A year or so ago, a group of us at Morae gave a series of presentations up and down the east coast, focusing on the merits and perils of upgrading the legal desktop to Windows 10. One of the first slides in the presentation bore the title “The traditional legal desktop; never wake a sleeping baby” where we discussed the fact that law firms were, for good reason, reluctant to make changes to their desktop; it is disruptive, there’s a lot of testing to be done, users are resistant to change, apps and interdependencies have a tendency to break – and many other reasons too.

Well consider this a wake-up call for the sleeping baby; the date for the end of extended support for Windows 7 is January 2020 – a little over 18 months away. And given that in our experience a desktop migration can take months to strategize and implement, it’s time to stop procrastinating and start getting together a solid plan of attack.

At this point, a move to Windows 10 is inevitable. It’s going to happen so rather than worry about all the headaches and pitfalls, why not embrace the move, and look forward to taking advantage of the many new security and privacy tools, licensing options and maintenance options that if offers? And if you’re still suffering from a severe case of upgrade analysis, here are a few tips on how to make the transition a smooth one.

Evaluate your desktop inventory

If what you have is more than 2/3 years old, it’s time to start over and replace everything with equipment that is designed to handle, and take advantage of, Windows 10. If you’re planning a large purchase, companies such as Dell have ‘try and buy’ programs where they will send you PC’s and monitors to evaluate so you can decide what is the best fit for you.

Involve your staff

Let your staff know that this change is coming – give them an idea of the timeline, what the potential impact on them may be. Form focus groups to solicit input on how the new desktop should look and feel.

Perform an application audit

We can’t stress this step enough. Make a list of EVERY line-of-business application your staff uses and make sure that it’s compatible with Windows 10 and supported by the software vendor. Decide if you are going to take this opportunity to upgrade any other software, such as document management or time-and-billing – some firms prefer to present their users with a completely new desktop with the latest applications installed, so they can train everyone on everything at the same time. By now, most legal-specific software is supported, but if you have some legacy apps that you can’t live without, decide on a workaround up-front.

Test, test, test!

Build a prototype image and test it. Use your colleagues in the IT department and have them document every bug, crash and ‘what just happened?’ that they encounter. Then consider giving it to a select pilot group to work out any remaining kinks specific to the applications they work in, day in, day out.

Communication is the key to smooth deployment

How you deploy depends on whether you are deploying new equipment (in which case you can do a lot of the imaging work in advance using your preferred deployment tool) or pushing out a new image onto existing equipment. Either way, you’ll need to communicate this to the end user and give them the opportunity to copy anything they need from their hard drive, or do that for them if you feel so inclined.

Once deployment has started, you’ll need to get busy with training and floor support. Run formal classroom style training classes, and have floor-walkers available to work through individual user needs. And the training needs may well be on-going as staff become more familiar with the new working environment and want to learn more about its capabilities.

Finally breathe deeply and bask in the satisfaction of a successfully implemented project. And be happy in the knowledge that with Microsoft’s new practice of continual enhancements and updates to Windows 10, in theory there will never be another major OS upgrade in your lifetime…