Win 2000 Deployments Demand Masterful Planning

BOSTON (05/08/2000) - Enterprise customers that devise a structured approach to their Windows 2000 rollouts will have the greatest success and enjoy easier upgrades in the future, IT executives were told at the recent Windows World Conference in Chicago.

"People ask me why they can't just put Win 2000 in their network today," says Nelson Ruest, director of Resolutions Enterprises, a systems integrator in Quebec. "I tell them managing the process is not something they can do on the fly. If you had a car and there was an experimental motor available, you wouldn't just drop it in that car without testing."

Ruest told the executives that Microsoft Corp. Win 2000 deployments, which include such features as Active Directory and Kerberos security, will stretch across an enterprise and warned that strategies used to deploy NT, which is highly decentralized, will not work with Win 2000.

He says enterprise users should follow a five-step plan when moving to Win 2000, including questioning why the upgrade is necessary, understanding the technology through training and assistance, organizing and executing a pilot, transferring preplanning knowledge to deployment, and exploiting the new system and establishing ongoing administration. Ruest calls this the Quote system - question, understand, organize, transfer and exploit.

Ruest says the steps are cyclical and those that understand them best will reuse and perfect them with subsequent upgrades. He also has a list of things users should do - the most critical being to establish a line of communication between all the players in the deployment, including end users. Ruest says nearly 90 percent of enterprises don't have a communications plan.

"Everyone must have an understanding of the plan, including the end users, who need to know why they can't download that Christmas screensaver onto their desktops," Ruest says.

"The communications loop is critical," says Dennis Whiteside, senior support analyst for Centegra Health Systems in McHenry, Illinois. "On paper it is easy to establish, but to really get those people together is difficult."

Whiteside, who has a mixed environment of NT, Unix and NetWare, said many of Ruest's ideas validate what he is doing, and he found it reassuring to know he is pointed in the right direction.

"We have never had such a large deployment project, but we realize that we have to have the right plan at the start," Whiteside said. "We were looking at a three- to four-month plan but I will now revise that and maybe even shorten it." Whiteside did admit to learning a few new strategies from Ruest.

"I hadn't considered devising measurable processes so we can gauge our success and failures throughout our project," Whiteside says. "And I hadn't considered continued training efforts once the deployment is done."

Ruest says a few truths exist in every Win 2000 rollout his company has done.

He says technical training must occur before the start of the project, and that the teams focused on technology implementation and administration must function as an integrated group. He also says the project must be under constant review, including budgets and timetables.

"You must be able to realign the project when you determine it is getting off track," he says. He says a project at the Quebec Health Care System, a government-run agency, was saved from disaster when Resolutions Enterprises convinced the health minister not to let each hospital implement its own Active Directory. Now the health care system is building a unified directory that is based on a single Active Directory "tree" that will incorporate all the domains from all the hospitals.

"Any user will be able to work in any hospital," Ruest says.

He adds that two of the best practices users can follow are to start small and focus on incremental gains, and to take time to deploy new technologies.

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