Doing more with less. It may sound a bit clichéd, but it’s the cliché that all IT departments are living with right now. 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 last year.
To keep serving citizens at the same levels they need and have come to expect, we have had to adopt and invest in new technologies that let us become 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 employees 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 some best practices for Windows 7 rollouts. Here’s our approach for deployment:
1. Begin the deployment with your tech staff.
By focusing the first wave on the help desk, tech support and security teams, you can build expertise and create evangelists prior to rollout. These users will be your first line of defense once the operating system is deployed. If they are unsure of their ability to support it, those concerns will quickly become apparent to the rest of your users.
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 the enterprise. We cannot stress enough the need to qualify each production application and software platform before rolling out the new OS to the enterprise. You have only one chance to get it right.
3. While you’re building expertise in the tech and applications area, take inventory of the current hardware infrastructure.
Determine which hardware installations will support the 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 users has a positive experience the first time they boot up the OS.
4. When rolling out to users, choose initial recipients carefully.
Select those users who are enthusiastic about technology and change so they can promote the upgrade among their peers and answer queries. Basically, you want to create user advocates to smooth the transition.
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 users more productive from the get-go and will greatly enhance satisfaction with the new OS.
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.
For instance, two to look at closely are the Dynamic Driver Provisioning and the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tools. By utilizing these, 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.
The city’s IT department is constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to improve system response time and enhance our users’ 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.