Windows 7 has been out since September 2009 – a year has gone and companies are starting projects little by little. At the same time vendors are offering “easy” Windows 7 projects, how-to-do-that workshops, even automated solutions and fixed price offerings, and Gartner forecasts lack of resources starting from 2011. If companies are running with Windows XP, something should be done before the support ends, right? But, before making decisions, here’re some topics from under the hood.
Harmonization. Is your environment already harmonized, or do you think you are using this project to harmonize your environment? In that case you face not only technical challenges, but you might also have to change existing processes, work tasks, roles, applications, settings etc. Do not underestimate the effort what that kind of change requires. And even if all your pcs are running with Windows XP, that doesn’t always mean your environment is harmonized. Ask an honest opinion from your own IT professionals – you might get different answers from different sites. In that case, are you harmonized or not?
Applications. Have you kept your application base up-to-date since Y2K? Is it clear what applications are accepted to install to workstations; who are application owners/technical contacts/main users? Do you know where are the installation medias/instructions/license codes and serial numbers? Remember that there is no migration path from Windows XP to Windows 7, you have to make clean installations. Let’s put it simple: you have to install all applications again. Are you going to do it manually, workstation by workstation, or are you going to deliver them centrally? Normal installation packages, as re-packaged packages or virtualized packages? There are choices – to choose the right one you have to understand the consequences.
Office 2010. It’s a very attracting idea to update the Office applications at the same time. But, are you using Office 2003 or 2007? You might have incompatibility issues between applications and Windows 7, but notice, that there are also dependencies between some applications/add-ins and Office applications; typically Excel. If you have an earlier version, notice that the Office user interface will be totally changed. Ribbon is there, and your users may need extra support, training, communication and change management because of that. If not taking that seriously enough, user’s productivity may drop significantly at least for a while. This is not good for the Office/Windows 7 project business case. At the same time you might face a language policy issue – if you have not defined a company language you might find that you have to support several language versions of Office (and maybe other applications as well). Is your service desk capable of supporting Office in all required languages?
Lessons learned. How long has it been since your last operating system upgrade project? Do you have anybody in your team who was involved when your company made the last operating system project (usually Windows XP)? Do you have resources, processes, practices, tools, settings and rights ready, or do you have to build all that from scratch? If you have outsourced your workstation development and administration, please remember that vendors can’t do everything – they need your organization’s contribution, decisions, requirement definitions etc.
The size of change. When planning the project it’s very natural to add more and more changes. Because not all applications are compatible with Windows 7, you might to have to upgrade or change them as well. Windows offers more functionality than earlier versions, maybe you give up some applications which you don’t need any more. Do you have to update network printer drivers? Network shares? How about .pst-files, are you going to solve issues there as well? The more “yes” you find, the bigger the change – also from end user point of view. And this means, that you have to put more effort to change management. More communication, change agents, previews, pilots…
So, to guarantee a successful Windows 7 project, notice that there might be lots of things which are not technical, but more related to change and its management. When starting and preparing your environment for upgrade, technology might be a primary area, but at some phase the project may turn into a user-oriented project. Of course, a good project manager and management are essential. Technology can be bought from a shop, but good management comes only from experience.