Here's a scenario that is surely being played out in many IT departments right now:
Back in the early 2000s you successively managed the upgrade of the client side of your IT infrastructure to Windows XP. Sure there were a few bumps in the road, but once you got through those, your company enjoyed increased efficiency due to the new features and vast improvements built in to the Windows XP operating system.
Of course, the IT department was happy, but more importantly, upper management was happy with the return on their investment. Based on your recommendations they opened up the purse strings and gave you the funding you needed, and IT infrastructure was allowing the business to run smoothly and efficiently.
When Vista came out you saw the writing on the wall. The operating system had a very troubled development cycle. Windows XP was still performing admirably and meeting all your business expectations, so you felt comfortable taking a wait-and-see approach. As the problems with Vista unfolded, the IT department was happy that you decided to stay with XP, but more importantly, upper management was happy. They hadn't wasted money on new hardware and software, and the IT infrastructure based on Windows XP clients still met the needs of the business.
Now, Windows 7 is on the scene, and Service Pack 1 is right around the corner. Over the past five months you've spent a lot of time investigating and testing Windows 7 in your test bed, and you're confident that the new operating system is ready to take your IT infrastructure to the next level. However, you're not sure how open upper management will be to the idea.
The economy is still a bit shaky, the budget is tight, the stigma of the Vista failure is still fresh, and from their perspective, the current IT infrastructure is still satisfactory. As such, the task of selling an upgrade to Windows 7 won't be the same as it was for Windows XP.
If you're going to successfully make a business case to upper management to relinquish the funding and resources that you need for a successful Windows 7 upgrade, you are going to have to lay out your plan using goals and outcomes that make sense to the business-oriented mentality of the folks in upper management.
With these thoughts in mind, I've spent the last couple of months looking around for information on how to pull all of this together. And while I have found lots of great resources for putting together such a plan, most of it has been piecemeal.
Recently, I discovered the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit from ToolkitCafe and found a complete set of tools for creating a comprehensive Windows 7 upgrade plan that will not only help you get buy-in from upper management but will also help you to orchestrate a very well-planned-out and successful Windows 7 upgrade. In addition to being a comprehensive package, the kit is well written, very organized, easy to use and understand, and sprinkled with humor in such a way that it takes the edge off and makes you feel comfortable with the task at hand.
This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.
As I explored the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit, which is essentially a series of Word and Excel templates, I discovered that a lot of time and effort was put into providing an IT guy with a set of preplanned, business-oriented documentation and planning tools designed to facilitate the creation of the type of detailed information that the folks in upper management need to see in order to make them feel compelled to buy in to such a considerable endeavor. (However, it is important to keep in mind that this kit is not a simple fill-in-the-blank sort of tool; it will require time and thoughtful planning to take full advantage of the structure that the templates in this package provide.)
In addition to the goal of getting management buy-in, I discovered that the tools in this kit are designed to help you to quickly get up to speed using new planning and implementation ideas drawn from rapid development methodology, knowledge formation, and problem management techniques. Because these new ideas are imbedded in a real-world project rather than being presented in a general fashion, you'll immediately put them to use as you go. As you recognize your successes along the way, you'll slowly, but surely, begin to incorporate this new way of thinking into your everyday tasks.
So, what exactly is in the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit? Let's take a closer look.
The Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit consists of 17 templates or tools. More specifically, there are seven standalone Word documents, two standalone Excel spreadsheets, and eight tools that come as both Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. These tools are organized into five categories that will allow you to progressively develop and implement your Windows 7 upgrade plan.
The kit's home page describes each of the categories in detail and provides links to the set of tools that apply to that category. There is also a document titled General Instructions that provides you with an overview and explains how each of the tools fits into the plan you are developing. Furthermore, each tool in the kit provides very focused and detailed instructions as well as examples and suggestions. As you read through the instructions for each tool, it's almost as if a trusted mentor is standing right with you every step of the way.
You know how Windows 7 will transform your aging IT infrastructure into a thing of technological beauty, but to sell it to upper management, you have to sell it in their terms. To help you get to that point, the first three tools in the kit -- the Vision Statement Builder, the Business Case Builder, and the Architectural Principles Tool -- will provide you with a solid framework on which to organize your ideas and goals from an IT perspective and present them in a business perspective while maintaining a tone that is accessible to both technical and nontechnical people.
To help further your pitch, you need to show that not only do you have a good idea, but that you also have a good plan in place to make that idea a reality. That's where the Project Organization Tool and the Simple Project Planning Tool come into play. Together, these tools will provide you the ability to easily organize your project plan, establish the way the work will be administered, and describe the project team members and their responsibilities.
Once you have your project organization in place, you'll use the Features Checklist, As Built Template, and the Testing Plan tools to begin developing the framework of your Windows 7 upgrade including specific details about the prototypes, pilots, and deployments. In other words, these tools are designed to make it easy to translate the business vision into a solid upgrade path.
All the hard work in planning means nothing if the lines of communication aren't clearly laid out for all involved, including senior management, department managers, and your IT staff. Using the Communications Plan, Checkpoint Report, Highlight Report, and Exception Report tools will allow you to lay out a methodology and ensure that clear and effective communications are easily maintained throughout the entire process.
Throughout the entire upgrade process you are going to hit bumps in the road -- that's a given. However, the way in which you navigate those bumps can make a big difference in the degree of your overall success. In order to help you make the best of those difficulties and learn from them as you go, you can use any or all of the following tools: The Risk Matrix Template, the Issues Template, the Request for Change Template, the Risk Issue Change Log, and the Support FAQ.
Get the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit
With its set of 17 specific tools, the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit from ToolkitCafe is one of the most comprehensive packages that I've found. To learn more about this kit, which sells for $199, just point your browser to the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit page on the ToolkitCafe Web site.
TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.