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Five Critical Actions for Successful Mobile Windows OS Migration

June 18, 2018
If your operation uses mobile computers running Windows Mobile/CE OS, you should know that future support isn't coming. That means it's time for a migration plan.

For most companies – upwards of 90% by one estimate – it is old news that Microsoft is phasing out support of its Windows Mobile/CE operating systems for rugged devices. As each mobile Windows OS reaches its end of life, there will be no additional software updates. Not even security patches.

Without updated operating systems, hundreds of thousands of  rugged mobile devices will increasingly fall short of mission-critical requirements. Shipping and production processes will slow or even fail. Clever hackers will find easier ways to penetrate system security.

With so much at stake, it is startling to learn that one-quarter of companies responding to a VDC Research study have no plans in place for migrating to a new operating system. Others have migration plans but may lack the confidence that they have the right plans in place. In either case, the question now is, “Where do we go from here?”

For companies lacking a plan, or lacking confidence in a plan, there are five essential steps that can get their Windows migration on track.

1. Develop – or fine tune – your migration roadmap

In many ways, a top-quality migration roadmap is the most essential feature of the entire migration process. Done properly, the course of developing a roadmap will enable a company to identify and avoid problems that may require expensive fixes when implementation begins.

Needless to say, the roadmap should lay out the steps required to identify a suitable Windows OS replacement, such as Android, not to mention the most compatible applications and devices that will accommodate technological change. But roadmap development also creates an opportunity to examine existing business processes that might be better optimized to meet evolving business requirements.

A realistic budget is a vital component of a roadmap. VDC Research found that budgeting and financial approval was the single-most significant concern in mobile OS migration, edging out potential security concerns and the actual migration of legacy applications. However, migration can’t be done on the cheap.

Cut corners if you can but don’t look for short-term savings that result in negative long-term implications for business operations or data security. Operating systems will evolve, apps require constant care and feeding, and even the best rugged devices become more expensive and difficult to maintain over time.

2. Consider your in-house technical expertise

Before implementation begins, weigh migration objectives against IT staffing and the knowledge base needed to achieve those objectives. The technical challenges will be formidable as an IT team deals with coding (or recoding) applications, debugging the next generation platform, and getting up to speed on a whole new operating system.

Even with the brightest IT team, McKinsey and other analysts have found that IT skillsets often fail to match business needs at a time when traditional mobility requirements are being transformed by big data, virtual reality and the maturation of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Consider supplementing your team with such options as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), a cost-effective form of IT outsourcing that can bundle services, devices, applications, management platforms and analytics. It is also a way to future-proof mobile investments with its flexibility in upgrading a mobile ecosystem as technology evolves.

3. Application development and migration

For businesses that depend on apps made for Windows mobile operating systems, scoping and managing app migration is critical. Start by establishing requirements that ensure full app capability with both the new operating system and devices.

An effective development process must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of native versus web-based apps (or some combination) that works best for particular business needs. 

While app migration can the complex and expensive, improved productivity can deliver ROI benefits. For example, cutting just 30 seconds off a scan-and-load operation can gain 250 hours each day in a warehouse that performs 30,000 daily scans.

4. Deployment and support

As noted earlier, thorough pre-deployment planning is the key to effective deployment. Deployment can then the handled expeditiously, perhaps with experienced outside mobility experts who can provide device-level performance support, gauge effectiveness and help make informed decisions about your mobility program.

When turning to an outside resource, VDC advises that enterprises look for partners with a solid track record for migrating legacy OS applications with deep lifecycle services. In the post-deployment phase, a suitable partner can also provide advanced monitoring and analytics capabilities while helping to maintain, repair and replace your devices.

5. Prepare for the future

The time to prepare for the future is now. Don’t move to any OS ecosystem that solves immediate problems without the flexibility to deal with the accelerating pace of technological change. A great example is the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and ability of linked sensors to monitor and often improve nearly every aspect of manufacturing and distribution.

Beyond technological flexibility, the post-Windows world will be built on a new OS, app and device constellation that will continually contribute to a company’s operational efficiency, employee productivity and market competitiveness.

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About Marco Nielsen, Vice President, Managed Mobility Services, Stratix:

Marco has over 20 years of cross-functional experience in systems architecture, operating systems, hardware and communications. Marco brings extensive experience, leadership and expertise in the development and execution of Enterprise Mobility Strategies. Marco leads various strategic workshops across mobility subjects, oversees the deployment of mobile devices for enterprise clients, and provides relationship management with clients ensuring the ongoing recognition of value on their mobility investments.

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