Setting Up and Administering a Pilot Program
Before you deploy Windows® Internet Explorer® 8 to your users, test your installation of Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Tools in a lab, and then conduct the pilot program with a limited number of participants to refine your deployment configurations and strategies. This process will help you validate your deployment plan and ensure that you are ready for full-scale deployment.
This section describes how to set up a computer lab to test your deployment process, and outlines the steps for conducting a successful pilot program.
Although the processes described in this section assume deployment within a corporate environment, Internet service providers and Internet content providers can follow similar procedures when they administer a pilot program.
Preparing the test plan and checklist
A test plan and checklist provide guides to follow when you test the deployment process in the computer lab. Track the completed tasks on the checklist, and note any issues that don't go smoothly with the process.
Include the following sets of tasks on your checklist:
Prepare custom browser packages for deployment
Install and run the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 8.
Build custom browser packages that contain the distribution files.
Configure automatic browser configuration and automatic detection process files.
Configure download sites.
Install the distribution files.
Copy distribution files to your distribution media, if necessary.
Deploy custom browser packages to lab computers
Run Setup for Internet Explorer 8 to install the custom browser package on each lab computer.
Install Internet Explorer 8 using each available user option.
Test browser software after you install the custom browser packages.
Run Internet Explorer 8 to test all features.
Run any custom components that you included as part of your custom browser packages to make sure they work properly.
Run other desktop and business applications to make sure they work properly.
Restore lab computers to their original state
Reinstall base operating system image.
Reinstall standard applications.
Testing the deployment process in the lab
To help ensure a smooth deployment of Internet Explorer 8, configure your lab computers to represent your typical user groups. If your user groups are large or have a variety of computing environments or requirements, you might need to prepare multiple labs and conduct tests at several different sites.
To test the deployment process in the lab, complete the following tasks:
Prepare the lab.
Conduct the lab testing.
Preparing the lab
Set aside physical space for each computer lab. Acquire a mix of computers that accurately reflects the hardware and software environments of your users' computers. Also set up lab computers to represent existing browser configurations, so that you can accurately test the migration process.
Before you install Internet Explorer 8, complete the following tasks to ensure that your lab computers are functioning properly:
Select a production computer that meets the system requirements for the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 8.
For more information about system requirements for the wizard, see Planning the Internet Explorer 8 Deployment in this deployment guide.
Verify that each lab computer has enough disk space, memory, and processing speed to run Internet Explorer 8.
For more information about hardware requirements for Internet Explorer 8, see Planning the Internet Explorer 8 Deployment in this deployment guide.
Test basic operating system functions, including starting each computer and connecting it to the server.
Run virus detection, disk scanning, and defragmentation programs on each computer to prevent issues that might occur during testing. Although the computers might appear to be operating properly, software upgrades often uncover or create hardware or software issues because of the way they read and write data to the hard disk drive. Checking the computers before you install Internet Explorer 8 helps you to focus on issues that are related to the deployment.
Make sure that you have the appropriate network connection hardware. If your users have portable computers and they dial in from remote locations, or you need to use additional servers or mainframe computers for business data, equip the lab computers with an analog phone line and appropriate network access. You might need power supplies and surge protectors, depending on the number of computers you use for testing. Also, research and eliminate potential issues related to overheating or frequency distortion from the lab location.
When the system hardware is ready, verify that the existing network is fully operational.
Make a backup copy of critical data and configuration files, in case the installation fails or you need to restore the original configuration. If you want to automate the process of restoring the original configuration, consider using a commercial backup program rather than copying the files manually.
Make sure that you document the lab setup completely. Maintain a record of changes that you make so that you can duplicate the setup process during the pilot program.
Conducting the lab testing
To conduct the lab testing, perform all the tasks identified on your checklist. Install Internet Explorer 8 on the lab computers in the same way that you plan to install Internet Explorer 8 on your users' computers. In some cases, this might mean setting up the network installation location on the server and then installing Internet Explorer 8 on the lab computers from the server.
Automating your installation is an important step in reducing the cost of migration. You can choose to run the installation process from start to finish without user intervention. You can also install Internet Explorer 8 from the server, so that you do not need to configure individual computers. Complete any automation work in the lab before you conduct the pilot program.
When you run the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 8, you can predefine a number of options for your users. Before you run your pilot program, make sure that you test the selected Internet Explorer 8 configuration and any changes you make. Depending on how the test installation proceeds, you might want to modify the configuration by adding or removing components or features. If you want to consider several different configurations, you can evaluate them side-by-side in the lab.
For more information about using the Internet Explorer Customization Wizard 8 to predefine user options, see Customizing Internet Explorer 8 using IEAK in this deployment guide.
After you install Internet Explorer 8 on the lab computers, verify that the software runs correctly and that you can perform basic browser tasks, such as navigating to a Web page or adding a Web page to the Favorites list. After you determine that the basic configuration works as expected, test the optional features and additional components that you installed as part of your custom browser packages. Be certain that you also test internal Web sites and line of business applications that will be accessed with Internet Explorer 8.
During the testing process, maintain a record of all issues. These records will help you design solutions to correct the issues you encountered. Then verify each solution by using the same testing process in the lab.
Planning the pilot program
After you test the deployment process in the lab, plan your pilot program. This program provides a scaled-down version of the final deployment. The goal of the pilot program is to further test and refine deployment strategies and configurations in everyday use among a limited group of users.
Project teams assigned to the pilot program can help you determine the best methods for installing your custom browser package configurations. Even though you are only testing the installation process, the pilot program sets a precedent for the final deployment. Therefore, it is important that all participants be completely prepared.
For more information about assembling project teams and selecting your custom browser package configurations, see Planning the Internet Explorer 8 Deployment in this deployment guide.
To plan the pilot program, complete the following tasks:
Identify the resources that you need to conduct the pilot program, and the tasks that you need to accomplish. Because the pilot program is your rehearsal for the final deployment, the resources and tasks should be similar to those identified in your deployment plan.
Select appropriate pilot group participants, and prepare them for the pilot program. Select groups that represent the diversity of your computer users. If your organization includes large user groups or groups with various computing environments or requirements, you might need to select several pilot groups.
Make sure that the people have enough time in their schedules and are willing to participate in the pilot program. Consider asking for volunteers—you should not ask people to participate who might be too busy with other projects and deadlines.
Create a database to document your progress and record issues that might require further action. By setting up the database before the actual pilot installation begins, you can use the database to track open items and issues, and to measure your actual progress against the original objectives documented in your deployment plan.
Conducting the pilot program
The pilot program helps you identify issues that might impede or delay deployment, and it also helps you determine the resources you will need. A successful pilot program can help your final deployment of Internet Explorer 8 run more smoothly.
To conduct the pilot program, complete the following tasks:
Prepare the training and support teams.
Prepare the pilot groups.
Implement the pilot installation.
Preparing the training and support teams
Before the pilot installation begins, the people who will be training and supporting the pilot program participants must become skilled users of Internet Explorer 8 and any custom components that you plan to install with your custom browser packages. Give the team members access to the browser software, so that they can explore the functions and features. Then decide how you want to train the teams.
Support team members may be part of your existing Help desk, staff members whom you have trained as subject matter experts, or representatives from an external vendor whom you have hired to provide support services to browser users. Some team members might already be proficient with earlier versions of Internet Explorer or third-party browser software, while others might not be skilled in this area. Consider self-paced and instructor-led training options, based on the skill levels of your team members and the types of information you want to present. A classroom that allows hands-on practice is recommended when you instruct teams about more complex browser functions. If an external company will instruct your training and support teams, inform their representative about company-specific or job-specific policies or applications for Internet Explorer 8.
After training, encourage the training and support team members to work with Internet Explorer 8 every day. Continue to provide follow-up information and practice exercises so that they become confident in their knowledge and abilities before you start the pilot program.
Preparing pilot groups
Inform the pilot groups about the logistics of the pilot program
Explain the benefits of migrating to Internet Explorer 8, and describe the overall plan and process that each group will follow. This helps the pilot groups anticipate and plan for the browser installation.
Announce the pilot program well in advance of the start date, and follow up your announcement with several reminders. Conduct meetings with the pilot group managers, and with all pilot group participants, to set their expectations and to answer their questions. Provide a deployment presentation that explains how pilot groups will install Internet Explorer 8. Describe installation options that participants can select, and explain how they can get support for questions or issues. Also, recommend that participants make a backup copy of important files on their computers.
Conduct Internet Explorer 8 training
Training and support for the pilot program should simulate—on a smaller scale—the user training for the final deployment. If you implement a training Web page on the Internet or intranet, use a memo or e-mail message to broadcast the URL and a description of the training page. Be sure to explain how participants can benefit from visiting your training page.
For more information, encourage participants to visit the Windows Internet Explorer 8 Web site at: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=81697.
Implementing the pilot installation
Perform the pilot installation in the same way that you expect to install Internet Explorer 8 during the final deployment. As you conduct the pilot installation, you might need to revise the pilot schedule because certain tasks can take more or less time than expected, or you might need to add or remove some tasks.
Use the revised pilot schedule to project the final deployment timetable, and then update the deployment plan with the new schedule information.
To implement the pilot installation, perform the following tasks:
Deploy custom browser packages to pilot groups.
Test Internet Explorer performance and capabilities.
Monitor and support pilot groups.
Deploying custom browser packages to pilot groups
Use the appropriate distribution methods to deploy the custom browser package that you created and tested in the lab. For example, you can send an e-mail message to pilot group participants, directing them to the download site where they can follow instructions to download the custom browser package. If you are using CDs, you can distribute them to the users, and provide instructions in an e-mail message about how to install the custom browser package.
Testing Internet Explorer 8 performance and capabilities
In addition to the project team members who are responsible for conducting the pilot installation, you might want to assign additional team members to measure, observe, and test the installation. By tracking the time per installation, handling issues that arise, and identifying areas for improvement or automation, these individuals can help ensure the success of both the pilot and the final installations.
After the pilot installation, these team members can test system capabilities (such as remote administration) to make sure that all functions are operating correctly. They should monitor the pilot computers for performance, stability, and functionality, and highlight any inconsistencies with the lab configuration. Also, they should document ways to improve the installation, training, and support processes.
Monitoring and supporting pilot groups
Ensure that the users who are participating in the pilot program have a responsive support team. Support team members should be accessible to assist pilot group participants at all times and should be available to monitor the progress of the pilot program.
Track the volume of support calls during the pilot program to gauge the effect of deploying Internet Explorer 8 on your support team. Make sure to document all trouble calls and issues, and the resources required to support the pilot groups. Use your experience during the pilot program to plan the support resources you will need for the final deployment.
Finalizing the deployment plan
The results of the pilot installation provide the basis for developing a final plan for deploying Internet Explorer 8 to your user groups. To finalize your deployment plan, you need to:
Incorporate feedback from pilot program participants.
Determine the time and resource requirements for final deployment.
Update company policies and standards regarding Internet Explorer 8 use.
Incorporating feedback from pilot program participants
Survey the pilot group participants to measure their satisfaction and proficiency with the new installation, and to evaluate the level of training and support provided. Test their proficiency by asking them to perform a few common tasks or use several of the Internet Explorer 8 features.
Obtain feedback from all the pilot program participants—include people who participated in the pilot groups and people on the training and support team. Document the lessons learned during the pilot program. Based on this initial feedback, record changes that will increase the satisfaction level and the effectiveness of the installation process.
Continue to monitor the pilot installation for a week or more to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Track open issues by using the central database that you created for the pilot installation. Then incorporate the feedback into your deployment, training, and support plans. If the pilot program did not run smoothly or if feedback was negative, conduct additional pilot installations until the process works well.
Determining the time and resource requirements for final deployment
Using the actual time and resource requirements determined during the pilot program, project teams can estimate the time and resources that will be required for the final deployment. If you need additional resources, identify and acquire them at this time.
Updating company policies and standards
Before beginning the final deployment, update all company policies regarding the use of browser software and Internet and intranet access by user groups. In addition, update the corporate standards lists for software usage, and ensure that all computers are compliant.