Playing a new tune

Last night on PBS they had opening night of an Orchestra.  Carnegie Hall in fact.   “A celebration of Leonard Bernstein”.  Seeing the musicians so well trained and so well practiced reminded me of something we all need to remember as we begin to deploy SBS 2008.  We need to be prepared to learn a new piece of music.

For the past five years we’ve been playing the same tune.  So much so that we can practically play it in our sleep.  So along comes the Conductor and throws us a new piece of music.  And we look at the notes on the page and realize that we have forgotten how to learn, how to read music, how to be patient and be a student.

When we take that SBS 2008 and leave the beta process and start deploying that server in the real world for real clients, ask yourself if you are ready to start playing this new piece of music or if you need to take time to practice.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make anyone afraid of a new thing but we need to remind ourselves it’s been a long time since we had to roll up our sleeves and play with a new technology.  As much as we may consider that we’re “players” of Windows 2008 and Exchange 2007, SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 are different instruments.  

We need to set expectations accordingly.

Expectation 1:  Google may not be your friend and in fact may be your enemy. 

What’s the first thing we do these days when we hit an error.  We google it.  But we’re in the early days of learning this new instrument and we don’t have the greatest body of knowledge on the Internet right now.  In fact some of the google answers you may find may not be good advice for SBS 2008.  Just because something technical is written for Windows 2008 or even Exchange 2007, doesn’t mean it’s on point for SBS 2008.  When you google, it may not be the right answer.  Ensure that you go to the right places for information.  The SBS blog.  The SBS 2008 and EBS newsgroups.  Don’t assume that some tidbit of information you found on a random blog post is going to be the proper information. 

Expectation 2:  Stuff may WILL happen. 

Have you considered that something might go wrong and counsel your clients accordingly?  Each network of your clients is different.  I guarantee you that at each migration, even if it’s a new, clean install, you will hit some issue that will bite you in the rear.  Now it may be a little bite, one that you can easily overcome and get back on track, but regardless, be prepared.  Give yourself extra time.  Plan for contingencies.  Plan to be able to roll back.  Plan for backups along the way.  Just PLAN.  Something will happen and plan for it.

Expectation 3:  Support should not be a substitute for experience.

The guy in the orchestra with the violin doesn’t sit down in the Music Hall and look at the music for the first time that night and think he’s going to be able to play that music like he should.  Nor does he call up the Violin tuner/repairman and expect the tuner/repairmen to bail him out and play the music that he was supposed to learn in the first place.  He practices.  He takes special classes.  He gets a mentor.  The point is, he doesn’t go out on stage with no prior experience.  He’s been in rehearsals before he goes out on stage.  So why do we think that we don’t need to practice?  We have always historically said that to learn SBS you had to install SBS 2003 at least three times.  Once to screw it up.  Once to understand it.  Once to get it right.  Planning and practicing for migrations for SBS 2008 is no different.  Don’t skimp on your training and your homework.  Look for SBS Partnergroups that are doing Loadfests.  Check for hands on training courses  in your area.  I saw some in Canada and Australia.  Now I’m not advocating traveling that far, but I still remember when SBS 2000 first came out, I drove 5 hours down to Los Angeles to take a hands on course.  Keep an eye out for these types of events.  I think more are coming to the USA in the upcoming months.  Bottom line, take the time to learn.

Expectation 4:  Treat those that help you in the manner that you want to be treated.

Whenever I’ve called Microsoft Support it’s when I’ve been stuck and stuck good.  And every time I’ve had to fight something I call the “tude attack”.   Oh, you know what I mean.  You are stressed to begin with.  The client or boss is breathing down your neck.  You are not in a happy place because you realize you are over your head and you, whether you realize it or not, you start to take it out on the person on the other end of the phone line.  I know, sometimes that VOIP phone call is hard to hear, and sometimes it’s hard to calm yourself down when calling support, but I need all of us, including me, to promise me that you will stop yourself when this occurs and remind yourself that you are a professional.  You don’t like it when the client screams at you, therefore you have no right to take that ‘tude’ out on the person on the other end of the phone that is there to help you.    More often than not, it’s not just him or her helping you, many a time I’ve found out later that behind that person on the phone, were key MS Engineers behind the scenes ensuring that you got the best resolution you could.  (And there wasn’t special treatment on that call either.)  Bottom line, right now, especially now, in these early days of deployment, Community support is NOT good enough and you need the Product support to help you.  You need to be a professional in that call and treat that person in the manner that you’d like your customer to be treating you.  

Expectation 5:  Get the tools to play well.

If you had access to TechNet you’d have access to the RTM of SBS 2008 already.  If you have access to Action pack (and as I’ve always ranted … ANYONE who is out there touching SBS 2003 and now 2008 boxes SHOULD be a registered partner and be buying Action pack to give them access to the software you need to know to be a SMB consultant), the SBS, EBS and WHS media is being shipped in the Action  Pack this week, so you have the tools you need to start practicing.   Just like a Flute player also practices with the Piccolo instrument, don’t just consider that you have prior experience with one product that you now know everything with another. 

So get out that violin, tune up the strings, get out that music, and you start practicing.  The concert starts on November 12th. 

Get ready to play well for your customers.

Start practicing now.

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