Microsoft recently rolled out a new program called the Windows Insider Lab for Enterprise or “WILE.” The WILE program is an invitation-only program targeted towards enterprise accounts with a stated goal of having IT pros test-drive services and features in Microsoft’s latest online offerings.
A review of press received to date indicates this is a great way for Microsoft to have real-world (and free…) testers for its products as well as a way to introduce higher edition versions of the product into the enterprise. Those most likely to jump on the offer from the Redmond software giant are technical users who may not have visibility into competitive technologies already in use within the organization – and that could be a problem. A user could get excited about new services and features without realizing that the organization is already using (and financially committed to) competitive solutions from other vendors that offer those same capabilities. That can be a good thing if your organization is on top of the situation – you now have viable alternatives, which gives you negotiation leverage. But it can be a bad thing if your organization is silo’d and the right hand isn’t aligned with the left hand.
Note that Microsoft also seems to retain the right to push new builds to test machines – any machines enrolled in WILE should be sandboxed and not on the production network. Additionally, care should be exercised to ensure dependencies are not created that are counter to existing technical roadmaps.
Microsoft has made it clear to their shareholders that the cloud is the future, and much of the company’s selling efforts are focused on migrating users to the higher-edition cloud products. In fact, on a recent earnings call Microsoft CFO Amy Hood explained, “People start using E1 then they use E3 and then you start to see the momentum in E5.” E5, as most readers know, is Microsoft’s highest edition of the newly renamed Microsoft 365 cloud offering – it is the Cadillac offering from the company with 37 different components in the bundle. The price? Almost twice as much as the O365 E3 offerings.
It’s important to perform a complete analysis of both the acquisition cost and the cost of migrating to the higher editions.
I can’t pass up the opportunity to compare “WILE” with Wile E. Coyote – the infamous cartoon character that’s worked his entire life to catch up with the Roadrunner. But, somehow, the Roadrunner was always one step ahead. My advice to enterprises interested in participating in the WILE program is to be the Roadrunner – be smart and stay one step ahead! The adoption and deployment of Microsoft’s higher editions should be a planned and deliberate decision.