5 Business Reasons for Adopting the Windows Platform
Microsoft Windows not only works; it is simple to set up, maintain and keep users working--which fuels profits.
By Ty Anderson
Most everything in life should just work. But for today, the focus is on software we use to run our businesses. If it doesn’t work as well as it should, you will likely suffer a cascade of issues that hurt your business-like money (and the loss of it). The best strategy to prevent this is adopting a platform that helps reduce costs and allows you to make investments that support the business’s growth instead of derailing it.
For the majority of businesses, the best platform is Microsoft Windows. It doesn’t matter if you are looking to run desktop applications like spreadsheets and word processors or if you want to run server-based database or portal applications, the Windows platform is the 80 of the 80/20 rule. Windows not only works; it is simple to set up, maintain and keep users working.
When choosing a software platform for your business, several factors should be considered that would be crucial to any business decision. Here are the five most critical criteria.
Think the argument in this article is a load of hooey? Believe that it’s the most accurate examination of the Windows in the enterprise? Be sure to read the other viewpoint in Seven Financial Reasons Not to Use Windows.
America continues to maintain its position as the most successful capitalist economy the world has known. This success is not the result of feeling good about ourselves, building community and sharing the fruits of our labor just for the fun of it. Hell no! We earned it the old-fashioned way by building great products and services and charging a fee for them that exceeded the costs of production. This is known as earning a profit, and it is the goal of any respectable business.
Earning a profit isn’t popular in some social circles, but that doesn’t mean you can survive without it. Despite the current political rhetoric, earning a profit is the key metric of a company’s health-and the more the better. Profits are an indication that a company has products that the market demands. In addition, profits point to the fact that a company knows how to take care of its customers. Companies do this by creating products and services that solve their customers’ problems.
Microsoft is a champion at turning a profit. For the past fiscal year, Microsoft’s net profit margin was 28 percent versus an industry average of 18.4 percent. Software profit margins have always been high, but the fact that Microsoft’s net margin is almost 10 points higher than its industry shows that the software maker’s products work and are in-demand.
A company delivers products demanded by the market by understanding the market, which is driven by the desire to generate profits. Compare this to open-source software, where the primary focus is the technology instead of the business problem to be solved. It isn’t much of a stretch to understand who has your company’s best interests in mind.
Accountability & Risk
Companies make money by risking their capital and reaping the benefits of success. Since risk is an ever-present factor of the business environment and cannot be eliminated, the best you can do is seek to reduce your exposure to it. When implementing software, this means choosing a proven software provider that backs its software.
As your business matures and software becomes more and more pervasive as critical components of your processes, it only makes sense to negotiate service and support contracts with your software provider. With Microsoft, you have the largest software company in existence. If you adopt open-source software, significant questions arise as to who is ultimately accountable if the software does not perform as promised. And if you can identify who is accountable, what recourse can you possibly expect from them?
For example, a client operating in a Windows Server environment wanted to connect their user directory to their Linux-and-Java-based service provider’s. One solution called for the adoption of a Microsoft-based product that simplifies Single Sign-On communication between Windows and Linux. This sounded great to everyone but the service provider, who searched for and found an open-source version of the same technology. When explaining its decision to go open-source, the service provider stated, “Because if it breaks, we can fix it ourselves.”
This is flawed thinking. Why not purchase something that works in the first place? Besides, why allow your IT staff to increase operational risk by choosing to take responsibility for updating and maintaining technology outside their skill set? By adopting Windows and the related Microsoft stack of software (more on this later), you lower operational risk by buying software that works.
Talent & Culture
Developing software, like anything worth doing, takes talent, and Microsoft has the largest developer community. With more than 3 million people developing applications with Microsoft languages (such as C#, VB.NET, C++), the talent pool is rich. Not everyone who develops with the Microsoft toolset can be considered a skilled professional; but as of March 2007, more than 895,000 have achieved certification status with Microsoft tools and technology. The certification process isn’t easy to attain, and this means that there’s an abundance of skilled people available to help you. And the shortage of Linux administrators, for example, means you could expect to pay 20 percent to 30 percent more for this skill than you would for a Windows administrator.
Total Cost of Ownership
One of the biggest reasons espoused for adopting open-source systems such as Linux is that typically there are little to no license costs involved. You just download the software, install it and off you go into IT nirvana. But the truth is the open-source software isn’t free. Sure, the licenses are free (or almost free), but the hardware, the staffing, the training and more are not free. These items are part of what’s commonly known as total cost of ownership (TCO). In fact, according to a 2007 study by IDC, costs associated with staffing and user downtime together account for 75 percent of the TCO over three- and five-year periods. So sure, the licenses are free, but the support and the management of the system will kill you.
The Microsoft platform most certainly is not free, but the acquisition costs are competitive with Linux and other open-source systems. In fact, BearingPoint studied this very issue and found that Windows Server 2003 can be less expensive, especially if you factor in 24/7 support costs. If you purchase this type of support from Red Hat or Novell, your TCO for Linux can be as much as 76 percent higher than Windows. And this stat does not address the more costly issues associated with staffing.
Staffing costs are driven by the full-time staff required to install, configure and maintain your platform. This cost is 60 percent of TCO; therefore anything you can do to drive this down a few points will have a major impact. So you will need staff who know how to run your systems, secure your environment, perform backups and so on. As stated before, the number of professionals available who know the Microsoft stack is significant. As a result, wages are lower due to the increased competition for jobs.
Microsoft sells software. That’s its sole mission and goal in life. Similar to Coca-Cola, which doesn’t care what you drink as long as it’s a Coke product; Microsoft wants you to run all aspects of your business with its software. As a result, Microsoft has built a technology stack that starts with the Windows operating system at the bottom and user applications at the top. In between resides a rich set of server technologies that can be combined to meet your requirements.
If you need a database, Microsoft has one of the best. Do you need to automate data exchange between systems? You can get up and running quickly with BizTalk server. Would you rather focus on automating business processes? Open up Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and you can build workflows around documents without implementing code.
In addition, Microsoft provides a set of developer tools and languages that work with each of the company’s technologies. If you have a development staff that knows a Microsoft language like C# or VB.NET, then they can extend any technology Microsoft sells. This fact alone can dramatically reduce costs associated with managing the platform.
The key take-away to Microsoft’s integrated stack is the fact that Microsoft understands businesses do not buy software. Businesses buy solutions that solve their problems.
The Bottom Line
The Microsoft platform has proven its value to businesses of all shapes and sizes throughout the world. Arguments can be made about some of the company’s tactics over the years, but it is undeniable that its products are in demand, and for good reason. Microsoft provides the most value to the business. Your business isn’t a science experiment or a religion, it’s a profit-making machine, and you should choose a partner that understands better than anyone how to run a profitable business.
Ty Anderson is a partner at Cogent in Dallas. He spends his time consulting and building software using Microsoft technologies. He writes frequently about Microsoft technologies including SharePoint, Office and SQL Server.