I MUST START OUT by saying that Windows 2000 (W2K) is definitely not for the casual computer user. Many people have been confused by Microsoft's decision to call the next Windows NT implementation "Windows" 2000; it is certainly not the next generation of Windows 95 or 98 (9X). People have been fooled by the name into thinking that W2K is naturally the next Windows 9X. To their dismay they have found that installing W2K didn't turn out to be the new stable Windows they expected. Rather than an easy transition, they found only frustration and confusion with their new Operating system (OS). Leo LePorte of ZDtv's Call For Help and the Screen Savers' programs continually points out the difference between Windows 9X and the new Windows 2000 OS, but he can only empathize with the problems. It was an unfortunate choice of names for the new OS. With this caveat in mind, read on...
You'll find the recap that follows reflects the exceptionally high level of professionalism the Gartner Group brought to the general meeting in June. While directed at W2K implementation within the enterprise, it was extremely educational and quite an entertaining evening. Raymond J. DiGiorgio, Account Executive for the Gartner Group, started by introducing us to the Gartner Group "the world leader in providing business technology research, consumer and market intelligence, consulting, conferences and decision-making tools...help[ing] you discover, create and implement breakthrough IT and business strategies to achieve a competitive advantage." He also introduced the speaker for the evening Neil MacDonald, a Gartner Group Vice President and Research Director, Advanced Networking and Windows Strategies. For more information about the Gartner Group go to their website at "www.gartner.com" (without the quotes).
Mr. MacDonald characterized the Gartner Group as the "Consumer Reports of the IT (Information Technology) world" since 1979. Neil is from the local Newtown area, and commutes to Gartner's Stamford office. Tonight's Windows 2000 (W2K) presentation would focus on three areas: Implementations; Migration Strategies, and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).
Now that W2K is actually shipping, each enterprise must consider when and how to incorporate it into their organization. How much will the implementation be expected to cost? Neil did a good job explaining some of the options the Gartner Group has mapped out. Some organizations will choose to do a massive rollout of W2K over a short period of time. Others will slowly evolve into W2K as they replace their hardware. Each implementation will have a very different set of risks and rewards.
There will be many network managers and network architects staking jobs and careers on the successful changeover to W2K They'll count on the experience gained with the new OS (Operating System) to further their careers at the risk of installing a new OS, with an as yet unknown set of problems, into their enterprise. The political implications can also be a boon or a bust for many careers. Perceived failure of such a large and costly transitional project can be devastating to any organization.
"How should enterprises design, skill and staff their Windows 2000 implementations?" "Planning, coordination and communication are key to a successful project." However, achieving these vital requirements is not easy in the best of situations. Mistakes are expected and some planning can be done to minimize their impact. Cost cutting measures, combined with fast rollouts can often spell doom. The presentation pointed out that the lack of proper training of either or both the IT staff and the user community usually contributes to many project bottlenecks and problems. Imagine being in the middle of a training class for the new OS when one day you return to your office to find yourself confronted with it installed on your desktop. Before you feel you've learned enough about it to be comfortable, you're expected to know how to use it! How can the IT staff effectively deal with problems when they're still learning how to design and troubleshoot the new infrastructure? A poorly trained and understaffed 'Help Desk' flounders for answers from an IT staff fully engulfed in trying to deal with the latest batch of "installation problems." These and many more issues were discussed as part of Neil's implementation presentation.
W2K Migration Strategies
Use external service providers (ESPs). Many enterprises will benefit from buying the experience of external service providers. In an environment of hard-to-find staff, with the necessary skills to implement the new W2K OS, the use of ESP's to fill-in the gaps and provide additional support makes sense. The wise integration of the ESP's services can help greatly in the smooth transition to the new OS. "ESP's are being used heavily for training, desktop deployment and network design," virtually eliminating the normal learning curve in these areas. Prudent deployment timing and the use of desktop migration tools can also contribute to the overall success of W2K implementations.
Avoid burnout - take Fridays off. Well, not literally. Rather than constantly rushing ahead, take the time to do weekly reviews, the known problems are addressed and solved at an early stage in the project life cycle. Lessons learned from earlier experiences might prevent the repeat of the mistake(s) later. It has been my experience that solving a problem as early as possible prevents later complications: problems that manifest themselves later in a project that were caused by not fully addressing or recognizing an earlier problem. These sometimes have the undesirable trait of requiring a projects resources to be diverted (or stop dead in its tracks) until the answer can be determined (think $$ COST!). In many cases a simple solution might have prevented a major headache.
W2K results in reductions in the
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and increased Return on Investment
(ROI). TCO often brings promises of improved manageability, scalability,
stability and homogeneity as these are cost centers and part
of the total operational costs in any IT system. All vendors
would like you to believe their product will provide answers
to your problems, therefore reducing your costs. But any new
system also brings risks, both operationally and politically,
which transform into
Neil used several scenarios (best/worst) throughout the presentation to illustrate the extremes of each proposed strategy and how they might effect the achievement of the stated goals. While something like obtaining a competitive advantage might be advantageous, he pointed out things like becoming the target of headhunters looking for experienced people is a "hidden" cost of being in such a position. Planning for employee retention is seldom considered in planning the implementation of new systems. By doing your homework up front additional costs of things like preventing employee turnover will also add to the ROI. It was insight like this that made the presentation worthwhile and enlightening. While I couldn't hope to convey the complete presentation in just these few words, I hope you got a flavor of the wonderfully educational evening we shared with some people from the Gartner Group. Thanks Ray and Neil!
|Jack Marsella is operations manager and senior consultant with the AGGroup. He is responsible for Web Page design/evaluation and Windows-based SOHO (Small Office Home Office) applications. He has extensive project management, software development, and troubleshooting experience, and does editorial proofreading for several publishers and newsletters. A member of DACS for many years, Jack is also a director and Advanced Web Wizardry workshop leader of the Westchester PC User Group, and intergroup liaison of both the WPC and Rockland PC user groups. You can reach Jack at email@example.com.|