Being a trusted advisor sometimes means pulling customers aside for a much-maligned dose of reality.
Engaging customers about Windows 7 deployments is one example where a reality check may be required. By now, most customers recognize the value of Windows 7, even if they just understand that Windows XP is nearing end of life.
There aren’t many customers with the internal expertise and experience to understand the best practice in deploying this operating system (OS) instead of doing it in a way that causes more work. But the creative solution provider can find service opportunities on the periphery of a customer Windows 7 deployment.
While you may find that many customers claim they “have their hands around the upgrade,” and don’t need your assistance, there are a few activities in which you can assert your value. In fact, while the upgrade process may appear trivial to many customers, achieving full automation with that process can be a far more difficult pursuit.
The “fan boy” problem with Windows 7 deployments
Full automation should be every business’s goal. What’s interesting is that setting up the structures for full automation isn’t a challenging task – if you’ve done it before. If your customer hasn’t, they will need to wade through an array of documentation, blog posts and Microsoft knowledgebase articles to determine the best practice for their environment.
Even this process of traversing the learning curve is itself fraught with danger, in part because of the Internet’s (and specifically its search engines’) tendency to never forgetanything. Microsoft’s early, free tools from its website are today exceptionally well-designed. But the problem is that mature design is the natural result of fixes to its numerous previously-flawed versions. Navigating around those early flaws required a wide range of hacks, workarounds, scripts and command-line work that in most cases is no longer necessary.
I often tell my customers that deployment tools such as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and Windows Deployment Services suffer from a “fan boy problem” in that these tools’ aficionados were prolific in their reporting on problems online. While those fixes may have been of assistance in the past, they now serve to clutter the Internet with solutions for problems that may no longer exist.
Your Windows 7 value prop: Why time is on your side
Even with these tools’ “fan boy problem”, the reality exists that an experienced consultant can build an environment of fully-automated deployment without much effort. If you wipe away all the planning, application compatibility testing and various status meetings every customer requires, then preparing their infrastructure won’t take more than a few days.
Solution providers can’t ignore those additional steps in the process, however, and here is where a smart provider’s value proposition lies: Full automation requires more than just installing an OS. It requires application compatibility testing and packaging those applications for automated deployment (either as part of the deployment process, or externally through another deployment solution). It also requires configuring the necessary automations that ensure user state migration, via Microsoft or third-party toolkits, is successfully accomplished.
Admittedly, none of these tasks are very technically challenging. An experienced consultant should be able to accomplish each task with the skills they’ve developed in previous engagements. Of benefit to the solution provider, however, is that these other tasks can be phenomenally time consuming. The sheer quantity of time required for compatibility testing and application packaging is often too much for most internal IT staff to handle while managing day-to-day activities. Bringing your staff in for assistance represents the value proposition you can provide while getting them off the aging Windows XP platform.
Testing one-size-fits-all Windows 7 applications
Migrations that contain these activities are also profit drivers for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) that excel because the efforts expended with one customer can be directly transferred to the projects of another. An application, once tested for compatibility, is essentially verified for Windows 7 support across all Windows 7 instances (and, therefore, all customers). The same goes for a packaged application, which can in many ways become an element of MSP intellectual property. Stripped of specific customer information, your sales team can report to potential customers that you’ve already tested and packaged thousands of ready-to-use applications.
While many solution providers have reported strong reticence on the part of their customers in Windows 7 deployments, an argument exists that those solution providers focus too heavily on the OS deployment process. By devoting your attention instead on the deployment’s surrounding activities, you’ll find an open slate of projects just waiting for your assistance.
About the author
Greg Shields, MVP, vExpert, is a partner with Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's tips and tricks at www.concentratedtech.com.
Adaptiva redesigns partner program to meet anticipated flood of Windows 10 deployments