Dell recommends Windows 8.

Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 11/13/2012 | 16 comments

Brien Posey
A pilot deployment is critical to the overall success of your organization's transition to Windows 8.

The pilot deployment involves more than just deploying Windows 8 to some of your organization's production desktops. It is a full on dress rehearsal for the organization-wide migration. Your pilot deployment needs to be carefully planned. Here are some of the most important aspects of pilot deployment testing.

Pilot deployment testing is something that you should not rush into. Prior to beginning a pilot deployment, you should have already completed all of your preliminary testing for Windows 8. At a minimum this means verifying that all of your applications will work with the new operating system and making sure that all of your desktops (or virtual desktops) have the hardware necessary for running Windows 8 efficiently. The pilot deployment phase is not the time to be ironing out upgrade glitches that occur due to hardware or software incompatibilities. Those glitches should have already been addressed prior to beginning the pilot deployment.

Of course, anyone who has worked in IT for any length of time knows that sometimes the unexpected happens even after thorough preparation. That being the case, you need to have an exit strategy in place for your pilot deployment. In theory, the operating systems that you deploy through your pilot deployment program should be permanent. However, because you are doing a test on production desktops, you will need a way of rolling back the deployment in the event that something goes wrong. After all, pilot deployments typically impact about 10 percent of the total organization, which means that if a problem did occur it would affect a large number of people.

By far the biggest mistake that IT pros tend to make when planning a pilot deployment is thinking of the pilot deployment as a test to verify the functionality of the new operating system in a production environment. Although this is certainly a part of the pilot deployment process, operating system testing should have already occurred long before the pilot deployment ever took place.

Pilot deployments are less about testing the compatibility and functionality of the new operating system than they are about verifying that the support infrastructure is working properly.

One way of testing your support infrastructure is to perform the pilot deployment in the same way that you will be eventually performing the organization wide transition. Typically, this will mean building deployment images and application packages and using a deployment mechanism such as the Windows Deployment Service to perform the actual installation. Doing so will help test your ability to create a functional image, that can be used to set up the Windows 8 desktops. The deployment process will also verify that your answer file is working properly, as are any customizations that you made within the deployment image.

Keep in mind however, that deploying a new operating system is only the first step in the operating system's life cycle. That being the case, you must use the pilot deployment as a way of verifying that your organization is prepared to handle the day-to-day maintenance of the new operating system.

One of the things that you should be testing is patch management. Microsoft has already announced the first security patch for Windows 8, and it is important to verify that your patch management solution is able to download and deploy Windows 8 patches.

Another aspect of the management process that needs to be tested is desktop activation. Most larger organizations use volume licensing and have server set up to manage the activation process. You must verify that these servers are equipped to handle Windows 8 activations.

Finally, you must ensure that your desktop management software works properly with Windows 8. Ideally, this is something that should have been tested prior to the pilot deployment. Even so, things sometimes work a little bit differently in a production environment than in a lab environment, so it is worth making sure that your desktop management software fully supports Windows 8.

The actual functionality tests that need to be performed will vary from one organization to the next. Generally speaking however, you should make sure that your desktop management software is able to perform hardware and software inventories of Windows 8 desktops, and that those inventories are accurate. Some organizations have reported the inability of their inventory software to recognize Metro apps. Likewise, you should also make sure that your helpdesk is able to offer remote assistance to users who are running Windows 8, and that your antivirus software works properly with the new operating system.

There is much more to a pilot deployment program than simply making sure that the new operating system works with the existing desktop apps. The pilot deployment should serve as a proof of concept illustrating your ability to effectively deploy and maintain the Windows 8 operating system.

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anthony.nima   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/30/2012 3:07:03 AM
Re: Hit the wrong key
Im not sure how sucessful this will be since a normal deployment from my end did not work that well for me. So I have my doubts but ,maybe you will be lucky.
PositivelyKeith   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/25/2012 4:12:54 PM
Hit the wrong key
@ Trek I took on an assistant many years ago who was a whiz with macros on Wordperfect.  Within a week of her starting we encountered problems with our Sage accounts package. It started to hang for no apparent reason.

I tried every tool I could to find out what the problem was.

Then one day I happened to be standing behind this assistant who was entering stuff onto Sage.

Then, suddenly it hung again!  But this time I saw what had happened.  She had attempted to use one of her Wordperfect macros - a series of keystrokes that she thought would speed her through but instead hung Sage.

If I had not been standing behind her goodness only knows when I'd have eventually found the solution to the problem.
Trek   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/25/2012 11:51:38 AM
Re: Pilot advice
@ PositivelyKeith.  Purposely trashing your system is a good way to test it.   I like that you took the time to hit every wrong key.  One just never knows, also that wrong key may do nothing on one piece of OS and then blow up on another.  And there is always something that someone didn't think of. 
PositivelyKeith   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/25/2012 4:06:52 AM
Re: Pilot advice
When I had a developer working with me to produce new modules for our accounts system to cover operational aspects he'd do his bit and then pass over to me.

I'd then spend as long as was necessary to break it!!

We then discussed what the likelihood of that scenario ever occurring in 'real life' and what we needed to do to prevent it.

I basically pressed every wrong key I could tried every wrong menu option etc etc I could probably have enlisted some monkeys!

We then either rewrote elements of the software or, where that was not practicable, changed our systems to ensure that situation could not happen.

But things cannot happen in isolation - it is two-way traffic.
Trek   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/23/2012 6:55:19 PM
Re: Pilot advice
@ Toby, long enough so that everything that could go wrong has the opportunity to do so.   I think you might answer that question better than I could. Really it depends.  Is the pilot running side by side with the existing software, how many employees are involved, how will customers be affected? Should there be a failure, can you hop back to the old system?  The bigger the risk the longer it should be. 
Toby   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/23/2012 7:03:01 AM
Re: Pilot advice
@Trek: 10 times..? Certainly twice and I know how painful that can be, especially when it comes out of left field. I have always liked to set up a separate network segment for these sorts of pilots were possible to isolate the issues. How long do you think a proper pilot needs to run..?
PositivelyKeith   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/23/2012 3:55:40 AM
Re: Pilot advice
@Trek  there's also a saying that if it can go wrong it will go wrong at some point!!

And in my experience usually at the wrong point!!
Trek   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/22/2012 7:55:46 PM
Re: Pilot advice
Before any pilot a feasibility study should be done to consider costs such as employee labor, vendor and training costs, data transfer, new hardware and software costs,  implementation schedule, either side by side or full implementation and contingency plans should things not go as planned.  A lot of work should be done to consider what all the variables are how they affect each other. 

There is a saying that almost anything will be 10 times more difficult than you thought.  
Randomus   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/21/2012 7:08:11 PM
Re: Pilot advice
Susan: Do you feel he was being a bit optimistic about the transition to Win8, because I've chatted with a few folks that said they aren't in a big rush to upgrade.  For those using Win7, I don't see a big need for them to go through the costly – and time consuming – process of immediately upgrading to Win8 right now.
PositivelyKeith   Planning a Pilot Windows 8 Deployment   11/19/2012 4:20:00 AM
Re: Pilot advice
@Tuscany I think we are headed to a place we've never been before and at an unprecedented pace!

All this at a time when there are fewer capable (or with the time) of testing, piloting, planning what is coming in.

I am always worried when there are too many variables.  When too many things change at a time.

I always go back to the old days of cars when you serviced them yourself.  

On the electrics side you had HT lead, spark plugs, distributor cap, points, battery leads, starter motor, alternator etc.  

If one component was faulty it still worked albeit falteringly.  If two components were faulty it would not work.  

But you had to check them all to find out which were the two faulty elements.
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