The high-profile nature of Windows 10 upgrade programmes and the potential impact across the entire organisation, means there are always going to be inherent risks. Prolonged downtime and inability to perform daily tasks can be extremely detrimental to productivity and therefore incur costs. When considering the complexities of larger organisations – where sometimes hundreds or thousands of applications are involved – the risk becomes even greater.
Firstly, we should acknowledge the risks of postponing/delaying your upgrade. It is unlikely that many of you are still operating on Windows 95 but certain functions of a business - a Point of Sale system, for example - may only need to use an older version of an operating system to function and there is little risk involved. On the other hand, there could be potential missed opportunity costs associated with working on outdated platforms for other applications, such as the Office suite. Not only will you need to assess the security and functionality risks at an organisational level, you will also need to look at a more granular level.
It is important to acknowledge that it is not possible/reasonable to conduct exhaustive testing across potentially thousands of applications given the timescales and cost constraints. Taking a risk-based approach is key but there could also be a danger that your testing effort is not prioritised appropriately – scrutinise your priorities in detail to ensure that the risks are correctly aligned.
To ensure testing can be effective across the estate you will need to rely on many other factors, such as, the availability of appropriate test devices and environments. You will also need support from infrastructure teams and application experts - getting their buy-in is crucial. In addition, if your organisation has global operations you should consider the issues and impact of time-zone differences if your upgrade is to be rolled out across many countries.
There are also risks associated with complex legacy applications - you may have in-house developed macros where the author/developer has moved on. Do you still have the knowledge and/or documentation to ensure that these will still work as desired on your upgraded platform?
There is a real risk that a Windows 10 upgrade will cause a major disruption to your business users. Alongside the functional risks surrounding applications working incorrectly on the new platform, there is also the serious risk of a degradation in performance which could be even more damaging to productivity if unable to perform basic tasks.
There is likely to be zero tolerance for any serious problems with the business-critical applications and the loss of productivity that could result. This could damage the reputation of the IT department and put pressure on IT support - communicating and managing expectations will be key.
Poor communication with key stakeholders surrounding the upgrade is another area where programmes can flounder, and perhaps this is no different to most other major programmes...
Richard Simms - Test Architect
Please join our WEBINAR: A Quality Approach for Windows 10 Upgrades for a more in-depth discussion around the quality focus and test approaches required to mitigate the risks described above and ultimately support a successful upgrade.