Aquinas CollegeLindhout Associates

The was a short term, and very hands off project for me. The Aquinas IT department was over 20 people strong, providing systems and application services for students, faculty and staff. The local network included most of the buildings on campus. My role was to help with the upgrade and role out of Windows 95 and Office 97 to all PC's on campus. My contribution was the strategy that allowed the conversion to occur with minimal negative impact on the organization.

Aquinas chose to lock down Windows 95 by customizing the system registry and providing application support for the specific needs of each academic department. Ghost images were built for the various hardware configurations. A detailed project implementation schedule from Microsoft served as a basis for tasks and procedures, fine tuned . The question was, how do we role this out?

The time for change in an academic institution is in the summer, when the traditional students are gone. The thought was to spend the summer building and testing within the department, then do a mass role out, just before school started. It is about this point that I entered the project. Students were just getting out of school for the summer.

It was important to get faculty sign off on their specific application needs, to lock in that part of the system image we were creating. Administrative software and customized Office settings were integrated into the system registry as well. Sample images were tested, then finally rolled out to key IT staff. Iterative testing is necessary for a complex project like this.

Another component of this project was that all users were required to complete a computer based training course, about 8-hours of training. The logistics of coordinating everything was cumbersome, at best. Rather than a massive role out, I suggested a more phased approach. Aquinas was big on metaphors, so this project was 'Playing in the Waves', as opposed to 'The Tsunami' approach. The idea was to role out to a few people at a time, testing and training as we go.

We had already played in the first wave by testing within the department. Testing had resulted in many image changes, but quickly reached a lull. I think testers tend to wear out rather quickly, becoming tainted. There is only one first impression. So the first people trained and converted also did a fair amount of testing. A student lab was converted into the training center. Training was coordinated with role out, so people received training just before they needed it.

We started with people down the hall, then upstairs and downstairs. Keep everything geographically close. Plan on revisiting these workstations with a final image. By now we've had a lot of eyeballs on the product, with lots of first impressions. At this point the team was very confident and feedback was favorable.

As the role out progressed, we did some planning for future projects. Aquinas had some large projects that needed some overall coordination and system level planning. There was lots to do, but nobody knew where to start. 'We can't do that because we need to do this first', was a recurring conversation.

We spent an extraordinary amount of time slicing and dicing all of the projects and all of the issues until we came up with this chart. It shows the interdependencies and relationships, and provides an implementation road map that allows everyone to see their role within the overall framework. Unfortunately, funding ended and I did not see the results.