Windows 11 has officially arrived more than six years after the launch of Windows 10 in July 2015. For large organizations updating thousands of machines to Windows 11 while maintaining business continuity, IT teams will be required to develop a Windows lifecycle management process that addresses everything from application testing to hardware upgrades to scheduling the actual update. Without a sound process, hardware and software failures can threaten to hamper operations, potentially removing access to critical devices during work hours with little to no warning.
Transitioning to Windows 11
Ensuring a successful transition to the newest Microsoft OS begins with a clear understanding of the applications being accessed, who is accessing them, and how they are being accessed. Most organizations lack a complete and accurate inventory of applications running on every device. Information about these applications—along with the ones accessed online—and who is using them is typically stored in multiple systems including CMDBs, system management platforms, and access management systems. To create an accurate list, this information needs to be collected and rationalized.
Applications will then need to be categorized by risk to determine which ones will need to be tested before rolling out the Windows update. Categorizing applications by risk can reduce the number of applications that need to be tested to less than 15%:
- Tier 1: Mission Critical Apps: These are the applications that support essential business services or critical users. The applications must be lab tested to certify that they will work with the update ahead of rollout.
- Tier 2: Important Apps: These applications are used widely across organizations, but are not critical to maintaining the business directly. Many collaborative office and messaging applications would fall into this category. IT teams can test these applications in a more narrow band by using software pilots—testing with small groups of users that can provide feedback prior to initiating an office-wide update.
- Tier 3: Low-risk apps: These are usually commercial off the shelf (COTS) or home-grown apps that are non-essential, and likely leveraged by small groups of users based on department, geography, or other factors. IT teams should feel comfortable upgrading these applications across devices, but should still monitor and provide a structure for reporting and investigating failures or disruptions.
Once applications have been properly cataloged and categorized, IT managers will also be tasked with determining which applications are properly updated and ready to transition to Windows 11, and which are potentially “behind” and will need to be updated.
Ensuring Hardware Readiness
In addition to testing applications, organizations will need to determine hardware readiness and identify machines that need to be upgraded or replaced. Typically, a third of all equipment will be nearing end of life within each Windows update period. In the past, many organizations used the Windows upgrade as an opportunity to refresh their IT estate.
Once application and hardware readiness are determined, a proper roll-out schedule can commence. Ideally, end users should have access to “self-service” capabilities so that the end user’s timing preferences can be considered and integrated into the larger process. Those same capabilities should be applied to replacing or removing outdated hardware. IT teams will also need to consider the internet bandwidth available to remote employees. Firms should run speed tests prior to launching the update process to determine the best order and method of enacting these critical updates, especially for remote staff.
By leveraging the capabilities of a digital platform conductor—a tool that enables infrastructure and operations managers to manage their IT infrastructure strategically and from anywhere—IT teams can avoid the risk of business disruption and reduce at least 50% of the manual effort associated with the Windows 11 update.