In large-scale IT upgrades, it’s good to have an ally

In large-scale IT upgrades, it’s good to have an ally

Large Scale IT Upgrade


    Change Requested: 
    Project assessment and budgeting for Windows 7 migration of 1,200 devices initially
    Change Envisioned : 
    Work quickly and seamlessly as an internal support team to transition the department with minimal interruption to operations and service to clients
    Change Delivered: 
    Successful transition of almost 2,000 machines in total, plus oversight and reporting for additional 6000

    After 12 years, in 2014, Microsoft ended technical and security support for Windows XP, the most widely used operating system ever released. Thus, one of the largest insurance companies in the world found itself at a crossroads: If it wanted to keep using the system, it was going to have to make a large investment in paying for extended support to avoid the risk of increased exposure to security threats.


    Instead, a decision was made to migrate to Windows 7, with the responsibility for the migration given to each individual department within the company. This was the first step in moving the organisation off the unsupported Microsoft XP platform and preparing it for newer versions of the Microsoft platform in the future.


    Recognising that it may need help in this endeavour, the Corporate Finance IT department, with approximately 200 employees, engaged Protiviti to scope the effort for the department and for the corporate finance business users it supports (roughly 1,000 additional employees). As part of this scoping exercise, Protiviti was to assess the impact of the migration on day-to-day business and develop a governance program to manage the project, with frequent status updates to senior management.


    The assessment provided senior management with a clear picture of the effort and resources that would be required to execute the upgrade successfully. First, they realized that the scale of the project was bigger than expected, and with a full load of other pressing projects, the manpower to dedicate to the transition simply wasn’t there. Second, even if they managed to allocate resources, they didn’t know how to inventory user requirements and ensure compatibility of existing applications. They also realised that they had neglected to perform several earlier upgrades and that this would impact the success of the Windows 7 migration. Other factors, such as users owning more than one piece of equipment and the logistics of scheduling migrations so they do not conflict with the finance department’s busy close calendar, complicated matters further.


    Adding to the already tricky situation, two key decisionmakers left the department while the assessment was underway, leaving leadership of the project on uncertain ground. Recognising the delicacy of the situation, the new leadership asked Protiviti to step in and handle the project from concept to completion. This included developing migration schedules and coordinating them with the technical teams and the end-users, troubleshooting migration-related issues and performing high-level training, if needed. In addition, management asked Protiviti to provide project management oversight of the global finance upgrade (approximately 5,000 additional machines).

    With Protiviti at the helm, the work went largely without hitches – no service disruptions were reported by finance department employees or their clients and extended support proved unnecessary. Word soon spread to other departments, leading to the successful migration of another 700 machines.


    But it wasn’t just computers and software applications that were made better during this project – employees’ trust levels grew as a potentially frustrating mass upgrade turned out to be a disruption-free experience for users. Seizing the momentum, the insurer asked Protiviti to replicate the model in other IT initiatives, counting on the same level of high-touch interaction that proved so successful during the upgrades. And in a move preemptive of future need, the Protiviti team is already engaged to help with upcoming IT infrastructure upgrades.

    “From our sponsor’s perspective, they were amazed how well our team integrated with their internal team,” remarked a Protiviti project lead. “A number of users didn’t even realise we weren’t company employees. That cultural unity was a big determinant of the migration’s success.”

    Leaders in the finance department commented on the speed with which the project was completed and praised the lack of downtime in departments during the transition. For the Protiviti team, however, the highest praise came from one company employee who emphasised how much Protiviti felt like an ally in the effort – the best kind of IT relationship any company undergoing a major IT upgrade can hope for.

    Kurt Underwood
    Kurt A. Underwood
    Managing Director