Computer Hardware and Software

Published:

Introduction

I have been requested by K9 Mail Order Company to provide a full report and implementation plan for the upgrade of their 250 PC workstations.

This upgrade will include both renewal of hardware to cope with the Microsoft Vista Business operating system and the latest Microsoft Office 2007 suite of applications. Microsoft server 2008 to be installed on the companies servers.

The new implementation will require a structured training program to provide the companies staff with the tools to complete controlled transition to the new systems.

The company operates a 24 hour, 7 day a week operation. I have made assumptions on the staffing requirements based on a 3 shift system.

Daily all computers to be fully manned, both the evening and night shifts requiring a 50% coverage. The staff will require training on the new operating system and office 2007 applications, mainly focusing on Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheets), Access (database), PowerPoint (presentations), and other Microsoft applications.

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I will use relevant diagram, charts, planning methods to demonstrate all areas and stages with evaluation up to completion of the project.

Liase closely with managers and departmental heads to minimize disruption to the workflow, and be aware of particular needs of the staff, unions, safety and security while on site.

The period of changeover to start on Monday 1st February 2010 and be completed by Wednesday 31st March 2010 a total of 59 days.

It has not been stated in the assignment brief about the Management, Administration Team, whether they will require training in the new systems and applications. This could be built in to the schedule if required as I have provided spare capacity to build more equipment and any additional staff. Training is to be carried out through my own in house trainers, additional training could be carried out by the local college IT professionals who are highly qualified and a great source of training expertise.

Client Staffing Structure

After consultation with the client a full list of staff has been provide giving details of staff names and levels, the number of staff on each shift and time of each shift. The required staff for the 24 hour operation is 700 employees.

The required staffing is based on my own calculations for the daily shifts:

250 computers x 7 days x 8 hours = 14,000 hours

14,000 hours divided by 40 hour working week = 350 staff

As the evening and night shift are only 50% each of the daily shift another 350 staff are required to cover these duties. Total staffing required is 700 employees.

If you multiply this up 50 times, then you have a rota for 350 staff using 250 PCs. As both the evening and night staff only require 50% of the PCs, then only 125 PCs are used on these shifts, based on this I propose that the hardware installations are carried out in the evening. All these figures are based on no sickness or holidays, which could be as much as 10% of the workforce everyday. Has the project is in February/March it is hoped that most staff would have used up their entitlements as the new financial year begins April 1st 2010.

My proposal for hardware and software upgrades of 10 machines per night, Monday to Friday, 50 per week. This will take 5 weeks to complete.

The training of staff to coincide with this daily staff 10 per session, evening and night staff 5 per session, Monday to Sunday, 140 staff per week. This will take 5 weeks to complete.

Training Needs Analysis

Prior to the training program, all staff to be given a Training Needs Analysis (see appendix 1) and asked to complete this. This will give an indication of the level of training requirements.

Installation Team and Training Staff Requirements

This can only be used as a guide:

Preparation work onsite and offsite.

Installation and implementation = 2 technical engineering staff x 40 hours per week, approximately 7 to 8 weeks.

Training on new systems = 3 trainers x 28 hours per week, approximately 6 to 7 weeks.

Contingency - provision of a 5% for unforeseen problems and issues arising.

Hardware Upgrades Requirements

Present computer specification is unable to run the planned system hardware upgrades, the changes to the Vista Operating System and Office upgrade would be lucky to run on such a low level system. See table below for details:

Existing Computer Hardware and Software


			Midi Case              18cms x 42cms x 40cms, 350 Watt PSU

			ATX Motherboard        PCI, AGP, Socket LGA 775, Dual Bios

			CPU                    Pentium 4 2GHz Single Core Processor

			RAM                    512MB DDR

			Graphics               64MB AGP

			Storage                80GB HDD PATA system, Floppy Drive 1.44MB

			Optical Drive          CDRW Samsung 52x6x6

			Input Devices          Optical Mouse, Ergonomic Keyboard Cherry

			Output Display         15" TFT screens

			Operating System       Windows 2000 Service Pack 4

			Office Applications    Microsoft Office 2000

			
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The new improvements will certainly improve the user experience, especially the larger monitor, faster CPU, more RAM, and improved graphics for enhanced imagery.  With larger storage and DVD writer for burning larger files will all be possible requiring more power, now supplied by a 600 watt supply. See table below for details:

New Upgrades to Hardware and Software


			Existing Midi Case              600 Watt PSU

			ATX Motherboard                 No Change

			CPU                             Pentium 4 Dual Core 2GHz

			RAM                             2GB DDR Memory

			Graphics                        512MB Graphics Card on AGP

			Storage                         500GB Hard drive

			Optical drive                   CDRW / DVDRW

			Input Devices                   No Change to Mouse or Keyboard

			Output Display                  21" TFT Monitors

			Operating System                Windows Vista Enterprise Edition

			Office Applications             Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise Edition

			New Software Upgrades for Servers

			Operating System                Microsoft Sever 2008

			Backup and Imaging              Acronis Snap Deploy

			

Installation Hardware Upgrade Timings


Estimated time to upgrade a PC workstation:

			

Collect and replace from work area by use of a trolley per PC                    5 min

Record details as they are removed and replaced, computer name, components     5 min

Strip down and remove old component from PC                                     10 min

Clean out the case, motherboard, and check cables                                5 min

Install new components                                                          15 min

Check and clean input devices, tidy and clip internal cables                     5 min

Connect cables, monitor and mouse and keyboard                                   2 min

Power up and test, POST, desktop display check DVD works                         5 min

Configure name, Ip addressing,                                                  10 min

Check and configure antivirus, firewall                                         10 min

Check applications open and work fine                                            5 min

Record changes                                                                   5 min

Total time to refurbish, test, configure and setup one computer per workstation 82 min

10 computer x 82 minutes = 820 minutes = 13 hours 40 minutes

= (2 staff x 8 hours) 2 hours 20 minutes for contingencies

Installing Software Upgrades

My suggested method for installing Vista OS, Office 2007, Antivirus, Nero and Acronis software, test thoroughly for any problems, and to clone a master hard drive. Then deploy each hard drive with everything installed. This will eliminate potential errors which may crop up, when formatting, installing from DVD/CD disks or imaging from master disks. When we are completely satisfied, we will clone the master with the aid of a duplicator as the one shown below:

(Image care of ICS 2009)

By using a duplicator, we are able to image 4 hard drives at a time. Allowing 20 minutes for each copying process, the 250 hard drives should take approximately 1250 minutes = 20 hours and 50 minutes.  

Training plan for Client's staff

Looking at the staffing structure and the implementation of the training it is apparent to me that the ideal solution is to have 10 computers set aside for the 5 week training period, if this is the case then this could have an impact on the client's workflow and labour costs.

If 10 computers are taken daily to be used for the 4 hour training session, then putting then back for the employee to work on to do their normal working duties, will create extreme problems and disruption.

Another scenario is that the staff have no computers to complete their shift, incurring a cost to the client of 350 staff (daily only) at an estimated £10 per hour. Cost of lost labour (350 x 4 hours x £10) = £14,000

I propose that purchasing 10 computers for the training period, 10 x £400 = £4,000 which could be utilised later by the business, or alternatively look at a hire or lease scheme.

Proposed training sessions:

Daily - 4 Hours for 10 employees

Evening - 4 hours for 5 employees

Night - 4 hours for 5 employees

This represents 2.5% of the workforce, minimising the disruption to the workflow. In addition this fits the implementation model of the upgrade to the workstations. To supplement the initial training session for each employee I am suggesting a Peer Mentor system, this will entail training the more experienced senior staff to be the day to day onsite trainers and mentors for the other employees for guidance after they have been trained. All employees will have the same level of initial training, to maximise consistency.

Setting up a plan for training should incorporate every element of the new software applications that appertain to the company's business requirements, (see appendix 2) for a copy of my training plan. I have also enclosed a training record card for each employee to complete and to be retained by the company as evidence of training given, (see appendix 3).

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At the end of the training each member of staff completing the training will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement, (see appendix 4).

Training Methods

Training can be covered in a variety of ways; the method I have chosen is a combination of a selection of these. I will be implementing a phased changeover with peer mentoring and an allowance for additional training for people who miss the training due to sickness, holidays and unforeseen circumstances and those staff that might need extra help. Because I have only suggested a 4 hour training period per shift, this allows extra time in on each shift for additional training if required.

Training methods for new implementation of equipment and employee training:

Direct and Immediate Changeover - very risky, must be implemented very quickly, ideal for small scale changes.

Phased Implementation over weeks/months - gradual changeover, limited impact on business, implemented in a controlled manner.

Running in Parallel alongside older system - if it's possible this method is ideal where backup or alternative systems are still available in emergencies, example Airport Traffic Control Centre.

Pilot Scheme - set up a satellite project to see how these new systems will be implemented when fully rolled out to the whole company, a test bed method.

Transition Plan

This will run alongside the work schedule (see appendix 5). This shows the aims and outcomes of the proposed plan: which is to use a phased plan and to fully implement the changeover at the end of week 7. The introduction of the workstation new systems will start week 2, this will need 1 server ready to handle the new file formats for backing up.

1. Run a risk analysis on the client's premises for the safety of both our own staff and the client's workforce, including house rules, fire procedures, security requirements for working onsite and the security for our own equipment. The facilities available for our staff, refreshments and personal needs, delivery areas and parking. Have initial meeting with Client, Staff representative, Union and Buildings management team. The inclusion of the onsite IT Administrator would be ideal for their contribution on the implementation, ongoing changes and final outcomes.

2. Plan of workstations around the building, liaise over identification about staff training, and prioritise levels of training:

  1. Peer mentors (supervisors) - will provide the day to day assistance on the new systems to other staff once trained up.
  2. Team leaders
  3. Experienced staff members
  4. Junior staff members
  5. Carry out and extensive questionnaire to determine training needs, this then identifies the training required.
  6.   Arrange 2 areas for PC maintenance and training facilities with the client and set up equipment.
  7. Offsite preparation of PCs for training, hard drives for installations, prepare training and auditing documentation.
  8. Arrange with client' team for regular meetings and update on progression of the project, also any matters or issues arising.
  9. Installation upgrades starts Monday evening 8th February with Staff training to start on Daytime shift on Tuesday 9th February, this means that the first 10 machines will be in place ready to be used after the training has been given, thus all trained staff will be able to use the new systems immediately. Careful considerations to be taken as to which machines to upgrade to minimise disruption to day to day work flow.
  10. Training to be continuous basis, daytime, evening, night sessions and PC upgrade to be carried out in phases. All to be carried out over a period of 5 weeks.
  11. An additional week available for staff to be trained because of either  sickness or holidays, liaise with client to minimise this, by allowing holidays to be taken outside the implementation period if possible.
  12. Handover period to client's IT Administration Department, and any snagging issues that arise. Server systems, backup and imaging processes, documentation, manuals, licences, etc.
  13. Completion and signing off of project, Guarantees, Warranties issued.

Gantt Charts and Timeline

I have provided a Gantt chart (see Appendix 6) depicting the implementation plan based on, the schedule of work, this shows a simple diagrammatical layout of the start, finish dates, required days and provides day to day progress evaluation chart. I have drawn up a timeline flowchart to show the information in a different way.

Pert charts are another method of controlling the project through charting the scheduled jobs, with dates, proposed time to completion of tasks, with a float provision for unexpected eventualities. (See Appendix 7)

Critical Path analysis (see Appendix 8)

PC Log and Audit Report

When making any changes to any equipment either upgrading or replacing, maintaining good documentation of changes is good working practice, it may also be a legal requirement as some components may be classed as toxic to humans and/or the environment. It is also a way to maintain security of information, especially under the Data Protection Act, with this being a mail order company; it will have a large database of customers' personal details.

This would be the best way to keeping records on all the PCs onsite, and would be a great working tool for the onsite Administration team. (see Appendix 9)

Hardware and Software Logs

I have drawn up paper logs for both hardware and software installations; these will work in conjunction with the Computer Audit Report sheet. I would be implementing these systems as spreadsheets, (see Appendix 9) for details.

Server set up

It is expected that 1 server will be upgraded week commencing 08.02.2010 prior to the workstation upgrades and staff training begins. The other server will come online on week 7. Installing Microsoft Server 2008 on to the company's servers, with the addition of Acronis Snap Deploy software which will be rolled out and implemented in week 7 when all workstations have been fully installed and tested. The addition of Acronis Snap Deploy is to increase the level of computer security with scheduled imagery backup and restore capability for all the workstations. The re-imaging of the PCs can take place in the evenings/overnight on a timed basis and allocation of nominated workstations which will not be in use or at a time that suits the client's requirements.

Acronis Snap Deploy offers a flexible and effective solution to totally configured workstation operating systems as the well as additional application software, such as Office 2007 and Antivirus to individual or multiple computers.

Has mentioned above this is carried out through disk imaging technology, ideal for rapid installations and flexible centralized backup. Any new computers added to the business can easily have the hard drives imaged; requiring the MAC address of the new hard which can be targeted for deployment.

Client and Staff Issues/problems

Having weekly meetings with the client and his team, would be something that I feel is a must, to show the professionalism of our company and having a regular open communications minimises misunderstandings and creates a friendly open book approach. These meeting may only take 5 minutes, just to see if everything is going alright.

I will take in to consideration possible difficulties staff may have with the new changes to their working environment and the possible reluctance to change to the new systems, has someone with visual difficulties myself, I would have sympathy with the fear of change. I have found that the new Vista and Windows 7 operating systems are not able to offer the same level of accessibility as Windows XP. This means that it takes a little longer to adapt to some of the new features of Office 2007, especially MS Access which does not have a zoom  slider facility as with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I feel some features are better in Windows 7 such as the additional magnification displays. I would suggest it might be an idea to have regular staff meetings to discuss problems when they arise and be open in your approach to people's apprehensions. Adding a space on the TNA for any issues that staff may have, adding a Q & A to cover aspect of changeover. Discussing any foreseeable problems the client may envisage from the employees in advance. 

I would always try to involve the Union representatives as they are great mediators and can be extremely helpful and understanding of both sides of most issues.

Hardware Disposal

After removal of hardware from the workstations, it will be necessary the dispose of the equipment safely, or alternatively recycling if client wishes this to be done. All hard drives will have to have the data totally eradicated under the Data Protection Act and the security of confidential company business information. There may also be a charge for disposals.

With any change an air of suspicion will always be present, people fear loss of jobs are on the cards, this can be elevated by communicating with the staff and include them in the organisational planning. I have worked with caution in mind with the installation processes and staff training, this approach offers time for alterations, changes, additional requests, and minimises problems. Great emphasis will be given to the importance of peer mentoring; this is a great asset to the continued training and development of the staff and the future business. In this changeover good co-ordination of services and careful planning, will hopefully create a smooth transition and not be detrimental to the business.

Bibliography

Books

Microsoft Windows Vista

A Quick Reference Guide to Mastering All That is Vista

Larry Magid and Dwight Silverman (Published 2007)

Microsoft Office 2007 - in simple steps

Greg Holden (Published 2009)             

Websites

ICS Duplicators - www.ics-iq.com