned me never to tell IT pros that something would save them time or money—IT pros know from experience such claims are rarely true. However, IT is under constant pressure to add value to the bottom line while reducing costs—i.e., to save time and money.

So maybe the “people-ready business” slogan is just a way for Microsoft to avoid blatantly claiming that Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007 will save you time and money. From that perspective, I was interested to see Microsoft pointing to a white paper, “Analysis of the Business Value of Windows Vista,” which was based on a study Microsoft commissioned from IDC ( This study examined companies participating in the Vista Technical Adoption Program (TAP) and found that Vista saves IT and users time and money. Specifically, the annual IT labor cost for Vista is $470; for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (XP SP2), it's $507; for XP, $536; and for Windows 2000 (Win2K) client, $593. The annual end-user labor cost for Vista is $2,281; for XP SP2, $2421; for XP, $2435; and for Win2K, $2462.

According to the white paper, the savings Vista affords come from four major areas:

  • Lower service desk costs, which the study attributes to Vista's improved reliability, security, and self-healing abilities.
  • Lower desktop engineering and support costs, which the white paper defines as “planning, project management, PC rollouts, security threat evaluation, application and patch deployments and image management.”
  • Higher end-user productivity, which purportedly results from Vista's improved desktop search and collaboration capabilities.

The white paper concludes, “Our guidance for organizations that want to maximize their return on investment of Windows Vista is that they should use the operating system as a catalyst for improving overall infrastructure optimization. By using this approach, the organization can receive both the core benefits and the potentially much larger IT process improvement benefits simultaneously.” That part about “improving overall infrastructure optimization” makes me wonder whether IDC is trying to shore up the argument that Vista inherently saves time and money— after all, this study was paid for by Microsoft.

Are You Convinced?

I'm a tech freak, and I want the latest and greatest of everything the minute it's available. So I'm all over Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007. But out there in the trenches, you still have your day-to-day job to do. Are Microsoft's slogans and claims about “people-ready” business value strong enough to convince you that your organization needs these new products sooner rather than later? Please let me know what factors are important to your plans (or lack of plans) to upgrade. Tell me how this publication can help you.
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