Take a “Rational” Approach to Windows 7

June 01, 2015 | Post by Todd Pekats | 0 Comments

Simplify and save by rationalizing your applications before tackling application compatibility.

For the last 5+ year, I’ve been helping clients plan their Windows 7 deployment. Ninety-nine percent of the time the first hurdle in planning for Windows 7 is figuring out what applications are going to work and not work with Windows 7. OK, seems simple so far, but before you can figure out what will and won’t work you have to figure out what you have. This is when panic sets in. No matter how small or large your organization is, or how tight your installation policies are, you’re still most likely going to be shocked by the number of applications actually running.

This is when application rationalization becomes important. Not all applications are equal. By implementing an effective application rationalization strategy with upfront time and planning, you can save considerable time and money going forward by reducing the list of applications that need to be tested and remediated to those relevant to the business today.

To help our clients rationalize their apps, we’ve come up with some basic steps and best practices, which I’ve outlined below:

Step 1 – Data Collection
How long this takes will depend on what type of asset management and inventory solution you’ve got in place. And in many cases you may have the tools in place but need to turn on features or add-ins. We also find that many clients already own the rights to the newest software and features but don’t have them installed, or have older versions in place today. We also heavily leverage the Microsoft community to identify known working and tested applications and utilize the tools that are available at no charge from Microsoft whenever possible.

Best Practices for Data Collection:

  • Use what you have – SMS, SCCM and Altiris as a start.Leverage Microsoft Tools such as ACT.
  • If you own MDOP, use Asset Intelligence. If you don’t, you may want to consider purchasing it.
  • If you own SCCM, be sure you are using the Asset Inventory feature.
  • Gather usage data at the same time if you can. This will save you from having to go back and do this for rogue applications. No use worrying about applications out there that are not being used.
  • Clean up your data before moving on to the next step.

CompuCom employs a proprietary tool set to take SAM data from a variety of sources (SCCM, Symantec (Altiris CMS), Tivoli, ZenWorks, etc.) and normalize that information into a clear hierarchy of applications. Publisher names are standardized. Product names and versions are consolidated. Version numbers and releases are reconciled. This process also makes comparing your final list of applications a whole lot easier!

Step 2 – Rationalization of Data
Once we have data consolidated, we can prioritize the rationalization process. This data is critical and is a mix of product details and resource information.

One approach that can be utilized is to initially focus on the top 20% of the application population. This group has the highest probability of being considered as core applications. We could then also parse out the lower 20%. In some cases we would exclude any software found on less than 10 systems. Depending on the environment, the less-than-10-systems watermark can be higher than the low 20%. We would sort out whichever number is higher.

The rationalization effort is typically focused on the remaining 60%. At this point, compliance aspects can be factored into the equation. What you have installed you may not own and may want/need to remove. This process will also give you an opportunity to budget and purchase licenses. This is an opportunity to work with an experienced and skilled software team like the CompuCom Software Management Group.

Best Practices for Data Rationalization:

  • Organizationally, try to group and isolate end users by role, job function, line of business, etc.
  • Identify common functions, hardware and applications required for day-to-day operations at a business group level.
  • Identify business line management/ownership for each group and for application owners.
  • Identify power users for each group; these individuals will be ideal in the pilot group and for user acceptance testing.
  • Identify local technical support teams or leads for group support.

Step 3 – Organizational Review of Data
The next step is to review applications with line-of-business owners. They are ultimately going to assist in communicating what applications are core to their business and what may not be. This will assist in the rationalization process and help establish a baseline.

This is where that usage data comes in, if you have it. Usage data takes a lot of the guesswork out of this. Let’s face it: no one likes to “lose” anything even if it’s not used. You’re sure to have some application packrats in your company; every company has them.

But if you don’t have usage data, you’re going to need to rely on a rating scale, for example:

  • Business-critical
  • Necessary
  • Rarely used
  • End of life
  • Not supported anymore
  • Remove

The goal is to remove as much subjectivity as possible, since once an application is categorized we can look at total system impact (is this a necessary app on 80% of the system?) and can quickly assign value and priority to any testing and remediation effort. 

Now That You’re Done Rationalizing?
Once all applications are discovered, qualified and validated, you’re ready to start your application compatibility analysis.

The best place to start is with the Microsoft Application Compatibility Community Database of known certified apps. You’ll then need to check with individual publishers on applications that are not identified in the Microsoft Application Compatibility Community Database. Just because Microsoft does not have an entry on its list does not mean that it will not be supported or does not work. At this point, depending on the criticality of the application, it may be tested to determine installation and proper operations. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if the application is an acceptable risk; it must also pass User Acceptance Testing.

With critical applications that don’t work, build a timeline for compliance. This will help determine steps for remediation, i.e., Med-V or Virtual PC, Terminal Services/Remote Desktop, ThinApp or App-V.

This exercise will also help identify pilot groups for the migration effort.

CompuCom can also provide services in application packaging and remediation. The steps outlined in this document can effectively drive the packaging and remediation phase of a Win7 migration effort in both time savings and cost savings. There is no magic “easy button” for this effort. The value of the exercise will have far-reaching ramifications and can be “the gift that keeps giving.”

CompuCom can help you standardize your environment, ensure compliance, reduce support costs, reduce surface area and security risks, and negotiate better deals with software publishers. Best of all, CompuCom will make the migration process successful, cost-effective and timely!

The content and opinions posted on this blog and any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not those of CompuCom.

  • Todd Pekats's picture

    Todd Pekats

    Todd Pekats is the Microsoft Solutions Director for CompuCom and is chartered with providing enterprise consulting services focused on Microsoft technologies and infrastructures. He is a solutions architect with 30 years of experience in the production, operations, support, management and design of complex high-end technology solutions.

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