Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Software Deployment: Challenges and Successes

Guest post by David Malmborg. David works with Dell Kace and enjoys writing about technology, computers and saving money.

In the early days of business software, deployment was relatively simple. When a software upgrade was needed, companies bought software CDs through retail vendors and installed it onto their machines. Today, things are a little more complicated. The internet revolutionized the way software is sold, but it also opened the door to rampant software piracy. Software vendors, then, of necessity, became stricter in terms of both licensing and auditing.

Modern enterprise software deployment is more than just getting the right applications to the right people at the right time. In fact, software “deployment” can really be called software “management”— that is, an IT professional’s job does not end with the successful rollout of a software update. It’s more about managing software and software licensing year round.

Software Deployment Challenges

Poor software deployment can lead to a number of issues. One such has already been mentioned, but those companies that do not handle it properly can find themselves charged with hefty fines: illegal software usage. Unfortunately, this is sometimes not as easy to control as would be hoped. Employees may not understand all the implications of software licensing when downloading or otherwise installing software on their machines.

Another issue that many IT professionals run into is support. When attempting software upgrades, it is often not a simple matter of installing, but of making sure that users’ existing hardware, software, data, and preferences are compliant with the new application. This is especially important when making moving from one OS to another. Though there are tools that attempt to make the process easier, it is
often one that requires time to complete. A typical operating system update can take most companies anywhere from a year and a half to two years.

Other challenges include overbuying, fitting the upgrade into the workload of already-busy employees, and supporting newer technologies. It is for these reasons that successful software distribution is a full time job.

Deployment Methodology

There are resources and things that IT professionals can do to make software deployment a little more manageable, however.

Plan in advance – It’s almost a guarantee that there will be problems with software
deployment, but professionals that plan in advance for these eventualities are often the most successful. In order to do this, it is a good idea to involve both the end users and any support staff in the planning processes.

Repackage software – Software distribution is often best handled through a centralized software library. This provides ease of access and control of updates. This system also allows the right software versions to be transferred to the right employees.

Schedule software distribution – When software deployment takes place is just as important as how it happens. A good time to schedule distribution is during times of low bandwidth usage and during times that users are not actively working on their machines.

Train employees – Sometimes management makes the decision to forego training in order to cut back on costs, but this is often an essential step. Users need to understand the new software features as well as how their work routines could change.

Software deployment can be complex and time-consuming, but it is a vital part of most businesses. With the right strategies in place, software deployment can go smoothly.

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