The concept of return on investment (ROI) goes back to the beginning of time and is perhaps best defined by Machiavelli in the phrase "the ends justify the means." As IT and users alike prepare for the rollout of Windows 7, that same cold calculation has to be made on when, if not whether, to move to Windows 7. The question is simple: Will my investment in purchasing, rolling out, and training for Windows 7 provide my business with a positive ROI?
In the current troubled economy, it is difficult to justify spending additional funds for what may be simply turn out to be eye-candy enhancements. The fact is, if your users are functioning well and you have limited issues with your current XP or Vista environment (but let's be realistic -- few companies have adopted the latter OS), you will not likely get a measurable and appreciable ROI in a move to Windows 7.
Note: There are credible tools and spreadsheets that can help you assess and quantify the costs and benefits of moving to Windows 7. One that I've found to be quite extensive and useful comes from Hall Consulting and Research. And when you are ready to make the move to Windows 7, I encourage you to read my InfoWorld how-to guide "Ready for Windows 7? Here's how to deploy it right," which is also available in a Kindle version for Amazon.com Kindle owners and iPhone owners who have the Kindle app installed.
Where Windows 7's ROI is likely to come from
So where will a ROI come from with Windows 7? Certainly not from the new AeroShake capability or the Scenic Ribbon interface changes to WordPad or Paint. However, enhancements to features such as BitLocker encryption and the add-on Bitlocker-to-Go make a very solid case for deploying Windows 7 for your traveling business users.
According to Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. The belief is that half of the data breaches suffered by companies have come from lost or stolen laptops, mobile devices, and USB flash drives. And it is believed that 60 percent of the corporate data that administrators seek to protect is walking around with your people on their laptops each day. BitLocker (which encrypt your PCs) and BitLocker-to-Go (which encrypts USB devices such as drives and flash memory fobs) can reduce or even eliminate your data-loss fears. If you're subject to privacy breach-disclosure notification laws, an investment in Windows 7 to get BitLocker could save you millions in fines and notification costs later.
But what about the other great Windows 7 features we keep hearing about, such as DirectAccess, BranchCache, and AppLocker? Each of these features will provide a modicum of benefit for your organization. But to get it, you have to also plan on a Windows Server 2008 R2 deployment (not necessarily a full-forest upgrade) to take advantage of those features. (Read my article "Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: Joined at the hip" to see how these two products will benefit each other.)