Thursday, January 17, 2008

XP or Vista: Teach the transition

If you are teaching IT, particularly at a community college where course content needs to be aligned with business, you should be adding Vista training to your programs now because corporate America isn't embracing Vista at this very moment (article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4).

Oh, you heard me right. I'm suggesting you need to add training for a product that isn't being widely used and which many are actively resisting. Let me explain.

The primary reason to teach Vista is that while corporate IT did not want to jump in with both feet upon initial release, they will eventually upgrade to Vista. The planning for Vista migrations will start in earnest in 2008 with actual implementations running through 2009 and into 2010. So organizations will need Vista-savvy staff in the very near future to handle the assessment and planning phases of the project.

Read that last sentence again. Corporate IT needs people who are familiar with Vista and can help them survive the conversion. Simply put, you should be teaching the transition. That would included methods, tools, project management and analysis (finally a tangible reason for general CIS students to take systems analysis).

I manage application development, so I'm not an expert in desktop management (please jump in with comments if you work the desktop), but it is my experience that it would be extremely valuable to have staff that could, among other things:

  • prepare an organizational readiness assessment to determine if and when in-house and vendor applications; hardware and peripherals; and the user community are ready for Vista.
  • describe and use new Vista features that might offer a real benefit to the organization (BitLocker, widgets or Windows Defender) so that the whole conversion isn't done solely out of fear of "falling behind".
  • use tools that simplify the assessment, testing and implementation process. These would include, but are not limited to, the application capability toolkit (ACT), Virtual PC and SMS/Operations Center.
  • create a business case for either moving or waiting, weighing organizational needs against the costs of migrating (both time and money for the migration and the opportunity cost of projects not done because of the migration).
I will also suggest that these classes might target working professionals who see their company's Vista migration as a great professional development opportunity for themselves. These young professionals may not need a degree, but a couple of classes or a certificate might be a nice fit. Consider a lab class to provide them the chance to get hands on with the tools in a safe, non-production setting (something hard to come by in many small and medium sized businesses).

Let me close by going back to the beginning. If you want to align your educational programs to my business needs, then transitions are the name of the game. In addition to XP/Vista, we are dealing with SQL Server 2000 to 2005, Office 2003 to 2007; SharePoint Portal Services to MOSS and SMS to Operations Center. Those institutions that are ahead of the curve - prepared with programs as the need emerges - will be able to deliver a valuable educational experience for their students.

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