Walking through a simple technology rollout:

Let’s explore a relatively simple IT issue and solution.  Let’s look at how an IT manager might introduce the solution, project plan, implementation plan, training and maintenance of the new solution.  We can use the example of the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES).

As the IT manager, your company has begun to move into new markets.  The company has begun to acquire smaller firms with a more disparate sales team.  Not to mention that as the senior executive have begun to meet with the newly acquired companies and explore other markets, they are traveling often.  The sales team and executives are missing out on critical communications because they are only checking email over their VPN connections on the laptops they carry.  Many sales people cannot get wireless data signal in some of their client areas and are out of the loop for hours at a time.

POP email is used some, but the security and overhead of the firewall and mail systems is making this an issue.  POP does not offer the option of calendar sync either.  People are clamoring for an easier solution.

BES is an easily integrated software solution that uses a minimum hardware set in order to integrate existing mail systems such as Microsoft Exchange in order to deliver email, calendar and tasks systems to handheld phones over the air with security and centralized management.  Research in Motion provides the following notes on BES:

  • “Organize email messages that require follow-up with the use of flags, as they do in Microsoft® Outlook®1
  • Easily access network drives using the remote file explorer directly from their BlackBerry smartphones*
  • Open and forward calendar appointments, including attachments1
  • Browse folders on the BlackBerry smartphone to view and attach files to email messages*”, (RIM, 2009).

With a need identified and a solid solution in hand, an IT manager should research the cost of the system and confirm integration points.  The cost of a BES server can be mitigated in many ways.  If there is already a virtual server farm in place, a new instance of a server would suffice and not cost more than the operating system license and the BES software and user licensing.  If there is no virtual server option, then a true hardware server may need to be purchased.  Hardware should be planned out based on best practices from the software vendor.

The software vendor will also discuss best practices regarding software interaction.  Blackberry Enterprise Server 5.0 will not integrate with Exchange 2000 or run on Windows NT 4.0.  If additional infrastructure upgrades need to happen, then these should be considered when designing the plan and understanding ROI.  For the sake of our project, we determined we need a new hardware sever running Windows Server 2008.  The existing mail server is Exchange 2003 and all smart phones are compatible with BES v5.0.

It should be stressed that no IT manager should ever present hardware and software for approval before creating a project plan for implementation.  Many projects are killed mid stream or after the hardware is approved but when the senior managers see implementation costs for labor or downtime.  A well defined plan should include hardware and software, hours and interruption schedules.  In order to gain approval, it may be necessary to project the lifecycle of the solution and discuss ongoing maintenance fees or costs for expansion of the systems past current capacity.

At this point we will provide a project plan for implementation of the systems that include a well defined schedule for milestones and possible break points.  Each break point should include a backup plan for fallback.  Fortunately, a BES install is relatively easy on interruption to production systems.  Once the plan is approved by the senior managers, it is time to consider training of end users before the systems are even installed.

Training should be geared toward end users and should focus on the key pain points identified in the scoping of the project.  If the majority of the users want to be able to wirelessly sync their calendars and integrate to a central mail system, then the focus should be on those feature sets.  It is important to begin to float documentation or provide lunch and learns before the technology is rolled out to everyone.  This allows people to get a feel for what is coming before it is implemented.  Providing ongoing training in the form of online content or additional training sessions is critical to ongoing adoption of the technology.

It is time to move on to implementation and support.  Implementation should be a time when all stake holders are well communicated with.  The best implementations are ones where you pull he tablecloth out from under the china.  No one should know you did anything.  IT managers should provide onsite or highly available support during the first 24-48 hours of a system change or installation.  This support provides a smoother transition and can often mean the difference between long term adoption of a new system and having vocal stakeholders upset with what was over all a very good deployment.  It is often said that if a completely new network was installed and it worked 98% perfectly in the first week, but the president of the company could not print, then the entire project was a failure.  Perception is reality.

The success or failure of a successful implementation creates touch points at many levels.  An IT manager must manager their technical staff to research, design and implement the right solution in a timely manner.  They must also communicate with internal and external stakeholders to confirm budget, ROI, design specifications and time tables.  Once all is said and done, end users must be trained and the systems must be maintained over time.  All of these factors must be considered and executed with little margin for error because of how the perception of the project effects its outcome regardless of reality.

Quick Study- System Development Life Cycle. Computerworld. Retrieved July 12, 2009 from http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/71151/System_Development_Life_Cycle?taxonomyId=011

Blackberry Enterprise Server v 5.0. RIM. Retrieved July 5, 2009 from http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/server/5/benefits.jsp

Delegating Without Losing Control. TeamTechnology.co.uk. Retrieved July 5, 2009 from http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/soft-skills/project-management-training-part7.html

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