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The 5 Best Practices To Achieve Successful Evergreen IT Management

News | David Butler-McAllister | January 1, 2017 | 1105 Words

Isn’t it time to let Evergreen IT transform your business?

A lot of organizations understand the need for managing their IT in an evergreen way, but struggle to implement it in practice. It simply seems too overwhelming and scary to leave trusted spreadsheets and self-rigged databases behind and embark on a completely new way of doing things.

But by observing the following five best practices, you will see that Evergreen IT Management isn’t as different or foreign as you think it is, and by taking one step at a time, you will successfully implement it within your organization as well. 

5 Best Practices for Evergreen IT

#1: One-time Setup vs. Repeatable Tasks

While Evergreen IT, by definition, is an ongoing iterative process, you will need to undergo a serious transformation effort for the one-time setup of Evergreen IT. For example, you will need to:

  • Rationalize and “clean up” your applications, hardware, and infrastructure to know exactly what you have currently in-house, its current state, and what you really need.
  • Define the project framework parameters, e.g., your hardware and application lifecycle management guardrails, your communication plan with end-users, your security policies, etc.
  • Define the new processes. This means answering questions like: How will the budget get approved each time new hardware is ordered as part of your hardware refresh? How will you manage the purchasing process? How will you test and possibly repackage your applications (and how many) when moving to a new OS? What will the impact be on the people and their new roles?
  • Select the right tools to manage your Evergreen IT process.
  • Identify possible business-process improvements before automating the many tedious and labor-intensive tasks.

Essentially, you will have to think through the entire process and get yourself set up.

#2: Create A Scalable, Repeatable, And Automated Process

The reason automated product fulfillment and auto-shipments are so successful is that they are convenient, repeatable, scalable, and automated. Evergreen IT is the same. Every month, you will look at your log of tasks for that month.

It becomes imperative that your Evergreen IT management can grow with you over time. As you add more and more projects into your workstream (scalable), you can execute the same processes over and over (repeatable), while minimizing manual, resource-heavy, and costly workloads (automated).

#3: Aim For Full Speed Ahead

Like any transformation, having early successes to win the confidence of your team and the enterprise is critical, so get points on the board early and often. And the same tricks hold true for this transformation. Get the proverbial “lowest hanging fruit”. Your process should first focus on identifying the bulk of users, applications, and hardware that will be the easiest to migrate before chipping away at the rest — in the same fashion and in iterative steps.

This may be a departure from previous thinking where we might have tackled a certain location or department first or may have even gotten all applications tested and remediated before moving the first user. But with Evergreen, aim to migrate the first 50-70% of easily migrated users first and get the bulk of the benefit. Then set subsequent waves that get increasingly harder but usually smaller.

#4: Iterative Improvement Over Time

We may have made it seem like a set-once-and-forget process, but as with agile development / SCRUM methodology, you should add in regular reviews of your processes for possible improvements. If you embrace the mindset that Evergreen IT is a learning process with the goal of iterative improvements, then you will zoom into optimal performance very quickly.

#5: You Don’t Have To Do It All At Once

Evergreen IT might sound overwhelming, but it is a very flexible and forgiving process. And keep in mind that this is the same overwhelming feeling business users have during a transformation to their business, but now IT itself is experiencing it. So, employ the same methods. You can start small by just managing your Windows 10 update process in an Evergreen fashion. Once you are comfortable, you can add Office 365 updates into the mix before you expand step-by-step into managing more and more.

Like anything, it gets much easier with time once you have figured out a process that works for you. In addition, the return on investment increases dramatically when you manage multiple projects at once, as opposed to just upgrading your Windows 10, for example.

Microsoft’s Deployment Ring Approach Demonstrates What An Evergreen IT Process Could Look Like

Let’s look at a practical process example. While organizations and approaches will vary, Microsoft’s Deployment Ring Concept is one best practice that has been used to migrate tens or even hundreds of thousands of users in various organizations successfully.

The idea is to start small, prove the concept, improve your skills, and expand from there. Start by testing with an exceptionally small group, and then spread out from there before you migrate the vast majority of your business users and VIPs.

  • Preview, evaluate, and test upcoming functionality.
  • Designate an IT Pilot Ring (small group of IT pros) to migrate first.
  • Next, migrate some tech-savvy early adopters in the business as part of the Business User Pilot Ring.
  • Now, define a Broad Deployment Ring. Roll out waves of appropriate size and complexity to your business users.

This way, you can test new upgrades on 5% to 10% of your entire user base first, allowing you to iron out any kinks you might encounter. This reduces the risk of disruption significantly.

Summary

Hopefully, this has helped clarify exactly what Evergreen IT is and why it’s worth doing and has offered a few insights into planning a move to Evergreen. Additionally, with the release cycles shrinking, one could argue that large, complex organizations cannot afford not to do this. Our tools at AccessITUSA have developed from experiences at exceptionally large organizations. Our people and consultants understand the rationale for our best practices and how to effectively implement them in your organization. There is no substitute for experience.

This blog is part of the 3-part Evergreen IT Management 101 blog series

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