Future directions in best practice

Following three years of planning and almost nine months of night work, the program to roll out Microsoft’s Windows 7 across the Fraser Coast Regional Council is winding up.

With the recognition that Windows XP had reached the end of its life, work has started on moving the entire system over to its replacement.
Principal Officer IT Infrastructure John Knott said, “The initial planning involved talking with Council’s software suppliers to work through any upgrades they would need to ensure their programs were compatible with Windows 7.

“We waited as long as possible to replace XP and Office 2003 to ensure that our financial, property and records systems would support Windows 7.”

The roll out, across 470 computers at five sites, involved replacing Windows XP and Office 2003 with Windows 7 and Office 2010.

“We spent several months earlier this year building a standard operating system and testing,” said John Knott.

“The original build was tested in IT and then rolled out to Records to make sure it was compatible with their systems. After a couple of revisions we moved to a small user trial involving Human Resources.”

From that point, a small group was selected from volunteers in each department to act as a pilot group who would test the upgrades against the programs they used daily.

“The idea was that they would test the operating system so we could debug,”

John said. “Those staff would then be familiar enough with the programs to become the ‘go to’ people in each section so they could help train their workmates.”

The roll out started with the Hervey Bay administration centre, moved on to the Maryborough administration centre, the Moreton Street depot in Maryborough, Parks in Hervey Bay and, finally, to the Hervey Bay depot.

“The Hervey Bay depot, with the engineering section, was saved until last because it was going to provide the most challenges,” John said. “Along the way we have had to make sure that the new system was compatible with more than 1500 different software packages that are in use across Council.”

The entire upgrade to Windows 7 was carried out internally. “We did not call in consultants or outsource. The upgrades were completed as staff went on holidays, took an RDO or in batches at night,” John commented.

“A team of two stayed back each night to upgrade between 15 and 20 computers. They would make sure there were no problems from their end before going home and then would visit each user the next morning to make sure everything was functioning and carry out any debugging. It has been a fairly smooth process but inevitably a few printers crashed and machines did not work.”

In recognition of his efforts and role in the smooth roll out of Windows 7, the IT staff member heading up the project, Roger Johnston, was awarded a High Achiever Award for August in Council’s Customer Services Awards.