Assessing the Impact of Active Directory
During the design phase, you also must consider the impact Active Directory will have on various areas of the business. Your goal should be to make the entire process go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. Focus on the areas discussed in the following sections ("Existing Systems and Applications," "Technical Support Requirements," and "Scheduled and Planned Upgrades and Rollouts") when determining the impact the upgrade will have on the business.
Existing Systems and Applications
You need to gather and document information pertaining to the current systems in use. Information about the existing systems and how they will integrate with Active Directory needs to be included in the initial design plans, so use the following questions as a guide when documenting this information:
Do the current systems meet the hardware requirements?
Is the hardware currently being used supported by Windows 2000?
Which operating systems are currently in use, and which service packs have been applied?
How will these operating systems integrate with Active Directory?
Will any operating systems need to be upgraded to another version (NT 4.0) before installing Windows 2000?
Does the business have any DNS servers configured, and how will they interoperate in Active Directory?
Not only do the systems have to be assessed, but attention also needs to be given to the applications the business is running on them. Which applications does the business currently use? Which applications do the business and its employees require to perform their job tasks? After you have determined which applications are required, be sure to test them to see how they will integrate in Active Directory.
This might seem like an unimportant step in the design of Active Directory, but it will be much easier for you and the organization if it is known beforehand that some systems or applications need to be upgraded.
Technical Support Requirements
The rollout of Windows 2000 is bound to have an impact on the technical support in an organization. The current technical support requirements need to be assessed to determine how they will be affected. If a business currently relies on internal staff for technical support, what impact will Active Directory have on this? The skill set of the current technical support staff must be assessed and a training plan put into place. The IT staff might require highly specialized training on the Active Directory features and functions being implemented. Imagine performing a rollout of Windows 2000, only to discover afterwards that the IT staff is unable to provide the technical support necessary to maintain the new structure.
When designing the training plan, consider including end users as well as the IT staff. Providing end users with some basic training on the Active Directory infrastructure being implemented can help reduce the technical support requirements as the upgrades and rollouts occur.
If a business currently outsources all or some of the technical support requirements to external companies, the impact the rollout will have on these arrangements should be considered. After the business begins to migrate to Windows 2000, consider whether the company currently responsible for the business's technical support will still be capable of meeting its needs. If not, this job must be managed by a company that is fluent in the Active Directory technologies.
One of the jobs of the design team is to ensure that the upgrades and rollouts go as smoothly as possible for everyone.
Scheduled and Planned Upgrades and Rollouts
Scheduling and planning when the upgrades and rollouts will occur can make the transition process less chaotic for the business and its employees. One of the most important things you should do is try to schedule the upgrades and rollout to occur during the business's off-hours. Implementing the changes during peak hours is sure to have an impact on the employees.
Proper communication during this phase is crucial and helps reduce confusion in the business. If you can establish a good line of communication early on, the upgrade and rollout should be less of a disruption for employees. Consider the following points:
Explain to employees how the upgrade process will impact their jobs, essentially making their jobs easier.
Inform the employees about the deployment process, keeping in mind that some might need more detailed information than others.
Determine how you will keep employees in the business informed of the deployment status.
The more informed you keep employees about the deployment process, the less of an impact the process will have and the smoother the transition will be.