Jan 15 2009

Embracing Vista

Learn from the experiences of Georgetown University's IT staff.

By all accounts, the migration to Windows Vista at Georgetown University has been successful. Midway through the second year of the implementation, approximately 50 percent of the computers on campus are running Vista. In some academic units, such as the libraries, close to 100 percent run Vista. Most of the first-year students who run Windows followed our advice to use Vista instead of XP. And an increasing number of faculty and staff have upgraded their home computers to run the same version of Vista that they use at work. Here are some recommendations for a successful Vista migration:

Develop a Plan

In consultation with the community we serve, we prepare a five-year strategic plan for technology and annual plans for critical projects such as the web presence of the institution and the IT budget. Our existing technology plan, which covers the period from 2006 to 2011, contemplates the full adoption of Windows Vista in sync with our four-year replacement cycle for computers.

The plan was publicized widely among community members and is a prominent element on our website. If you’re contemplating a switch, make sure people are aware of what you plan to do, particularly new team members, other departments and business partners. Market your plan to other departments, schools, campuses, technology organizations and manufacturers to convince them of the importance of the initiative and to emphasize the need for their support and commitment to the plan.

Communicate in Nontechnical Terms

From the start, we noticed there was great confusion among community members in distinguishing between Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office. For instance, many of them did not know that you could upgrade one without the other.

To avoid such confusion, create a website with frequently asked questions, do-it-yourself guides and recommendations for personal and work computing. Publish an electronic newsletter and send out ad hoc broadcast e-mail messages. Write a blog and keep it up to date. Be present on social networks. Have one-on-one meetings with influential community members. Cultivate interpersonal relationships with faculty, staff and students to keep people informed and hear their concerns.

Celebrate a campus technology day with your business partners to showcase new technologies, and ask them to provide pizza — and never stand between the pizza and the students. Food brings people together, so organize technology retreats around breakfast or lunch to brief faculty and staff members periodically. Ask faculty and staff to talk to their peers about the pros and cons of using a given technology in their work. Take advantage of orientation programs to introduce new students and staff to your technology initiatives.

Offer Broad-based Training Programs

Those who are apprehensive about new technology benefit from training. Accommodate different learning styles by conducting different types of classes; for instance, offer large sessions to multiple departments and small classes to affinity groups in offices or computer labs. Provide one-on-one coaching upon request. Do not forget to train your team members. Help them build the expertise needed to support the new technology. They also need resources to evaluate and resolve the most complicated problems.

Solicit Feedback

Conduct either ongoing or periodic user-satisfaction surveys. If possible, conduct a survey comparing technology with other campus services and watch the trends over time. This will help your technology team determine whether they are meeting the community’s expectations.

Be Flexible

Work with department heads and principals to conduct upgrades at times that are the most convenient to them, yet reasonable for your IT team. For tough clients — those I call the “over-my-dead-body” adopters — keep up a dialogue to understand why they reject a given technology. Then, partner with their colleagues to break down the barriers and determine the best time for an upgrade.