While Windows 11 was launched in October 2021, adoption remains low, with market share reaching about 18% globally (as of January 2023). Most organizations delay adoption for around 18 months so releases can stabilize. If you’re considering upgrading your enterprise to Windows 11 now, it’s likely you’ll face new challenges in addition to the familiar ones such as gathering and analyzing data, testing applications, scheduling, communicating and rolling out updates to thousands of users, coordinating the OS update with asset refresh cycles, and keeping records up to date.
While Windows 11 is an OS targeted at meeting the needs of a rapidly changing world, global trends and the release itself may create further challenges for your enterprise upgrade this time around.
Global factors impact Windows 11 rollout
Stringent Windows 11 system requirements pose the first challenge, as recent statistics show that around 42% of devices aren’t compatible with the new OS. That means a significant asset refresh could be in the cards. You may be prepared for that, given that the equipment you distributed during 2020 lockdowns is now nearly three years old.
If you are prepared, it’s just a case of analyzing asset data to understand user needs and working with purchasing and lease companies, isn’t it? If only it were that simple. Global economic uncertainty and disruption to supply chains caused by extended lockdowns in China mean tech components are in short supply. As well as rising prices, you could also be facing unprecedented lead times.
Another potential challenge is a familiar one: avoiding business disruption with your rollout. If you don’t want to annoy users with unfamiliar features, or flood the help desk with requests, there are ways to prepare end users ahead of time.
Are potential workarounds worth the risk?
You may have seen articles about workarounds for hardware requirements for Windows 11. But, while there is a way to do this on certain devices, Microsoft made this possible only to allow enterprises to evaluate applications working on devices using Windows 11. Security patches will not be issued for these situations. That means data will be vulnerable. With cyberattacks on the increase, it’s unlikely to be an option you’ll want to take.
So, what are your options? Do you delay your Windows 11 upgrade until you can access the equipment you need, or will a gradual rollout meet your business needs better, rolling out new equipment as and when you acquire it?
Delaying a Windows 11 upgrade
Microsoft will support Windows 10 Version 22H2 until May 2025 and Windows Enterprise until October 2025. If you think issues in the supply chain will have resolved by next year and prices will have stabilized, then you can sit back and wait. Depending on equipment lead times, you may be able to assess requirements now and wait until you can access all the devices you need. Either way, you could be adding risk to your rollout.
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Planning a gradual Windows 11 rollout
If you’re limited by the new tech you can acquire, how can you make the most of existing assets, and roll out Windows 11 gradually to meet business needs without adding to IT’s workload? Here are a few suggestions:
- Take stock of existing assets: Do you have a clear list of all the devices in your estate, hardware details for each device, and know where the devices are? Many companies don’t, particularly following the mass distribution of equipment in 2020. Use your systems management tools to scan networks and survey end users and business teams to discover unused tech and determine what can be reclaimed and reused to make the best use of your assets and company budgets.
- Assess Windows 11 device compatibility: With your comprehensive inventory you can use MS requirements, to discover what can be upgraded to Windows 11. Also note any lease renewal dates and work with providers and suppliers to manage your options.
- Prioritize rollouts: If you find your rollout will be impacted by new equipment lead times, you’ll need to prioritize Windows 11 updates to meet needs with the least business disruption by:
- Working with business leaders and teams to identify which users require the upgrade first.
- Creating user profiles and assigning priority levels based on need.
- Leveraging records, such as HR data to assign priority levels to users using your profiles.
- Rolling out your updates to the highest priority users first, leveraging the assets you have or using the dates you can receive them. By getting users or departments to return old equipment you may be able to wipe, update and redistribute to others if it is Windows 11 compatible (depending on their needs). Note, you’ll need to contact users to confirm shipping info and to chase the return of old devices.
- Manage Windows 10/11 updates: As you continue your Windows 11 upgrade, there will be machines still running Windows 10, so you’ll need to keep track of devices and deliver any relevant updates and patches to users to keep data secure.
A fine balancing act
If you’re managing your Windows 11 upgrade manually, a gradual rollout could be incredibly complex. The time it takes to aggregate and analyze asset data taken from multiple tools and user surveys could take months, then chasing the return of old equipment will add more time, as will assigning a priority level to each user.
When you begin your rollout, organizational changes will mean the information you have is already old. And, if managed manually, it’s only natural that errors will have crept in. All of this adds risk to any program, and you could find you are prioritizing the wrong users, disrupting access, or delaying security patches and leaving data vulnerable.
Reduce risks using digital workplace orchestration and automation
You can reduce the risks, effort, and challenges of managing a gradual Windows 11 rollout and that’s by introducing an orchestration layer to automate the migration across your IT environment. This is made possible using a digital platform conductor (DPC), a tool highlighted in 4 Gartner hype cycles.
A DPC integrates with all your disparate IT management tools, as well as sources outside of IT, such as HR databases, to collect, analyze, and clean the data. This allows you to make more informed decisions on how to manage change and leverage a DPC’s orchestration capabilities to automate workflows based on readiness criteria.
- Data analysis identifies gaps regarding asset details.
- Workflows are triggered automatically to get missing information from systems and users.
- Emails to notify end users about the upgrade and ask them to confirm information via a self-service portal, as well as email reminders, and scheduling are all automated.
- Hardware readiness for Microsoft 11 requirements is identified.
- Assignment of user priority levels is automated by leveraging user profiles.
- Processes for Windows 11 rollouts are automated, including application testing, scheduling, communications, and reporting.
- Detailed records about devices and the OS versions running on them are kept up to date.
ReadyWorks is a digital platform conductor. Book a demo to learn how ReadyWorks can automate 80% of the workflows associated with you Windows and asset lifecycle management programs.