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A global professional services company selected TEKsystems’ Technology Deployment practice to manage the overflow of its application packaging activities.
The client, a global professional services company, boasts a range of offerings including facilities management, uniforms and work apparel, dining and catering, lodging, clinical technology solutions, cleanroom support, and energy management. The client delivers its services to business customers, academic institutions, healthcare and senior living facilities, parks and tourist destinations, sports and entertainment venues, and convention centers.
The process of application packaging supports the automated installation of software across multiple computers. Businesses recognize efficiencies when they implement application packaging, as the process streamlines the configuration and deployment of software; this helps organizations scale and manage increasing demand for software on desktop and server systems, while cutting costs associated with application support and management.
There are several milestones in the IT industry that have escalated the demand for application packagers; Microsoft introduced one of the largest operating system upgrades in history with many key benefits related to automated deployments. But many organizations are not well positioned to support packaging their applications with current staff. Therefore, they are routinely turning to organizations such as TEKsystems to fill the gap either through staff augmentation or through outsourced services. Meanwhile, the supply of application packagers is imbalanced compared to demand. This makes it more challenging for organizations to keep up with application packaging to achieve consistent quality automated upgrades.
The nature of inflow package requests is inconsistent, unpredictable and sporadic in most environments. It can be difficult for organizations to accommodate the fluctuating demand if they are lacking the right amount of internal talent to do it; yet, because the demand is inconsistent, they may not want to invest the money or time into increasing their headcount or hiring third-party resources. For many organizations without the required internal packagers, the best solution may be to collaborate with a quality IT services partner who is able to outsource their packaging needs and offer the ability to scale up and down as application packaging needs vary.
MSI Application Packaging, application wrappering (limited)
Application packaging was important to the client’s IT systems running smoothly and efficiently. When applications are packaged, they are configured into a standard MSI (Microsoft Installer) format. This enables the automation of different functionalities. Upgrades and installations could be synchronized and silently deployed. When users log into their PCs, they can receive upgrades with no interruption to their daily work. However, the client was experiencing difficulties attempting to meet internal packaging objectives and partnered with a third-party vendor to manage overflow of its desktop application packaging support.
Although the client had a small team that performed application packaging within its internal IT department, this was not their main responsibility. The client’s need for application packaging fluctuated with business demand, and because of that, it did not make sense for the client to increase its headcount. As such, when the client’s team could not keep pace with the demand for business, the overflow would trickle down to the third-party vendor to support.
But application packaging was not the core focus of the vendor’s business and as a result, the vendor lacked subject matter expertise in this area. In turn, the vendor was accommodating client expectations to the minimum agreed upon requirements and was not concerned with making long-term improvements to the client’s environment or helping to better the business. Additionally, the vendor did not assign any specific service level agreements (SLAs) to the program, providing the client with little insight into performance and timelines. Overall, this professional services company was not satisfied.
The client did not feel there was a true partnership from their third-party vendor and sought to consider alternative IT service providers. In learning from its previous vendor relationship, the following three characteristics were of top priority in choosing a new provider:
The client aimed to not increase the pace of completing the overflowed application packaging activities but rather to establish a solid and trusting partnership with an organization that could effectively manage to demand. The client wanted a partner that was willing to establish service level objectives in order to gain specified commitment levels around turnaround time, reduced defects and ease of partnering that would allow expectations to be set with their internal business partners.
The client required a partner to manage the overflow of packaging services, subsequently helping expedite the client’s internal packaging process and achieve quality results. The client wanted a partner who would complete the packages within clearly defined SLAs, ensure the completed applications were supported by the client’s operating systems—Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1—and pass its internal user acceptance testing (UAT) process.
TEKsystems recommended a two-phased approach: Proof of Concept and Execution. The goal of Proof of Concept was to deliver overflow packaging services and establish processes to improve throughput and quality. To do this, TEKsystems would validate the project requirements and scope, verify processes and establish quality baselines with mutually agreed upon SLA targets. TEKsystems would put an implementation plan in place and ensure the client was aligned with the plan. During Execution, TEKsystems would manage and scale the packaging efforts and support the packaging of a range of applications throughout the duration of the project. Notably, we would rely on the client to provide us with the necessary information to create the packages, such as on-site requirements and source code gathering. This requirements document would be referred to as a ‘dossier.’ TEKsystems’ application packages would be built according to the specifications outlined in each application dossier. TEKsystems would provide a secure location with write access on our Microsoft SharePoint that would allow the client to upload the dossier, source code and any other related documentation.
Throughout this engagement, TEKsystems would monitor packaging performance and quality, and make ongoing process improvements. The client would conduct UAT internally and escalate any packaging defects to TEKsystems for resolution. TEKsystems’ quality assurance processes would be refined to ensure we achieve high-quality results while minimizing impact on the client’s internal team.
Given our existing relationship with this global professional services company, TEKsystems was viewed as a trusted partner with expertise and proven ability to deliver quality results. The client approached us and asked if we could deliver a scalable application packaging solution. We knew we could adapt to support the client’s overflow challenge. As a result, the client hired TEKsystems for this engagement.
TEKsystems successfully completed building the MSI packages according to client requirements, enabling the client to more effectively manage overflow work with the ability to increase speed to deliver to business demands. We developed a communication plan, risk plan and escalation plan to ensure the client had a strong understanding of our role and responsibilities, and that expectations were clear. TEKsystems delivered a weekly status report reflecting spend against projected budget; number/percent of applications packaged against the target; and number/percent of defects against the current volume of packages. We also provided a daily email update detailing the status of all applications submitted for packaging.
TEKsystems followed a packaging process that would ensure all the proper requirements were met and communicated via the dossier document. This document outlined the specific requirements for each application and installation instructions as well as key testing procedures to assist with validating compliance. The client reviewed and completed this template for each packaging request. We created a document library and project site for the client to upload application requests for packaging or defect documentation around the specific package to ensure the TEKsystems team understood what and where the application failed in order to expedite the completion of the package. Once a package request was received, it followed an internal process for verifying requirements, building according to specifications, testing for functionality, passing quality assurance and then submitting to the client for its internal UAT and approval. TEKsystems tracked the status of packaging, following our application packaging process.
Each package was completed within 15 business days or less after the initial verification process. The packages were configured specific to the client’s environment, tested for basic functionality and packaged according to TEKsystems’ best practices. The client benefited from our application packaging process, as this provided greater visibility into the progress of packaging than the client had experienced with its previous partner. With this process, the package status tracking was clearly defined from initial receipt of the application for packaging to the completion and acceptance of the package. It was a step-by-step tracking process that clearly identified each phase of the packaging process.
From the perspective of its internal application packagers, the client also benefited from having TEKsystems manage the overflow. We helped reduce the workload that the client team was responsible for, freeing them to work on more strategic initiatives and core tasks.
Three primary attributes were critical to the success of this engagement:
Prior to our involvement, the client struggled with its application packaging in large part due to the packaging approach used. The client was not applying industry standards or best practices to packaging their applications. As a result, when we became engaged in this program, there was some confusion and packagers had difficulty meeting client requirements. From the beginning, TEKsystems worked with this global professional services company to understand how they package their applications. With TEKsystems’ and the client’s support, both parties adapted and were able to come to a mutual agreement regarding the specifications outlined in the requirement document. This more clearly defined specifications of what information was needed, which helped ensure packaging was successful.
Both the client and TEKsystems were committed to this being a collaborative effort. After having little insight into its overflow packaging that the previous third-party vendor provided, gaining visibility and setting clear expectations was a priority for the client. TEKsystems understood this and took an active role in managing the packaging process. We established processes and an operating rhythm with the client that enabled us to align and work successfully together.
TEKsystems advised and guided the client on a process-driven approach to application packaging. Our expertise was beneficial to improving several aspects of the client’s process, and in turn, helped increase efficiency and speed to packaging. For example, some of the applications were quite large and issues would arise when trying to email transfer them; downloading was timely and it slowed the whole packaging process down. TEKsystems set up an FTP site to upload all the packages directly, thereby improving this part of the process. The requirements document was another example of our guidance contributing to the client’s overall improved process. We worked with the client’s internal team to modify the dossier to ensure we captured very specific step-by-step instructions and requirements. This made certain that there was a clear understanding of what the client wanted the application to do when it was complete.