So we’ve all heard the news that the UK and Dutch governments are paying Microsoft million$ to consider supporting XP for them.

I am appalled. What a waste of taxpayer money. Frankly, everyone in charge of IT in these organizations should be fired. Maybe imprisoned. Here’s why:

You didn’t see this coming? For Jah’s sake, XP is 12 years old. You’re telling me that you were so blindsided by the end of support that you have to spend millions to support an outdated, highly vulnerable operating system, instead of upgrading?

You lack capability? What, you can’t efficiently roll out a newer desktop operating system in a reasonable period of time? For shame. I sure hope you don’t have to react to anything important anytime soon.

As an aside, I find it hilarious that the UK government is one of the two entities (so far) doing this. These are the folks who invented ITIL, remember, a framework I have long held as being expressly designed to halt change. I mean, I get the value of change control, but I truly don’t feel ITIL is designed to manage change so much as make sure it doesn’t happen much. Giggles.

You’ve got expensive stuff that only runs on XP. Ah, most people will use this to get a pass on the XP thing. Not from me. You’re telling me that, some years ago, you acquired some technology solution and didn’t ensure it had an upgrade path? You what, thought XP would be the last version of Windows ever? If you put Neil The Help Desk Guy in charge of acquisitions, I’d expect that kind of naiveté. I don’t accept it from technology executives. Part of your procurement process should always be, “what’s the path when Windows ___ is retired?” You should be planning to upgrade everything you buy. Not waiting until it’s a fait accompli and then paying through the nose to support 12-year-old software.

The last guy didn’t do anything to prepare. And you’ve been doing what since we hired you? Your first move wasn’t to find out what kind of obsolete stuff you had lying around, and start to plan what to do about it? Your answer is to spend millions so a software company can support something that’s older than the most recent tax code?

 

…breathe…

I want to acknowledge that governments are never terribly efficient. I don’t necessarily want them to be. There’s a downside to businesslike efficiency when you’re not in the business of making a profit, and I don’t want my government making a profit. No danger there, fortunately. But this is just amateurish. Nobody making these “spend millions to support old software” decisions should be managing anything. Like, not even the local pub.

Things in IT are moving faster, not slower. XP is officially old enough to qualify for a “Classic” license plate in some states. Your car is probably newer than XP. Management that didn’t have an XP plan four years ago is incompetent; management that’s paying extra money to support an obsolete OS isn’t incompetent. They’re criminal.

Especially if they’re spending your money to do it. There should, honestly, be hearings.

Target’s CIO resigned over a lesser offense. One that was, arguably, less predictable. I mean, nobody told Target in advance they were going to be hacked. Microsoft has been telling us for years that XP was going away. There’s been time. 

Sorry. Bit of a rant. This really frustrates me. If our IT leaders can’t get their heads screwed on any tighter than this, then we’re all screwed. Because I guarantee you, if there’s been no XP plan, then there’s damn sure no plans for anything important. Like protecting your personal information.

(And, as an aside, folks in the US should be bloody amazed that HealthCare.gov had as few problems as it did. The tech standard, for governments, is apparently not very high.)

 

…and an update…

As you’ll notice from the comments, at least a few folks aren’t grasping the point of the story. The point isn’t, “you should ditch XP now.”

The point is about learning from your mistakes. 

Okay, so you’re stuck with XP. You should be called up on charges, because you definitely saw this coming. More importantly, what are you doing to make sure this scenario doesn’t happen again? Before you buy that expensive whatever-it-does, are you making sure the vendor has a plan to do something about software obsolescence? I’m sure that if you make that a sticking point on the sale, they’ll come up with an answer. And yeah, vendors go out of business – I get that. But we should be doing all we can reasonably do to make sure we don’t get into this “XP forever” situation again. Maybe we’re screwed this time around… but you know the saying. Screw me once, shame on you….

Hopefully everyone can look at this XP situation, where some people (even if it isn’t you) are going to be stuck with XP for years, and make sure that becomes a discussion point with every vendor. “So the machine cures cancer, huh? What’s the upgrade path when Windows 9.2 is 10 years old? You’ve no idea? Okay, well maybe your competitor does.”

But I truly hate the attitude of, “well, there’s nothing we can do, now or ever, can’t even try harder next time.” It’s just lazy. We should all be pushing for more manageable, more secure, more stable technology. All the time. And I know almost everyone does, and I know sometimes, in edge cases, the situation is what it is.

…not to mention…

And, by the way, let’s draw a bit of a line and make sure you’re reading the preceding rant. I’m not kvetching about a business who got stuck with some specialized controllers running an embedded or near-embedded OS. I’m talking about millions and millions of dollars being spent by governments to support what in most cases are general-purpose PCs. I think there’s a bit of a difference there. These aren’t folks who are stuck. They’re folks who didn’t plan.