Roadmaps for Microsoft Expose Unexpected Cost – How IT Asset Managers Use Microsoft’s Enterprise Software Roadmap

By Jeff Parker, Directions on Microsoft

Is your company using a roadmap to plan its Microsoft purchases? If not, it’s flying blind.

Microsoft sells more than 100+ versions of its enterprise products. These products and versions are far more interdependent than most corporate IT planners or purchasing managers realize. Software purchasers who are not aware of these dependencies during the planning and purchasing phases of their Microsoft projects risk potentially unpleasant and expensive surprises. These surprises arise from a variety of planning problems, including unforeseen licensing costs for new solutions about to be deployed. Unforeseen costs may also arise from existing solutions that depend on technologies that Microsoft has already retired.

IT asset managers and their partners in IT planning need to work together to identify past, present and future interdependencies in Microsoft enterprise software before they impact their company’s IT solutions. Ideally, the issues are known far enough in advance to avoid unnecessary expenses or with sufficient time to budget for the additional licensing and support burdens. A roadmap can expose these previously hidden interdependencies. A reliable Microsoft roadmap summarizing product interdependencies is an essential tool to managing conversations with your IT planning colleagues so that the best decisions can be reached for your organization. The roadmap will focus your attention on the three basic types of dependencies: past, present and future.

Products from the Past

The first type of dependency concerns past versions and Microsoft’s product support life cycle. As soon as a new version of a Microsoft product ships to customers, the prior version begins the slow process of being phased out. Eventually, Microsoft stops issuing service packs, patches and hot fixes for the product. Microsoft begins to require very expensive service contracts to support the older product. Costs from these service contracts may run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For solutions that depend on these older versions of Microsoft software, they become increasingly vulnerable to failure and costly to maintain, often at the expense of other IT priorities. A good roadmap helps an organization prepare for phaseouts by providing concrete dates for the support life cycle of each version of a Microsoft enterprise product. With enough advance notice, IT planners can efficiently schedule migrations of existing solutions to the latest version of a Microsoft technology. If that step is not possible, the IT planners can at least negotiate more favorable custom support agreements in order to leave the older versions in place.

Products in the Present

The second category of dependency concerns just-released products or the cascade of product upgrades caused by a new product version. The new Microsoft products that shipped in 2010 provide several good examples: Many of the most compelling capabilities delivered by Microsoft with Office 2010 depend on the functionality delivered with the newest versions of SharePoint, Exchange, SQL Server and Windows Server. Some product versions such as Project Server 2010 cannot even be deployed without upgrades to recent versions of other products in this lineup. (For a summary of 2010 product capabilities and the servers they depend on, see the illustration “2010 Product Relationships”)

Organizations that deploy new products without fully understanding such dependencies often end up spending far more than they originally budgeted. A good product roadmap identifies the essential interdependencies between new products as well as their relationship to product features. Armed with this information, IT planners and asset mangers can calculate the true cost of proposed solutions or upgrades and adjust their plans and budget accordingly.

Products from the Future

The final type of dependency relates to the strategic planning of actions dependent on release dates for future product versions. For instance, Microsoft volume licensing programs encourage organizations to make advance payments for the right to upgrade to future versions of Microsoft software released during a specific time period. Most IT planners want to know whether upcoming versions of the Microsoft software used by their organization are expected to ship during the time period covered. If the new version is expected out in that time period, the premium is justifiable. If the new versions is not expected out, the additional cost may not be of sufficient value and can be avoided.

A roadmap with reliable estimates on versions release dates is the information IT planners need to make strategic financial decisions. The reliable estimates of product release dates also give IT planners a roadmap on when to begin evaluations, schedule migrations and budget purchases.