Winning the War on Windows XP

tombThis post is to tell the wider community what an amazing job the project team in IT Services here in Oxford have been doing on Windows 7 migrations.  I suspect Oxford is not alone in being very complex and having myriad 16-bit applications that people were running on Windows XP as well as all sorts of complex drivers and critical dependencies that were put in and never documented by staff who left the University years ago.

We’ve spent a huge amount of time consulting and planning the move to Windows 7 for the Bodleian Libraries’ staff and the Central “University Administration and Services” division of our University.  oai This included a lot of thinking about and planning what we would do with the myriad apps and versions floating around.  A few weeks ago we finally kicked off phase 1 of the work, having decided to categorise people into green, amber or red where green means they only use standard apps, amber means there is some work to do to deploy other apps and red means delivering what is needed will be a real nightmare!  We had an excellent team of technicians and floors-walkers as well as fantastic back-end project management, communications and administration keeping things flowing and keeping the reports coming.  I am also impressed at the work our servers and deployments experts did as well as all the quick and efficient application packaging that emerged as necessary as we went along.   One of my favourite parts of the new set up is the very ingenious Oxford Applications Installer that allows users to self-service deploy lots of applications that they might need but means that systems are not unnecessarily over-complex for individuals.

The project team chose to spend four weeks doing upgrades intensively, mostly on the green category computers, Monday-Thursday and then using Fridays to mop up issues.   This period has now come to an end. At risk of boring you with stats I am delighted to say that 1204 computers (an average of 75 per day) have been upgraded to Windows 7, including 82 laptops.  200 new machines have been deployed and this has all been done by four engineers and two floor-walkers.  I think that’s pretty impressive stuff!

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I am told that  some of the most satisfying aspects of this work have been the help and cooperation given to engineers on the ground in enabling the team to upgrade so many PCs in such a short space of time,  the general appreciation shown by users for what is being done despite them being busy with their day to day jobs and that they have told the team they like Windows 7.  It was good that users were so patient with initial teething problems too.

The challenges have been getting the latest versions of additional applications upgraded on Windows 7 PCs, but the team has implemented a good process that works and the Oxford Applications Installer helps a lot.  The work of deploying apps is speeding up and will improve further as they move into the next phase.  The team’s knowledge of new applications and their deployment is increasing all the time. Identifying and finding shared PCs has also improved as the project has progressed and processes have been defined. Helpful and willing feedback from users has been invaluable in all this work.

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I attended a celebratory staff meeting and lunch yesterday where Maggie Howe, the head of the User Support Team, presented some award certificates and made a great speech thanking everyone for their hard work.  I think everyone enjoyed the lunch and the chance to reflect on and celebrate such a fantastic amount of progress in such a short time.

I think this work is a wonderful achievement and it makes me very proud to be one of the managers in the Customer Services Group in IT Services.

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