- Centrally manage IT budget and purchasing
- Standardize refresh cycle, configurations, and licenses
- Consistent process for managing assets
- Better economies of scale in support operation
NWN Modernizes End User Computing for Fort Bend
- Industry: State and Local Government
- Location: Fort Bend, TX
Client Snapshot: The Fort Bend County, Texas, IT department works with Commissioners Court, other elected officials, and department heads to provide information technology components for strategic planning and the implementation of information technology services.
What do you do if you’re responsible for IT in your organization but you don’t purchase the end user computing equipment or manage the budget? And by the way, the platform your organization relies on is going out of support inside the year.
This was the situation Ray Webb, CIO of Fort Bend County, Texas, faced in 2013. Each department in the County budgeted and purchased its own personal computers, refreshing them when possible, given the other pressing demands on their budgets. Webb said, “The departments did the best they could, but they all had other priorities to juggle. About half of our 3,000 devices had to be replaced, and the other half needed to be upgraded as we migrated the County to Windows 7.” As a byproduct of the migration, Webb wanted to move all the departments in the County to a more manageable end user computing environment with a regular refresh cycle.
Webb’s first step was to gain the trust of his colleagues in other departments and gently persuade them a centrally managed personal computing environment would work better for everyone. He committed that his IT team would undertake the pressing migration from Windows XP with a strong customer service mindset. When he ultimately recommended the change to County leadership they quickly agreed. After moving the PC budget to his IT department, he named Clay Elliott, his IT Operations Manager to run the project. After a rigorous evaluation process, Elliott engaged NWN to help plan and execute a modernization agenda.
Our pre-audit checklist was critical. By reviewing all the apps on each machine beforehand, we knew what we were going to have to address when it was time to migrate that department.
As Elliott and the NWN team dug into the details, they found more complexity than they expected. Software agreements had not been standardized across departments. Some operations in the County used special applications that needed to be upgraded to work with Windows 7 and others were not compatible at all. Desktop images were quite different across departments, and some groups had specialized needs such as HIPAA and CGIS compliance regulations to meet. Older printers and scanners could not be migrated because no Windows 7 drivers existed for them. The County would also have to select a new standard to replace 600 ruggedized computers mounted in vehicles.
To build their project plan, Elliott and the NWN team inventoried each department’s devices and key applications, evaluated the machines, applications, and peripherals to assess the impact of moving to the new operating system. This included highlighting the power users in each department to ensure their systems received special attention. The team took the existing Windows XP image, upgraded it and certified it on Windows 7. Then they constructed a department-by-department deployment process designed to complete the migration in the seven months remaining before XP’s end of life.
Shearrard Thomas, NWN enterprise account executive, said, “Our pre-audit checklist was critical. By reviewing all the apps on each machine beforehand, we knew what we were going to have to address when it was time to migrate that department.” Each machine was backed up so that nothing was lost, including personal files, screen savers, and favorites. Printers and scanners were upgraded or replaced as well. The team inventoried those assets, validated their compatibility with Windows 7, developed a driver library, and developed a standards roadmap. Through consistent day two support, the NWN team addressed users’ questions and made sure each user was comfortable with the new environment.
Webb’s staff came up with a particularly effective way to manage users’ expectations throughout the deployment. He said, “At first we would try to give them a specific date for their department’s migration. But if we hit a snag, we’d be delayed, and they would be disappointed. So we shifted to telling them where they were in our queue of departments. ‘You are number 14, and we are currently on 9,’ for example. This worked well for everyone.”
As the XP end of service date approached, NWN “handed the keys” over to Elliott and his team. Instead of deploying the systems themselves, the NWN engineers coached the County’s IT staff through the process of creating the final image and installing the new hardware.
By the end of this project, we brought the County to a modern end user computing environment. In addition, we developed standards, implemented a consistent, new process for managing these assets effectively, and got some economies of scale in our support operation. And I was able to check one big item off my strategic project list.
Elliott said, “At times it seemed we were changing a tire while we were driving our car at high speeds. We had all been through many different kinds of IT projects in our time but never one just like this one.” Webb continued, “By the end of this project, we brought the County to a modern end user computing environment. In addition, we developed standards, implemented a consistent, new process for managing these assets effectively, and got some economies of scale in our support operation. And I was able to check one big item off my strategic project list.”
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