Did You Hear the One…

Sometimes things are not what they appear.

On a recent Sunday, a couple of systems administrators are toiling through a major migration project—one they’ve been working on for months and months. They’re installing the very last domain controller in the last remote office, when they see a long funeral procession pass by outside on the road next to the corporate complex. One of the guys stops in mid-configuration, takes his hands off the keyboard, closes his eyes and bows in prayer.

After he’s done, his co-worker says: “Wow. That is the most thoughtful and touching thing I have ever seen. You truly are a kind man.”

The man then replies: “Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.”

OK, so I’m no comedian. But I know a good story when I hear one. And this month’s cover story, “Major Migration,” by Senior Editor Keith Ward, is excellent. This profile of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s efforts to move its entire Department of Education to Windows Server 2003 provides memorable characters, conflict, drama and resolution.

What strikes me about the effort involving about a hundred people is the orchestration of the migration. The team so understands its job and the technologies involved, it’s been able to document each step required to reach the goal. Only when the steps aren’t followed does trouble arise.

Compare that to another company not profiled in this issue in which a move of Exchange servers sent users—in-house and remote—into a messaging tailspin. Instructions for making repairs and connecting to the Exchange server were then sent out by e-mail—messages lots of people couldn't know existed. Troubleshooting among individual users took weeks.

Good IT is as much about communication and follow-through as it is about the technology. Changes to new platforms or applications should be invisible, and where they’re not, those affected should understand why and what to do about it—to the last person.

In this same issue, we offer quick briefings on Exchange Server 2003 and Systems Management Server 2003. We can tell you about the interesting features and help you build a technical case for deploying them in your companies. But we can’t do much about persuading you to test them thoroughly and intelligently, then test again, and plan and plan again. You have to approach the job of evaluation with that kind of in-grained skepticism about how well they’ll integrate with what you’re already running—and what problems might surface if the plan isn’t perfect.

In my ideal user world, engineers and administrators would spend as much time figuring out how to get the word out—whatever the word might be—as they would snooping through TechNet. Do you disagree?

[This article was revised as of publication.—Editorial.]

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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