Microsoft Case study


IT Courses Help Services Company Upgrade 120 Clients to New Release Technology in Two Years

Carefully tailored courses train EDS engineers in record time, giving them the skills they need to help EDS clients upgrade and future-proof operating systems quickly and efficiently.

EDS employs 130,000 people in more than 60 countries and is ranked one of the largest services companies on the Fortune 500 list. Its broad portfolio of business and technology solutions helps clients worldwide improve their business performance. The engineering division of EDS Integration Engineering alone employs more than 1,000 people in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).
Integration Engineering employees design and build technology for as many as 120 EDS clients in EMEA, rolling out solutions and providing support.
The needs of EDS clients change constantly. Their businesses grow, and they require new solutions to adapt to changing market demands. EDS makes sure that these businesses are supported by the latest releases of technology and the right tools to meet their needs.
When Microsoft released the Windows Server® 2003 operating system with Active Directory® services, the majority of EDS EMEA clients were still running Microsoft® Windows NT® Server version 4.0. Microsoft was due to withdraw support for Windows NT Server 4.0, meaning its clients would soon require upgrades.
The project posed a new set of challenges for EDS. Mick Govan, Integrated Engineering Workforce Manager, EDS, explains that historically, clients migrated to new operating systems over a period of five or six years, so the organisation used an incremental approach to the upgrade. But with so many clients staying with Windows NT Server 4.0 for so long, EDS had to think creatively and find a way to upgrade all its clients in the remaining time. He says: “We had 120 clients, 128,000 workstations, and 22,000 servers—all with different configurations and applications—that we needed to migrate simultaneously in a 12 to 18-month timeframe before support ran out.”

Engineer Training Revised to Support Large-Scale Migration
Training is critical to ensure EDS engineers can fully support the company’s clients. A self-service culture of learning had, over the years, inspired a training catalogue. This offered a number of courses to employees, who were encouraged to learn new skills under their own initiative and to support current programmes.
The comprehensive training catalogue, developed by the EDS Global Learning and Development team, supported these highly skilled professionals by offering them an e-learning experience in Microsoft technologies. But as Nikki Mears, Skills Development Manager EMEA, EDS, explains, the existing programme was designed to meet a different scale of operation. “Despite the vast pool of experience and resources available, re-training 1,000 employees in a new operating system is highly complex,” she says. “Having to do that in a timescale that met the programme needs was also a major challenge. The existing courses provided standardised training, which offered users a lot of choice. But they weren’t designed to be specific to users’ individual training needs.”
Mears realised that the organisation would need to revise the courses and the way they were delivered. “It was important that we remove any irrelevant aspects of the courses to ensure that people were learning the exact skills they needed, without going over material they already knew,” she says.

Proof of Concept Accelerates Skills Development
To resolve the problem, the EDS Integration Engineering and Global Learning and Development teams worked closely with the Microsoft Learning team, which provided courseware and access to skills assessment and support. Microsoft also brought in training partner Xpertise to help identify the ways in which the existing training programmes could be adapted to re-skill EMEA engineers in the shortest possible time.
The Microsoft Skills Assessment for Organisations is a Web-based tool used to identify skills gaps, design focused learning programmes, identify expertise, and measure training results. Through this tool, Microsoft, Xpertise, and EDS were able to pinpoint specific training requirements based on particular projects by running a skills analysis on 30 people.
With the results of these tests, the standard training available for Active Directory and Windows Server 2003 was converted into a more specialised, shorter course, combined with mentoring and coaching provided by Microsoft. The result was a one-week, intensive programme, which previously would have taken five weeks to complete. “It was a magnificent success,” says Mears. “The training was relevant to an individual’s needs and could be delivered in a fraction of the time.”
Govan explains that the refined and condensed courses contribute to a huge cost saving for EDS. “Not only is the cost of the courseware reduced, we can also ensure people learn the relevant skills, get back to work after one week instead of five, and start applying these new skills immediately,” he says. “Loss of revenue is massively reduced. The proof of concept saved us the equivalent of three months per engineer that would normally be spent in training, while achieving the same skills uplift.”
With the proof of concept complete, EDS set about translating its training requirements into more efficient, refined delivery methods to support its complete refresh programme. Employees had a range of needs—from one-day workshops to in-depth courses for design and build work. Frameworks were developed for every level of skill, including general awareness courses, hands-on engineering, and client liaison.
Mears says: “We looked at our business issues, translated them into skills requirements for our people, and then created the delivery mechanisms to meet them. Our course structure has dramatically evolved into a complete programme, taking into account current business demands and future technologies.”
Employees can now drill down into any framework and find the training according to their precise role and level of experience. Training information is delivered to employees through Microsoft Webinars, training seminars, and books, with links available on the company’s Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 portal. Mears says: “It’s an all-encompassing portal that helps employees understand and map their role and skills to EDS business objectives.”

Training Supports Engineers in Performing Rapid Customer Upgrades
Commitment to its clients is a priority for EDS, and the organisation strongly supports the need for 100 per cent quality of service and IT infrastructure to prevent downtime. EDS ensures that clients are fully aware of the importance of software upgrades and all steps are taken to mitigate risk when upgrading. The organisation worked closely with Microsoft and Xpertise to explain how the latest release offered far advanced features and a more secure environment. Govan says: “Microsoft gave us the materials to use and presentations to help inform our clients and solve their business issues.”
Supported by the new training programme, re-skilled engineers began upgrading the EDS client base in the second half of 2004. By mid-2006, nearly all EDS clients were running Windows Server 2003. The migration included more than 90 per cent of its clients’ Windows NT Server 4.0 servers and 85 per cent of all their workstations. Govan says: “It was remarkable that we were able to complete such an enormous project in less than two years. It would have been impossible without the training programme.”
The refresh programme also provides a model for future projects and works in conjunction with the EDS Agility Alliance to ensure clients get what they want. The mission of the EDS Agility Alliance—a key component of EDS global strategy—is to create a seamlessly integrated platform called the “agile enterprise” that delivers robust, relevant, and value-driven technology services to clients around the globe. At the core of this alliance is the deep collaborative engineering and innovation that occurs between EDS and best-of-breed alliance partners, of which Microsoft is a founding member.
The success of the Windows NT Server 4.0 refresh programme was a huge step forward for the organisation. During the programme, EDS moved a significant part of its client base from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP—the starting point for agile workplace solutions. Sue Marshall, Microsoft Alliance Director for EMEA, EDS, says: “Until that time we developed a custom solution for each client. Through the development of agile workplace solutions, underpinned by this training programme, EDS now has a best practice approach through which we can deliver repeatable, iterative solutions to our clients.”
Managers can now re-use the experience and the tools to address new challenges. The training programme is widely used across EDS globally to meet the changing needs of clients on a day-to-day basis. “This wasn’t just a one-off,” says Marshall. “To EDS, this is just a part of our core business,” says Marshall. “It's streamlining the way EDS incorporates and manages change. As an EDS Agility Alliance, Microsoft innovation brings constant change and our clients look to EDS and our partners to respond and deliver results.”
Marshall continues: “Now, the whole organisation can use this approach to reduce the restrictions clients usually face when they want to take advantage of new technology releases. We can train our staff and respond to their needs faster than ever.”

Best Practice Shared Across Global Business
The training can be used by any EDS employee, regardless of their job role or location. Mears says: “The programme is becoming a pivotal part of how we are delivering training. It creates a life cycle of products, and it links in with our resourcing programmes.”
The frameworks are also a mandatory part of the manager’s position. Leaders are responsible for making sure that every team member is up to speed and capable of performing to meet the needs of their role. Mears says: “The framework now forms the basis of each employee’s development plan. It is integrated into everyday processes and helps people perform their roles more effectively.”
The training has also helped EDS people successfully complete Microsoft certification exams. The ability to have certified professionals working on client implementations lends huge credibility to the organisation and gives EDS clients additional confidence in the work that they request. Mears says: “Clients want to see this certification as a demonstration and validation of people’s skills. Our close relationship with Microsoft also gives us access to inside information and resources, helping us to gauge and take advantage of new opportunities.”
Beth Hughes previously worked as the Training Manager for EDS at a large government client and knows what it’s like to ensure everyone is qualified to work with the latest systems. She says: “The new courses were well received across the EDS teams and met the challenges facing many of the key people within the account.” Paula McLaughlin is one of these people—a Systems Analyst at EDS—who attended one of the customised courses to help her reach the skill levels needed to perform within the client. “It was a big step above the courses I’d completed previously outside the programme,” says McLaughlin. “It has helped my understanding of network infrastructure within my role in environment management. It will definitely enhance my career development and, ultimately, help me move towards a technical specialist role.”
The pilot phase in 2006 paved the way for the success now being achieved through the Skills and Development Programme. It has also helped EDS identify and design the skills frameworks and training portal to meet ever-changing client demands.

Training Investment Ensures High Returns for the BusinessEDS is now offering employees and, ultimately, clients the right skills at the right time, while getting far more from its training budget. Skilled employees are ready at any time to help clients grow and expand their technology infrastructures and meet the competition head on.
Marshall says: “The transition from Windows NT Server 4.0 was a major challenge for us and our clients. But, thanks to our partnerships, we met our goals, and our clients’ IT systems remained supported throughout.”
Mark Duggan, Director, Integration Engineering in EMEA, believes that the programme has provided a foundation on which to grow the EDS business and ensure employees stay ahead of technical developments in future. He says: “Integration Engineering in EMEA has worked closely with Microsoft and Xpertise to prove, develop, and deploy what Microsoft refers to as partner best practice in e-learning. The outcome is a workforce with improved confidence and professionalism that can deliver agile workplace solutions to a predictably high standard.”

For more information

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© 2011 Minerva Information Telepathy Ltd

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