You’re still on XP and blaming Microsoft?

Let me first say that I am not a shill for the Redmond gang nor am I espousing the virtues of Windows 8.1.  However, it strikes me as very odd that as we approach April 2014’s planned retirement of Windows XP that so many people are blaming Microsoft for no longer actively supporting a 13 year old operating system.  Talk about living in denial. I work for a company that manufactures software and the minute we release the current version of one of our products, we are already busy obsessing about the next version.  The countdown to planned obsolescence begins at the moment your move to the latest technology platform (if not before), in this case, the world’s most popular PC operating systems, Windows.  So why are so many IT folks ripping on Microsoft for putting XP to bed?  Simple.  They have failed to plan adequately for the future and getting defensive about it.

I recently read an article in Computerworld and the author of the article actually speculated that Microsoft’s decision could hurt its reputation.  Judging by their stock price performance over the last year, I am not sure if that is a major concern.  Microsoft announced the end of XP years ago, so any alleged reputation damage most likely would be from techie ne’er-do-wells who alternatively rail on the company for their lack of innovation. The article goes on to further predict that backlash from inevitable security breaches for organizations still on XP post April 2014 will drown out Microsoft’s attempt to promote their latest Windows version.  Not really sure about that, but let’s not lose sight of the real issue – you have chosen to run your company on 13 year old software.  And you soon may be feeling some internal backlash for that.

You cannot say you were not given enough time to plan.  That’s just not an acceptable excuse.

Now, perhaps you are of the mindset that XP was the last great OS that Microsoft put out.  I am actually not here to argue that point, but at what point did staying on aging software seem like a viable long term strategy?  I am not saying organizations should expect to upgrade each time a new OS comes out (sorry, Microsoft, that’s just not practical for most enterprises), but would you have a technology road map that ends with your company stuck on unsupported software?  Skip Windows Vista –sure, but Windows 7 was a solid OS, so why not upgrade around the time Windows 7 came out? As a CEO, I would probably blow a gasket if one of my management team suggested such a flawed strategy or, even worse, came to me at the 11th hour notifying me that we have a significant security exposure due to critical unsupported software and your multiple versions behind.  Oh, and we were given years of notice.  That shows a lack of vision and planning.  Now, if your board or senior management team repeatedly shot down budgetary approval to upgrade, well then shame on them.  I’d let you off the hook for that reason.  However, if you are working for such a company and there is a significant breach after April 2014, remember who they will come looking for to blame.  Probably you. That’s just how the game works.

This whole blame game is just a big deflection away from the real issues and, frankly, is beginning to sound a lot like whining. It reminds me of how my teenage kids act when I press them on why they procrastinated so long on a school project. It usually starts with them making flustered excuses, but ends with me shutting it down with a chat about personal accountability. So, let’s get real and stop blaming a technology company for doing what most tech companies do – produce new software versions for profit. So let’s end the pathetic pleas to Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP to further perpetuate bad IT behavior.  Seriously, you want Microsoft to reward poor planners with a stay of execution for some period of time just so those same poor planners can kick the problem down the road for someone else to deal with?

Talk about enabling bad behavior.

I would rather see articles concerning how years of global economic turmoil has decimated staffing at many companies which has left many IT teams resource starved and unable to adequately innovate and plan for the future.  We see that issue all the time.  It’s hard plan for the future when every day is consumed with putting out fires. That’s a reasonable explanation, but not an excuse. In the end, we all have to be responsible for and in control of our future.  We are defined by not what happens to us, but the choices we make. IT is still responsible for building and maintaining technology platforms that enable their organizations to go to battle effectively in the open market.  I know I’d rather go to battle with a machine gun than a musket.