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Strategies for Adopting New Technology

Published: November 2008

Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) adopts many new technologies prior to their release to manufacturing (RTM). This article describes how Microsoft IT plans the adoption of new technology and describes tactics for managing the adoption process.

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Customer Profile

Intended Audience

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is the world's largest software company, with more than U.S. $44 billion in annual revenues and 78,000 employees worldwide.

Business and technical decision makers who are interested in gaining an understanding of how Microsoft IT plans the early adoption of new technology

Introduction

Microsoft is an early adopter of technology. In fact, the company often runs IT on pre-rtm releases of Windows Server and Windows Client, Office, Visual Studio, and Sql Server, to name a few. As an early adopter, Microsoft IT is a corporate customer that experiences the same technology-adoption challenges as any other organization—only earlier.

By using Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 database software and Microsoft Visual Studio® Team System 2008 Team Suite as examples, this article provides a perspective on how Microsoft IT plans the adoption of new technology.

Understanding the Scope of Microsoft IT

Understanding the scope and breadth of Microsoft IT sets the stage for understanding the team's strategies for technology adoption. First, Microsoft IT is big and global. It supports more than 184,000 users in 441 buildings across 98 countries. It supports more than 685,000 devices, including servers, desktop computers, and mobile devices. Microsoft has more than 500,000 remote network connections and almost 40 million Microsoft Office Outlook® Web Access connections per month.

Microsoft IT develops and delivers approximately 2,300 versions of 1,500 line-of-business (LOB) applications. Delivering these applications is one of Microsoft IT's key challenges, and this challenge is a key driver to the Visual Studio Team System Team Suite early-adopter program that this article describes.

Microsoft IT adopts new technology across many of the product groups. In fact, Microsoft IT has formal pre-RTM deployments (early adopter programs) for all the major Microsoft products, including:

  • Microsoft Office
  • The Windows® operating system
  • Windows Mobile® software
  • Visual Studio
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server
  • SQL Server
  • The Windows Server® operating system

Aligning Spending to the Strategy

The primary driver for MSIT pre-RTM early adoption is partnering with the product teams to ensure quality and value for enterprise customers. Validating business benefit is one measure for Microsoft IT rationalization of new technology early. As shown in Figure 1, Microsoft IT aligns business strategy to features and functionality in the new technology.

Aligning IT spending to strategy

Figure 1. Aligning IT spending to strategy

Microsoft IT maps strategies to its challenges. For example, data storage is an area where Microsoft IT makes significant investments. Data is essential to MSIT business reporting and decision making and as such, there are numerous and varied data solutions.� Microsoft IT maintains more than 1,000 instances of SQL Server and more than 13,000 databases. Data security, consolidation, and warehouse performance across its databases are all areas where Microsoft IT can gain a significant benefit.

A second challenge is LOB application delivery. Microsoft IT has approximately 1,500 LOB applications and 2,300 application projects. Challenges in this area include failure to deliver projects on time, budget overruns, and failures to meet business requirements. Microsoft IT can optimize IT spending by addressing these challenges.

Associating New Features with Strategies

After identifying strategies, Microsoft IT associates new product features and technologies with them. In the data area, for example, SQL Server 2008 has new features that benefit the data storage strategy. Table 1 illustrates how these new SQL Server 2008 features align with the data strategies. Microsoft IT uses these mappings to validate SQL Server 2008 adoption.

Table 1 also lists Microsoft IT's challenges in the application delivery area. Again, Microsoft IT maps these challenges to technology benefits to produce a business justification. In this case, Visual Studio Team System Team Suite helps eliminate custom tools and provides rich collaboration and subsequent time savings for application development teams. In addition, Visual Studio Team System Team Suite reporting gives transparency to more users and enhances business alignment and integration in the engineering process.

Table 1. New Features to Benefit Data Strategies

Area

Strategy

Product

New features

Data

  • Store any data
  • Improve data warehouse performance
  • Secure trusted data

SQL Server2008

  • Spatial and relational data in one store
  • Data compression
  • Enhanced security for high business impact (HBI) data

Delivery

  • Provide on-time delivery
  • Provide on-budget delivery
  • Meet business requirements

Visual Studio Team System2008 Team Suite

  • Project management and work item tracking
  • Work item resource tracking
  • Work item linking

Quantifying the Business Benefit

When planning new technology adoption, Microsoft IT identifies the benefit based on key performance indicators (KPIs) which are baselined and measured before and after the adoption, and determines the adoption costs, including headcount, infrastructure, and software.

Figure 2 shows how Microsoft IT mapped the cost/benefit equation for SQL Server 2008. For example, the benefit of securing HBI data is security and compliance minus the cost of the upgrade. (Microsoft does not pay for software, so the cost is the logistical cost of the upgrade.) This benefit is hard to quantify, but it is implicit. Likewise, the benefit of data compression minus the cost of the upgrade is a 45 percent savings in disk space. Figure 2 also shows how Microsoft IT mapped the cost/benefit equation for Visual Studio Team System Team Suite.

Quantifying the business benefit

Figure 2. Quantifying the business benefit

Managing the Adoption Process

The following information provides an insight into how Microsoft IT manages the adoption process after rationalizing the benefit of adopting a new technology:

  • Identification of projects. Microsoft IT uses a custom tool called the Microsoft Application Portfolio System to identify potential projects. This tool is a catalog and inventory of the applications that Microsoft IT delivers and manages.
  • People. Communicating with and educating everyone involved with the project—including the engineering team, business, and end users—is very important. Microsoft IT provides numerous online resources for this purpose.
  • Process. During the adoption process, infrastructure planning is critical for Microsoft IT. For example, when adopting a new operating system like Windows Vista®, it is important to determine early whether existing computers are capable of running the operating system. Microsoft IT must make sure that the infrastructure required for the adoption exists. A key part of this process is identifying any compatibility issues that will result from the adoption. For example, is the new product or technology compatible with existing applications and third-party tools? Are any new processes required to support the product?
  • Tools. Prior to beginning the adoption process, Microsoft IT determines whether a migration is necessary. If so, it needs to ensure that migration tools are available. At times, this can be problematic for Microsoft IT because the team often adopts new technology before migration tools are available. Microsoft IT also tries to retire custom tools in favor of using new out-of-the-box tools that are easier to maintain and deliver over time.
  • Migration. During the migration to the new product, Microsoft IT uses a phased schedule to deliver the product to the target desktop computers or servers. It uses detailed project plans and checklists to manage the process.

Dealing with Application Compatibility

Application compatibility is a big piece of Microsoft IT's tactics for the adoption of new technology. When deploying a new technology, such as Windows Vista and Microsoft Office, testing LOB applications that might have dependencies is very important. With many LOB applications, Microsoft IT needs to prepare for deployment by verifying their compatibility with the new technology. Microsoft IT uses the Microsoft Application Portfolio System to identify a representative subset of applications to test. This helps to identify the impact that adopting the technology will have on the environment while reducing the testing effort to about 6 percent of the entire application portfolio.

Additionally, Microsoft IT has a dedicated team that manages a virtual test lab for compatibility testing. Instead of a model in which each development team creates its own testing environment, each team uses this virtual test lab. The virtual test lab is on a server that hosts about 10 test virtual machines. This saves the development team a significant amount of testing time by reducing the overall setup and configuration time for compatibility testing.

Identifying the Pain Points

Adopting new technology can be difficult, particularly for early adopters. The following are some of the pain points that Microsoft IT has experienced:

  • While deploying new technology to improve the business, the business must continue to work. Negotiating deployment or migration downtime is important.
  • Product education and support evolves after product releases. As a result, pre-RTM education and support is a big problem, which Microsoft IT addresses by getting the product groups involved in regular early-adopter readiness sessions. This pain point is unique to Microsoft, because the company usually adopts new technology prior to its release.
  • Changing, moving, or retiring processes can have a ripple effect. Microsoft IT examines processes and dependent processes to discover whether they require reworking.
  • Some new-technology adoptions require Microsoft IT to rework custom tools. This can also be true of third-party tools.
  • Adopting new technology can sometimes break applications. Rather than leave this to chance, Microsoft IT uses the process described earlier in the section "Dealing with Application Compatibility" to uncover any application compatibility issues.
  • Migration tools are not always ready for Microsoft IT, making the migration process more challenging. Like education and support, this pain point is unique to Microsoft IT because it adopts technology prior to release—before tools are available.

Conclusion

Microsoft IT adopts new technologies prior to their release to the public, which adds challenges that most organizations will not have to handle. However, any organization (early adopter or late adopter) can learn about new-technology adoption by examining Microsoft IT strategies.

First, Microsoft IT aligns new product features with business challenges and IT pain points. Then, it defines the business benefit in a quantifiable way. After making the case for new-technology adoption, Microsoft IT plans and executes the technology adoption. A key consideration when adopting any new technology is application compatibility, and Microsoft IT uses a virtual test lab to conduct application compatibility testing of a subset of its application portfolio.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada information Centre at (800) 563-9048. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information through the World Wide Web, go to:

http://www.microsoft.com

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itshowcase

© 2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, Outlook, SharePoint, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Windows, Windows Mobile, Windows Server, and Windows Vista are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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