As organizations prepare to roll out Windows 8, one of the questions that is likely to come up is whether or not Office 2013 should be simultaneously rolled out as a part of the migration. Although there is no simple yes or no answer to this question that will be valid in every situation, there are a number of things that must be considered throughout the decision-making process.
What will it cost?
Cost seems to be the major driving factor in most IT decisions. The licensing costs must be taken into account unless your organization qualifies for a free upgrade through Microsoft’s Software Assurance program, through Office 365, or something similar.
In any case, it is important to remember that license costs are not the only costs associated with an Office 2013 upgrade. There may also be costs related to the deployment process, training, and support.
Will adding Office 2013 impede the Windows 8 timeline?
In most organizations, Microsoft Office is considered a mission-critical application. Although Office 2013 seems to be stable, it would be foolhardy and reckless to upgrade a mission-critical application without first performing thorough testing. If a deadline has already been established for the transition to Windows 8, the timeline might not allow for enough time to adequately test Office 2013. In these situations, you may be better off waiting to deploy Office 2013 rather than rushing into the migration.
How will the end-users be affected?
The user impact is a serious consideration for any application upgrade. It is important to realize that some users are probably already going to be confused by the transition to Windows 8 due to the new interface and the missing Start menu. Even though Office 2013 works very similarly to Office 2010, it does look quite a bit different from previous versions of Office, which might further confuse some users. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t upgrade Office and Windows together, but rather that you should be sure to prepare your users so that they know what to expect.
Does Office 2013 offer any compelling benefits?
Another issue that deserves to be considered is whether or not Office 2013 offers any new features that present a compelling reason to upgrade. Office 2013 has been widely regarded as a minor upgrade. The suite does offer new features, but the changes that Microsoft has made are far less extensive than what we have seen in some of the prior Office releases.
The main advantage to an Office 2013 upgrade (at least in my opinion) is that it provides much tighter integration with SharePoint. If your organization makes extensive use of SharePoint then Office 2013 should be considered a must-have.
What additional preparations need to occur before the transition?
In most cases, preparing for an upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Office doesn’t require as much prep work as other types of application migrations. However, there are two issues that you do need to take into account.
The first of these issues is your group policies. The administrative templates for Microsoft Office are version-specific. Therefore, any Office-related group policy settings that you currently have in place will not be valid for Office 2013. You will have to deploy the new administrative templates and add any necessary group policy settings.
The other consideration that you must account for is any customizations that you might have made. Depending on how the migration is performed, such customizations could be lost during the transition process. Therefore, plan to apply any necessary customizations to Microsoft Office 2013 before the deployment process.
With so many things to consider when deciding whether or not to include Office 2013 in your transition to Windows 8, it is important to perform the upgrade in a way that is going to make the most sense for your organization. There can be some major advantage to moving to Office 2013 and Windows 8 at the same time. Beyond just the added capabilities of each, doing both migrations at once might be most helpful to your users. But if you’re looking to do that, be sure to get your ducks in a row.