An Interview with Ian Cohen

Ian Cohen, senior manager of group information services, helped lead the way in Cedel Bank's global implementation of Windows NT 4.0. Here are his thoughts on the NT migration:

Q: What did you like about the project's implementation?

The PC is a key component to the way in which people and companies work. In contrast to many projects that take on a vertical task (i.e., a new application or a new product to market), this project let us improve directly the way that all staff and areas of the company work day to day.

Q: What didn't you like about the project's implementation?

We had to define limits to ensure that the project scope was both understood and achievable. These limits were frustrating at times because we knew we could have contributed more to the project. We had to decide not to deliver certain functionality and solutions until a later date, and these decisions were sometimes hard to take.

Q: What would you have done differently on the project?

Probably very little. The nature of such a migration is that you will almost certainly face problems that you need to overcome. If I were to change anything, I would try to improve the way we approached user training. The concept that users can access their applications and data from any PC was unfamiliar to some. Possibly our training approach should have focused more on how people can work with the new technologies, rather than what the technologies do.

Q: What advice can you give your peers?

Don't overanalyze the migration and technology within your company walls. Although different organizations have different needs and demands, their problems are often similar. Open contacts with other users, organizations, and groups that have already faced or are in the process of undertaking similar challenges. Find out where they succeeded and where they made mistakes that you can avoid. Find out about new ideas that you can apply in your organization.

Ask your users what functionality they desire and what their priorities are in plain terms (i.e., don't talk to them in bits and bytes or over-evangelize the new technology). Always keep in mind that your users, not you or Microsoft, are the customer.

Don't overlook less demanding challenges. For example, a broken Word macro might not affect you, but it might be important to some of your users and can cause huge headaches.

Make sure you involve your users throughout the process. Encourage information sharing, presentations, demonstrations, and bulletin board and Web site progress reports. You want to raise awareness and gain early feedback.

Avoid the temptation to keep adding new features and products. Remain flexible and responsive to changing user needs, but don't compromise your environment by constantly changing your project plans.

Don't replicate problems from your old environment into the new environment. If your users have the same old problems with the new environment, they won't see the benefit of the new infrastructure.

Select a group of beta users who represents a cross section of your organization to test the new environment. Meet with them and gather their input on what works and what doesn't. These users can help you deploy a more thoroughly tested NT environment and serve as ambassadors for the new environment throughout your organization.

Be realistic about how much time upgrading existing PCs can take. Realize that installing additional memory, upgrading hard disks, backing up existing hard disks, and formatting and installing several hundred megabytes worth of operating system and applications takes time.

Don't underestimate the need to provide technical support from day one. Despite the amount of user training that you might have previously provided, be prepared for calls to your Help desk.

Arrange extra staffing and let your technicians walk around your buildings to provide on-the-spot assistance and information. Use your beta testers to augment the initial support needs.

If possible, keep pre-configured spare PCs available in case you have a hardware problem. Bypass the need to immediately fix time-consuming problems and fix them at a convenient time.

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