I had a long discussion with one of my customers this morning about Sequencing Best Practices. As part of our conversation, I referred to the Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 Sequencing Guide as a great reference and the Sequencing Best Practices KB article, but then we went further. In particular, we talked about the Installation (monitoring) phase when you run an application and knowing where to click to perform the "Top 10" user actions for an application you do not typically use.
From my experience as a Support Engineer, I have seen that Sequencing is sometimes handed off as just some tedious task with a pile of installation media. These are the applications that your business will run on so I'm making the suggestion that Sequencing applications is a vitally important task and that it should be taken as seriously as any other engineering related task you may undertake. Overall, this will keep your helpdesk calls down and your business running more smoothly.
The sequencing guide suggests this as a best practice:
It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the installation and execution of the application prior to sequencing. Be sure to read all installation instructions associated with the application. It is also recommended that you learn how the application runs and the components of the application the user will need. To improve the process of sequencing an application, one should document step by step the installation and post-configuration procedures for the application. Step-by-step documentation will ensure that no unnecessary troubleshooting occurs during the sequencing process since no important steps will be skipped. Items to document include:
- What application components are needed and will be required to complete the installation of the application?
- What updates such as adding new files to the package need to be performed in the sequencer after the installation?
- What post-installation configuration steps need to take place in the sequencer?
- How do users commonly use this application immediately after its launch?
- Does this application do something that App-V currently does not support? If so, check the Microsoft Knowledge Base to see if there is a workaround available.
In reality, that best practice can be a tall order and can't be met by clicking "Begin Monitoring" and then "Setup.exe". It is also unrealistic to expect someone, or even a group of people, to be that familiar with the hundreds of applications that might be used in your environment. The bullet points above all lead to effective sequencing, so what can a Sequencing Engineer do to meet these needs?
- Read the manual. Yes, seriously, read the manual. Be aware of pre-requisites an application might need. Find out the implications of clicking that option during install. Is there a website for updates? Reading the manual can prevent you from making a simple mistake during Sequencing.
- Talk to current users and document their answers
- You may not know an application, but your business probably has a group of users that do know it.
- Pull a group of users into a conference room with the application on the projector. Ask them leading questions that will help you learn the "Top 10" functions.
- "Bob, when you launch this application, what's the first thing you do each day? What do you do the most in this application? Do you use any plug-ins? How often do you use the X menu?"
- Ask your set of questions to the entire group. You will get some answers the same and some answers that are different. Together you should get an accurate picture of what those "Top 10" user tasks should be during the Installation phase.
- Grab a Power User during Sequencing
- Get someone familiar with the application to come to the sequencing workstation and go through the top 10 task during the Installation and Application Phases.
To use a movie analogy, consider this work your Pre-Production. Pre-Production is all the tasks and planning that has to be completed before the cameras even get their lens caps off. Effective pre-production always pays off in making movies and the same can be said for Sequencing.
Steve Bucci | Senior App-V Support Engineer