This is a guest post by Patrick O’Rourke, director within the strategy, planning and communications team in Microsoft IT.
If you’ve read this blog before then you know that one of the roles of Microsoft IT is to be the first customer of Microsoft’s commercial products and services. Through this program the IT department manages a phased, employee adoption of early versions of Microsoft products and services. We call this “dogfood” in that we’re eating our own dogfood. This program enables the IT department to help Microsoft’s product teams deliver higher quality products and services to customers, both near-term and long-term.
We’re currently “dogfooding” several products and services, but the most interest is with Windows 8 and IE 10 Release Preview. As of mid-July we had more than 30,000 systems and nearly 30,000 employees running Windows 8 and IE10.
I’ll highlight three areas from Microsoft IT experience deploying Windows 8 and IE 10 Release Preview: support, security and user experience.
Support model for early adopters
The Windows 8 Release Preview deployment was fully supported by Microsoft IT through multiple support channels, to include self-help, help desk and an online community. This strategy is important so that Microsoft IT can collect diverse feedback for contribution back to the product group, and to meet the support needs of worldwide employees.
To ensure a smooth transition for Microsoft employees, the Microsoft help desk was regularly updated on the deployment process, they were provided readiness training that contained the key differences between Windows 8/Internet Explorer 10 and previous versions, and they were provided information about the new features and a troubleshooting guide with tips and tricks on how to resolve common issues.
In terms of online community, we adopted a social networking model by creating a channel for support. We created //pointers as a moderated forum that could address the top feedback from employees. The web application is real-time, dynamic and content is searchable. Perhaps more important, it proved to be a valuable collaboration and knowledge sharing tool between IT and employees worldwide.
When reviewing the site traffic to //pointers, we saw that site visits greatly exceeded the number of unique users. We interpreted this site traffic as positive; the site is sticky and employees are coming back to it. In addition, the volume of recognition badges indicated that, once driven to the community, employees tend to contribute in helping others.
Following are some of the key learnings from //pointers:
As indicated by press reports, security is a valuable part of Windows 8 deployments. There are many new features that Microsoft IT needed to validate for the enterprise. I’ll highlight some of the features we deployed.
End user adoption is very important for our “dogfood” deployments so that we have enough employees providing feedback on the software. At the same time, we need to keep these employees productive. Therefore we dedicate significant resources to user experience during our “dogfood” deployments, and Windows 8/IE 10 was no different.
The experience starts with installation. Microsoft IT used IT Easy Installer to streamline the install experience by automating everything for the user to migrate to Windows 8. We cut the install time in half, which included the Office image. I’ll highlight some of the key components of the tool:
[Sept. 4 update: I was asked about tools we used in our Windows 8 deployment. It’s discussed a bit in the IT Showcase materials. For context it’s important to remember that the tools used to deploy Windows 8 Release Preview were for our early deployment (aka, dogfood) phase. In this dogfood phase, we have to be opportunistic to help our early adopters any way we can while we work on setting up our long-term System Center infrastructure, which we’ll use for the company-wide deployment. You can expect to read about this company-wide deployment later this year. But, for the Windows 8 Release Preview to early adopters, we used Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Update 1, and System Center Configuration Manager in small pockets. MDT is a solution accelerator available for OS and application deployment. It can be used as a stand-alone installer, and there’s a version integrated with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, which we’ll use to simplify and automate our company-wide Windows 8 Enterprise deployment process.]
A new OS feature, called Windows To Go, allows Windows 8 desktop to boot and run from a USB flash drive. Windows To Go is self-contained on a USB device, and can also take advantage of any devicesmade available on the host computer, or across the enterprise network. A Windows To Go workspace works with most host desktop or laptop computer, including tablets and slates.
Microsoft IT provisioned 75 devices with Windows To Go and made them available to senior staff, engineers, and architects. Windows To Go scenarios include providing a managed corporate desktop when the host computers are unmanaged or not domain-joined. This deployment allowed different machines (slate, laptop, and desktop) with different configurations of screen, keyboard, and touch to have a machine-specific experience that was highly transportable between host machines.
Finally, to provide a complete data migration and protection strategy for employees, Microsoft IT used File History. This is a new, built-in feature that protects user files by periodically scanning the computer’s filesystem for changes stored in libraries and in the user's Desktop, Favourites, and Contacts folders and copying them to a Microsoft IT-managed network drive configured as their backup storage area. Enterprise customers will be able to customize this solution for their own environment.
You can read more about Microsoft IT deployment of Windows 8 on Microsoft IT Showcase here. Expect to see more posts about line of business application experience and application development with Windows 8 and IE10 on this blog in the coming months.
Last week Microsoft announced that we had reached the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone of Windows 8 [see here], which means we’ve completed the product development and testing of the product and have started handing off the final code to our OEM partners.
Leave a comment or question, and don’t forget to download Windows 8 Release Preview here.