Many organisations are currently planning to migrate their client computing platforms to Windows 7 and Office 2010. For most corporate users, the critical factor is the approaching end of life for Windows XP. Delayed desktop hardware replacement during the economic downturn and the poor reception for Windows Vista are other factors driving the high level of interest in moving to Windows 7.
However, Windows and Office migrations represent the largest PC infrastructure projects that most organisations undertake in terms of time, money and user inconvenience. Following is a list of the primary pitfalls that befall large projects like these, which with proper planning you can overcome.
Not enough testing time: Plan time to not only test applications, but also to remediate any problems. Gartner recommends six to nine months for application testing and remediation, but it depends on the number of applications and testing resources, tools and staffing.
Pilot too short: Pilots should last at least three months and have several phases. Shortening the pilot significantly increases risks and often results in logistical and compatibility problems during deployment.
No business plan: Managers should document the project goals and quantify the return on investment to ensure the project continues because there is real business value to doing it. Users and the entire migration team should be aware of the goals to help ensure the enterprise meets these goals.
Don't measure progress and success: Enterprises will be more successful understanding the real benefits if they measure IT efficiency and user productivity during the project and check to see that the benefits promised in the business plan are met.
Insufficient communication: Users need to understand deployment plans, even before the projects begin. Conduct regular communications as the project approaches and after deployment to ensure users understand the migration process, know where to go for training, who to call for help and to get project feedback.
Continuous migrations with no breaks: Deployment schedules should include breaks to review the project and fix problems before deploying Windows and Office to more users. Ideally client migrations should be done four days per week, with the fifth day left for review and repair. Reserve one entire week for review and repair every three months.
Resources not dedicated to project: Dedicate resources to the project – if the same people who are designing and deploying Windows 7 and Office 2010 are also supporting the legacy environment, firefighting will often take priority over the deployment project, and time frames will suffer. Lack of control over the resources will cause conflicting priorities and management problems.
Project "stuffing": Performing other projects at the same time as Windows 7 is possible as long as the budget is adjusted to reflect the new scope. Although the projects are not combined, and should have dedicated teams and processes, they may become very closely coordinated to reduce cost and user inconvenience. While this may decrease cost, it will increase risk.
One person is both project manager and technical lead: Project management and technical leadership are two very different skills – a project manager has to be good at planning, administration, management and politics, traits that are often not a technical person's strengths. Separate roles should be created.
Don't seek professional help early enough: Don’t underestimate the requirements for skills and services. It is often common to enlist an external service provider, especially for help with design and planning features. In addition to proper training for technical staff, make sure the service provider is contracted to transfer sufficient skills so staff can manage the new environment after the cutover.
Waiting for Service Pack (SP) 1 to ship: A major migration takes many months (often 12-18) of planning and testing. When time is of the essence because the product being replaced is approaching end of life, waiting for SP1 to ship introduces extra delay into the project. Organisations that are in a hurry to deploy a product need to begin preparation when the product ships, or even before in the beta stage.
Michael Silver is a vice president and research director at Gartner. He focuses on client operating systems, Office productivity suites, Windows and Office migrations, as well as total cost of ownership issues in the above areas.