A sound track record implementing Office XP and Windows XP will enhance the market credibility and stature of Dimension Data, according to chief technology officer Peter Menadue.
"We believe it is important to work with leading-edge technology in addition to comprehensively understanding mainstream technology," he says. "In the case of the XP products, the clients we have worked with so far see real value in understanding where technology is going."
For Colonial First State, a long-term Dimension Data customer that has been working with Windows XP and Office XP under the products' respective Rapid Deployment Programs (RDP) for early adopters, Menadue believes the value of the upgrade has very quickly become apparent. "Colonial First State tells us that the increased usability the software offers is a benefit, as are lower operational costs."
The opportunity to offer its customers a chance to offer feedback to Microsoft was another particularly welcome aspect of participation in the RDP for Dimension Data and its client. "To be able to go to a customer and say How would you like to help shape the next version of Windows?' is certainly a great endorsement of our relationship with Microsoft."
The experience delivered by the software has also excited Dimension Data's customers. "They tell us their users often become comfortable using 10 to 20 per cent of the functionality available to them in productivity software use," says Menadue. "Office XP and Windows XP make it much easier to access that other functionality."
Other issues sometimes encountered during large-scale corporate software implementations have also been avoided. "Application compatibility has been a barrier to adopting new technology for some of our customers in the past," Menadue says. Early experience with Windows XP, however, has shown this not to be a problem. "Applications just run and run under Windows XP."
The experiences gained though its participation in the Windows XP RDP have been captured by Dimension Data and incorporated into its Standard Operating Environment (SOE), a set of methodologies and best practices the company uses to plan and execute projects so its customers' systems are predictably configured according to pre-determined specifications.
Menadue now believes the combination of Dimension Data's SOE methodology and the enhancements in Windows XP will make delivering value to customers through Windows XP a comfortable task.
"Some features in Windows XP, like plug-and-play compatibility with a wider range of devices, have been very welcome because they remove the common problems you encounter in a large scale-rollout."
Accessing these features has not been hard. "We haven't had to significantly alter our methodology to roll out Windows XP," Menadue says. "The processes were all familiar from our previous work on Windows 2000. Our main challenge was to make sure we understood the subtle differences between Windows XP and previous versions so we could use them to make our job easier.
"We've worked new material into our SOE to take account of Windows XP's features like extra scripting options that can automate installation. We offer customers ongoing outsourced maintenance of their SOE, so we're taking advantage of what Windows XP lets us do on this front."