Apr 22 2010

Windows 7 Rollouts

The city of Miami offers eight tips to ease implementation of Microsoft's newest operating system.

Doing more with less. It may sound a bit clichéd, but whether we're talking about families, government or schools, it's the cliché we are all living right now. Here in the city of Miami, we saw our operating budget slashed from $14.2 million to $12 million. That translates into IT staff reductions of about 20 percent, from 103 positions in 2007 to only 83 positions in 2009.

To keep serving our citizens at the same levels they need and have come to expect, we must adopt and invest in new technologies that enable us to be more efficient and effective in our core processes. At the same time, it's our responsibility to ensure that the technology environment is as robust and reliable as possible. If services are not available or workers are slow to respond, that directly affects Miami's ability to serve our citizens.

Deploying the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system has proved a wise investment in streamlining desktop management and improving services. Our OS upgrade experience has been a positive one, and we've assembled a list of best practices for Windows 7 rollouts that we'd like to share. Here's our approach for deployment:

[1] Begin your deployment with your tech staff, including the help desk, tech support and security teams, to build expertise and create evangelists prior to rollout. These individuals will be your first line of defense once the operating system is deployed. If they are unsure of their ability to support the OS, then that will quickly transfer to the client community.

[2] Next, roll out the new OS to your application development group. Allow them to qualify the OS with their applications in your development and staging environments before exposing your client community. We cannot stress enough the need to qualify each of your production applications and software platforms before rolling out the new OS to the client community. You have only one chance to get it right with them.

[3] While you're building expertise in the tech and applications area, take inventory of your current hardware infrastructure. Determine which hardware installations will support your initiative and ensure that you test, at a minimum, all of the core applications on each of the production desktop and notebook platforms in your environment. You want to ensure that each of your clients has an extremely positive user experience the first time they boot up the new system.

[4] When rolling out to users, choose initial recipients carefully. Select those who are enthusiastic about technology and change so they can promote the product among their peers and answer queries.

[5] Offer a training course to highlight the changes between the current OS and Windows 7. This is especially important given the user interface differences between XP and Windows 7. This will make your clients more productive from Day 1 and will greatly enhance client satisfaction with the new system.

[6] Ensure that your help desk and support technicians have developed a list of the frequently asked questions and answers before going live. Bring together the IT staff and the applications developers to identify the key areas that may need additional explanation or support. Also, ensure that the help desk and tech support are familiar with a new Windows 7 tool, the Problem Steps Recorder. This application is a hidden gem within the Windows 7 environment and can be an extremely effective tool for resolving issues with clients' desktops. Implementation of Windows 7 has reduced the number of post-installation support calls by 67 percent; it has reduced our help-desk support costs by about $36 per desktop per year.

[7] Invest time exploring the new image management tools in Windows 7, such as Dynamic Driver Provisioning and the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool. By utilizing these tools, we've been able to reduce the number of images that we maintain from 14 under XP and seven under Vista to only four under Windows 7. This presents a significant savings in image management.

[8] Review and implement power management options. Windows 7 provides new power options that can be centrally managed by Group Policies and Preferences. These policies will allow you to power down machines when they are inactive and wake them when needed for management tasks, such as applying patches or deploying applications. We've experienced a 70 percent reduction in power for our desktops on Windows 7, which will save us an average of $45 per unit annually. Not only does this boost our bottom line, but it also supports our green initiative, which is near and dear to us as coastal residents.

The city of Miami's IT department is constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to improve system response time and enhance our clients' IT experience and satisfaction. Since our first beta was deployed on our network in January 2009, Windows 7 has been rock solid. After deploying it to more than 500 workstations (about 20 percent of our network), we're confident that our decision to implement the OS was a sound one.

Upgrade Advantages

Windows 7's speed and user interface enhancements, listed below, have generated productivity dividends and time and cost savings within our organization:

Faster startup time for the operating system and applications

Faster shutdown time

More productive searches right from the start button

The Pin feature, which allows you to tack applications to the Start Menu and attach frequently used documents to those applications

The Peek feature, which saves users time by showing thumbnails of open documents or web pages from the task bar

The simplified Network and Sharing Center interface, which is accessible from the System Tray and saves clients time when managing network connections

The Snipping Tool, which allows a screen area to be highlighted and copied to a document or e-mail