I recently wrote this article which was published in the Australian Information Industry Association newsletter.  I thought I'd repost it here as it's written for the audience of IT resellers and consultants.  Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on the subject!.

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When it comes to April 2014 and the end of support for Windows XP one thing is certain:  Technical issues will be the least of your customers' concerns.  Our SMB customers are usually unable to correlate top level technology issues with deep-seated business problems, and as a community of trusted advisors the onus is on us to be vocal in making the connection and steering our customers through a path of change.  If we fail at this our XP-centric customers may be at a serious disadvantage and considerable risk – and if we leave them exposed then what sort of trusted advisor are we…really?

BUSINESSES FAILING TO ADOPT NEW TECHNOLOGY WILL LOSE CUSTOMERS

Australian research and information publishing agency CCH Australia conducted a survey of 1000 SMB business owners earlier this year.  The research, which was conducted mainly for the benefit of the accounting industry, concluded with results that could only be a massive wake-up call to businesses in that industry:  52% of small business owners surveyed said they would dump their existing accountant, arguably the most trusted advisor to their business, if they failed to adopt new technology.  Put simply, if archaic technology makes it difficult to do business with a company, a customer will go elsewhere. 

Even more interesting was drilling in to the "Gen Y" age bracket of 18-32 year old Small Business owners.  Almost a whopping three quarters of respondents said they'd switch to a different accountant for lack of modern technology in their existing one.  There's plenty of other research which resonates with my main point here:  Fail to adopt new technology and businesses will lose - in fact already are losing – existing customers. 

The higher proportion of Gen Y respondents mentioned above should come as no surprise – after all these guys have grown up in an era of technology.  Always on, social sharing, cloud file storage, mobile email, work anywhere, anytime from any device is the norm for this crew.  Which brings me to my next point.

BUSINESSES FAILING TO ADOPT NEW TECHNOLOGY WILL FAIL TO ATTRACT OR RETAIN NEW TALENT

Gen Y are the fastest growing segment of the workforce and by 2020 they’ll be the largest proportion. They are also possibly the first generation of workers to have a genuine expectation of being given the most up-to-date modern tools to complete their work. Speak to a Gen Y and it’s obvious technology is a factor which rates high for them in choosing potential companies to work with. Hand a Gen Y a Windows XP laptop on their first day on the job and they won’t be pleased. No email on their smart phone? No way. Can’t access files from home? Don’t expect them to stay around for long.

BUSINESSES FAILING TO ADOPT NEW TECHNOLOGY WILL HAVE EGG ON THEIR FACE

It’s downright unprofessional and embarrassing when your PC is compromised and your entire contact list receives an email to “lose 15kg in just 15 days”, complete with a dodgy link fishing for their personal details. That’s something which could well be inevitable for XP users beyond April when security updates cease. It’s well known in cyber-security circles that new vulnerabilities discovered being exploited by hackers in Windows XP has reduced considerably over the past quarter. Many experts are suggesting this shows the hackers are biding their time – they know if they discover exploits now Microsoft will still quickly patch them – but once they discover new exploits beyond April it’ll be a free for all and the hackers could demand considerably higher-than-usual fees to cyber-criminals who in turn can take control of millions of unpatched PCs. A dodgy email could be the best outcome; stolen personal information, passwords and credit card details not out of the question.

CREDIBILITY CALLED IN TO QUESTION

These are just some examples of the deeper business impacts sticking with old technology like Windows XP will have on your customers.  We cannot let our customers convince us they can "put up" with what they believe might be some basic technology issues – maybe some hardware incompatibility issues, the odd file which won't open, an inability to upgrade to new versions of some software.  We must take responsibility for connecting them to the real deep and long term impacts, disadvantages and risks it may have on their business.  Not doing so calls in to question our credibility as trusted technology advisors.

 

Clayton Moulynox is the SMB Territory Development Manager at Microsoft Australia.  He spent a total of ten years working in and managing an award winning Microsoft Gold Certified reseller business before joining Microsoft in 2010.  His role revolves around helping SMB customers achieve greater success through technology, coaching Microsoft’s partner channel in sales and marketing strategies and presenting industry thought leadership at events around the country.