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Step 3: Application Software Transition
A refresher: where are we?
Before we continue, a quick refresher on where we should be now: We've surveyed and/or interviewed and observed each user in the organization we're transitioning. We have identified the business needs and preferences of each user with respect to software, and we have identified application software which is expected to meet the needs of each user; sometimes more than one application for a general activity (such as word processing). In particular, at this point:
- the users' systems (hardware and software) have not yet changed; and
- they're probably still using Windows as their operating system. That won't change - just yet.
Installing the Software
Since we're still dealing with a lot of Windows PCs, installing many new applications will be very labor-intensive, unless you have previously invested in a system such as Microsoft's System Management Server. This description will assume that a centralized software source for the organization does not exist; in fact, that lack will be specifically addressed later.
This should not mean that each and every PC is going to have each and every application installed by hand. Several options exist, particularly for installing free/open source software which does not need to deal with registration processes, serial numbers and the like. Any well-supported organization (with more than a couple of dozen PCs) should already have mechanisms in place for accessing a shared installation source. (This could be something as simple as the time-honored practice of "Windows goes on C:, applications go on D:, and user data goes on E:" to allow for easily reinstalling standard OS or application images - like what we want to do here.)
Often, it will be either necessary or helpful to install specific combinations in a particular order; for instance, Java is helpful for OpenOffice.org. Part of what should have been accomplished by the preceding step in the process is to identify these linkages and then develop a sequence for installing the software on each system.
Commercially licensed tools, if any (such as SoftMaker Office) will still involve a degree of user-specific manual installation. Short of a site license (not advisable for interim stages in the process), little can be done to get around that.
By the time that the applications on their systems have been migrated, users should have been given some training on the new applications. Experience shows that in most instances, this can be quite brief (generally a few short presentations with question-and-answer time is all that is needed to help longtime Microsoft Word users find their way in OpenOffice Writer). The most challenging transitions will be for "expert power users". These people must be helped along with greater attention to their specific needs. To balance this, however, these are usually the people most able to learn quickly, and often the people most interested in seeing a transition like this succeed. "Expert power users" of the new applications will quickly become visible in the organization. Just as such people form the bedrock of online support communities on the Internet, they can be encouraged to "help out" with the less-experienced or -motivated individuals in the organization. It doesn't take a large, worldwide user base to form a support group; all that is needed is individuals sharing with other people things that the latter may not know as well but are interested in learning.
As the team leading the transition thus far puts the finishing touches on the transition and training just completed, it's time to turn the focus to the next accomplishment: fitting the operating system and related software to the needs of the enterprise, rather than vice versa.
That process is both conceptually similar to and more complex than the process just described for application software. We'd be quite happy to talk with you and your team about it, and help develop proposals and plans that will succeed in your individual technical and organizational situation. Please contact us for further details.