I recently asked folks on Linkedin what desktop operating systems their companies were using and was surprised to find out that many organizations were still standardizing on Windows XP SP3. But then again, I shouldn’t have been so surprised – I’ve been a part of many desktop deployment projects and it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a large upfront investment of time, money and resources and it’s a project that needs to be managed well. And let’s face it – IT does not have the greatest reputation for delivering complex projects well.
Why the complexity?
The operating system underpins everything that runs on it so 9 times out of 10 upgrading the OS will also require updating some of the software that sits on top. And each application that is updated may have other dependencies that need to be taken into account. On top of that, as the project progresses, chances are that business unit practises previously unknown to IT will come to light and also have an impact on the project. I once led a deployment project in my pre-Microsoft days that included an OS upgrade and rollout of a new version of Office. Early into the project, it was discovered that the Finance department had developed several complex Excel macros integrated with a local Access database that had become critical to their business. We had to test each macro and develop new solutions for those that didn’t work, adding several weeks to the project. Few IT projects are as far reaching or as potentially disruptive as a desktop deployment.
I’m not knocking Windows XP but if had gotten a cat when XP was released it would be dead by now. In the past 10 years, many advances in technology have been made that organizations running XP just can’t take advantage of. Take Windows Direct Access for example. How great would it be for your users to securely connect to the corporate network wherever they had Internet access without having to fuss with a VPN client? And how much easier would it make life to be able to update and manage remote notebooks as if the machines were sitting in the office next to you instead of in a home office, coffee shop or client site? If you’re running XP, you can’t do it. Or what about the security enhancements that have been made in Vista and then even greater in Windows 7? If you’re running XP, chances are you’re having to use 3rd party software to keep your desktops secure. With Windows 7, chances are you’d be able to do away with much of it and use native tools.
When I ran deployment projects, I relied on the Microsoft Solutions Framework which has now been supplanted by a series of Solution Accelerators designed to give guidance and tools for a number of different scenarios to help you deploy the solution you’re looking for quickly and with maximum impact. But the best place to go for deployment specific resources, whether it’s Windows, Office or IE, is the Springboard site. Here we’ve pull together resources and organized them into what you would need for each of three phases: Discover/Explore, Pilot/Deploy and Manage.
Planning Your Windows Roadmap
Now is the time to start assessing and planning your organization’s strategy with regards to Windows 8. On the next episode of the AlignIT Manager Tech Talk (October 13, 2011, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM EST), David Remmer, Depth Evangelism Manager and former Architect Evangelist at Microsoft Canada, joins Jonathan and I for a look at the Windows 8 announcements from BUILD and what they mean for IT and development shops. We’ll take a look at what you need to know to position yourself and your company for a smooth transition.