Windows 7 business migration driven by front-line users

Workplace desktop OS choice being driven more and more from the bottom up

If you are happy with Windows 7 on your personal laptop, but grumble every time Windows XP boots up on your work computer, it may be time to tap your company's IT pro on the shoulder and ask for Windows 7. You might be surprised at the response you get.

As Windows 7 migrations begin at many enterprises, satisfied Windows 7 consumers are pushing the "consumerization of IT" envelope by asking enterprise IT to adapt. This trend has been prevalent with smartphone users and now Windows 7 users are doing the same. Research firm Forrester highlights this trend in a recent Windows 7 adoption report - and recommends that IT give users what they want, for several reasons.

Some enterprises are already getting the message. Part of the Forrester report, entitled "Updated 2010: Windows 7 Commercial Adoption Outlook", is a survey of 687 PC decision-makers at North American and European enterprises and SMBs. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents said they will allow users to be early adopters of Windows 7, even outside of specific upgrade campaigns.

There is more than just self-interest at stake for users. Yes, you will have a more modern OS and probably be more productive, but at notoriously slow-moving enterprises, user demand for Windows 7 could "go a long way toward speeding up your companywide deployments and will minimize the time needed to support dual operating systems," writes report authors and Forrester analysts Benjamin Gray and Christian Kane.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system -- including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts -- see CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]

On top of the 47 percent who said they would upgrade users to Windows 7 upon request, 10 percent said they "don't know" if they would. So you have roughly a coin-flip chance of getting a Windows 7 upgrade if you ask - probably a better chance if you nag.

Naturally, Microsoft encourages users to demand Windows 7 at work. When giving Windows 7 guidance to customers, Microsoft lists the "blurring lines between work and home computing" as a top industry trend, just as important to Windows 7 migrations as the cloud computing movement and desktop virtualization tools.

Windows 7 consumer satisfaction, according to Microsoft, is a top reason why the OS has had a strong push in the enterprise. IT departments, in return, are giving less lip service and acting on user needs, says Gavriella Schuster, general manager of Windows Product Management Group.

"Workers are pushing IT to adopt," Schuster says. "When IT says, 'Hey, we're going to start piloting Windows 7,' you have that line out the door of users who want in."

The Forrester report says the reasons for migrating to Windows 7 are evolving beyond just the diminishing support for Windows XP and the need for new computers - although those are certainly important factors.

But IT departments are seeing more value in networking and security features built into Windows 7 such as DirectAccess, BranchCache and BitLocker to Go. Also, desktop and application virtualization tools (from Microsoft or other vendors like VMware) have matured to the point where they can round up incompatible applications and migrate them using virtualization technologies, thus simplifying and speeding up migrations.

The report acknowledges that Windows XP is still the dominant enterprise OS (75 percent of all companies surveyed are running it), but also finds that Windows 7 migrations are on the verge of busting out. Forty-six percent of firms report that they have already begun or will begin deploying Windows 7 within the next 12 months. Forty-two percent say they will deploy Windows 7 in more than 12 months.

Eager workers are in a position stoke this Windows 7 momentum, according to Forrester, and the firm cautions IT departments not to underestimate the influence of users.

"Firms should embrace empowered workers who request early access to Windows 7," the Forrester report states. "We encourage IT to prepare for - and embrace - the pull effect that Windows 7 is having on users."

Are you getting demands from your users to finally jump away from Windows XP -- and if so, how are you responding? Let us know in the comments.

Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at soneill@cxo.com.

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This story, "Windows 7 business migration driven by front-line users" was originally published by CIO.

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