Microsoft is ending standard support on Windows 7, its flagship operating system since 2009.
This conversion has been smoother than was the changeover from Windows XP to Windows 7, thanks in part to detailed planning and cooperation across the business.
The new OS paves the way for future improvements in software and processes.
Credit unions don’t have to quit using Windows 7 when Microsoft stops providing standard support, including critical security patches, on Jan. 14, 2020; however, those that don’t will need to take measures to stay in compliance.
Those that do migrate to Windows 10, which the software services giant has been pushing since 2015, can draw on lessons from the past. Yes, the computerized world has experienced this before — remember the sunsetting of Windows XP in 2014 — and several credit unions making the move said they’ve found the process to be smoother this time. That’s partly because of their own experience and partly because software and hardware vendors are more prepared.
Benefits to migration include a more stable, efficient operating system and easier adoption path to new versions of Office tools — and some credit unions are taking this opportunity to also upgrade their hardware. The process itself has proved beneficial in terms of building teamwork and in understanding a credit union’s operations, including identifying just what software and hardware was actually on hand.
Here, eight credit unions in various stages of migration to Windows 10 talk about their experiences. There are some commonalities. For example, they all say falling behind on security and compliance is not an option. And, no one said they started the complex process too soon.
A Method To No Madness
Todd Woods, Director of Information Technology, United Federal Credit Union
United Federal Credit Union ($2.9B, St. Joseph, MI) is nearly done with its migration to Windows 10, a complex process it handled with in-house staff following a playbook that stressed advance planning, testing, and communication.
UFCU took a two-pronged approach. If the computer was on the existing replace list, the credit union replaced it with a Windows 10 computer. If the computer was not on the replace list, then the credit union just upgraded the software. Now, running all the PCs on the same operating system reduces patching and other support work. Plus, United took the opportunity to upgrade to Office 2019 to further enhance integration with other Microsoft products.
The credit union kicked off the process by testing deployment through Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (MSCCM) tools. It then updated its Active Directory Group Policy Objects to ensure security controls were in place and the end user experience was optimized. The Windows 10 base image was then designed in-house and testing began among groups of tellers, member service advisors, and others in line-of-business roles.
“Our methodical approach to building a strong foundation by working with select groups in pilot testing was key to our ability to convert so smoothly,” says Todd Woods, director of IT for the Michigan-based credit union that also has branches in Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Nevada. “That approach allowed us to catch many issues in testing and thus avoid during the full implementation.”
The credit union completed testing by the beginning of 2019 and then started internal communications.
“Helping everyone understand the reason the update was taking place has been a critical component to our successful implementation,” Woods says. “Cross-department communication and collaboration is always a recipe for success.”
Clear Processes For A New Operating System
Walt Stepnowski, Vice President of IT Infrastructure, Coastal Federal Credit Union
A combination of virtual and physical desktop PCs complicated the process of moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10 at Coastal Federal Credit Union ($3.3B, Raleigh, NC).
“That hybrid environment made it necessary to build our new Windows 10 virtual machines while still supporting our existing Windows 7 environment,” says Walt Stepnowski, vice president of IT infrastructure.
In addition to accounting for the time and resources to build out the new virtual machines, Coastal had to thoroughly test application compatibility with an eye toward security deviations. It was a year-long process of planning, testing, and implementation that Stepnowski says directly or indirectly touched every system, process, and app at Coastal.
Stepnowski expects some resistance to the change and has a tip for other credit unions facing the same hurdle.
“Have a clear understanding of the Windows 7-specific processes each department develops,” the IT infrastructure chief says. “Then develop some quick tip guides for how those processes will work in Windows 10.”
New Windows, New Fleet Of PCs
Kevin Murphy, Chief Information Officer, Nusenda Federal Credit Union
Nusenda FCU ($2.4B, Albuquerque, NM) had already planned to replace its entire fleet of desktop PCs, so updating their operating systems at the same time made sense.
The conversion began in earnest in February, and the largest credit union (by members) in the Land of Enchantment expects to complete the project this month, says Kevin Murphy, a 23-year Nusenda veteran who has served as chief information officer for the past five years.
The work is taking place in-house, with IT staff leading the way by building images (which contain a computer’s entire system in a single file), testing the software, and deploying new machines.
“We also used subject matter experts from around the organization to test their specific software packages on the new operating system,” Murphy says.
According to the CIO, the biggest challenge was upgrading to 64-bit processing from the 32-bit version of Windows 7. The credit union had to work with many of its vendors to figure out how to make particular pieces of software function in the new environment, Murphy says. Fortunately, the Windows XP to Windows 7 experience proved valuable all around.
“This time, most of the software companies had already updated their offerings to be compatible or at least knew how to make their software function in the new environment,” Murphy says.
Small Bites Make Migration Manageable
James McFarland, IT Director, Peninsula Community Federal Credit Union
Peninsula Community Federal Credit Union ($189.7M, Shelton, WA) is on track to be done with its Windows 10 migration by the time Microsoft is done supporting Windows 7.
Two key steps underpinned the project’s progress. First, the credit union ensured the new OS was on the new desktop machines that were coming in as part of an already scheduled upgrade. Second, it took on the whole OS migration in digestible bites.
“We ended up carving the project into smaller steps so we could keep the momentum going and have a sense of accomplishment as we went through it,” says James McFarland, director of IT at the Evergreen State cooperative.
Those steps included figuring out what systems actually needed upgrading; categorizing them into PCs, servers, and service hardware (ATMs); creating and verifying the Windows 10 images for each device; and scheduling and deploying the upgraded machines.
Not that there weren’t challenges. Chief among those, according to McFarland, was managing user expectations and letting people know what to expect and when to expect it.
“If you were to ask, we probably didn’t score a 100% on that,” the IT director says. “But we’ll use feedback to improve IT communications for future projects and maintenance.”
Looking back, McFarland also says he would create a more robust testing regimen ahead of individual deployments.
“Having to come back to a computer to make minor changes and then pushing the changes to all PCs pushed us back a bit,” he says. “The more testing you can do before deployments, the better off you’ll be.”
The Peninsula Community technologist did observe that the migrating to Windows 10 was smoother than it was from XP, saying Microsoft really simplified the upgrade paths. The learning curve at the user end is also smaller.
“The biggest complaint going from Windows XP to Windows 7 was that it was a drastic change in the user interface,” McFarland says. “This time we were able to spend more time on deployments and fixes versus teaching users how to use Windows.”
A Balance Of Speed And Support
Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union ($5.6B, Harrisburg, PA) started off with converting five PCs a day, ramped it up to 25, and beat the deadline for Windows conversion by nine months.
Teamwork was the secret sauce for completing the migration in April, says PSECU’s chief technology officer, Cliff Van Scyoc. A cross-functional team from the service desk, PC support, and network operations areas led the migration, beginning their work with daily, 15-minute meetings to review and strategize.
The IT team at PSECU executed the Windows 10 conversion project. Chief technology officer Clif Van Scyoc is pictured in the front row, fourth from the left.
They executed on a timeline that included plans detailed down to each machine and internal communication. After two months of mapping, automation building, and testing, the credit union tapped a select group of users to convert to the new operating system. Then, after two final weeks of testing, the cooperative pushed the new OS live.
Using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (MSCCM) to deploy the new software, the team followed a calendar that listed what machines would be completed each day.
“The MSCCM toolset was capable of scaling to a much higher number, but we stayed at 25 to maintain a tolerable number of call and questions for the service desk,” Van Scyoc says.
Now, PSECU is ahead of the curve on Windows 10 migration and is enjoying benefits and opportunities that Van Scyoc says include new Office 365 capabilities, centralized management of all the credit union’s IT assets, faster trouble shooting and greater security, standardized scalable processes for future delivery, and last but not least, “business unit respect as a result of speed and capability of delivery.”
PC Deploy Image Leave Behind
PSECU’s IT team left each PC user this user sheet with instructions on using Windows 10. Check out the Callahan Policy Exchange for more documents from PSECU, such as the internal playbook for the Windows 10 deployment process, instructors for adding a network printer and setting up the browser, and a follow-up survey.
Visit The Policy Exchange Today Don’t Have Access? Learn More
OS Upgrades As Part Of A Strategic Plan
Dan Barry, Vice President of IT Support and Infrastructure, Rogue Credit Union
Based on its experience this time around, Rogue Credit Union ($1.6B, Medford, OR) will upgrade its OS every few years instead of waiting until the system’s end of life.
“This will become part of our strategic three-year planning cycle,” says Dan Barry, the Oregon credit union’s vice president of IT support and infrastructure. Rogue expects to have Windows 7 phased out by the time the support date arrives, culminating an effort that began in April.
Rogue is using in-house staff to upgrade workstations and NCR, Fiserv EFT, and an IT services consultant to upgrade ITMs. The process involves upgrading the OS across a complex network that includes those ITMs, a call center, core processing system, browsers, servers, intranet, and email. The latter is an Office 365 system the credit union just installed to replace an on-premise exchange solution, itself a time-consuming process.
“The team was a little beat up from that,” Barry says.
However, the credit union did gain valuable experience and more than a few best practices.
“Anytime you and your staff can gain the experience of projects like an OS upgrade, it makes the job seem smaller the next time you take something like that on,” Barry says.
For the Windows 10 conversion, the credit union built test systems for power users across the organization. That’s one best practice.
“They have their current W7 workstation but can switch to a W10 to perform tasks and report any issues they see,” Barry says of the first adopters.
Another best practice is to be ready for one-off upgrades and the complications those can present.
“We had some groups bring in software that required W10 to operate,” Barry says. “I suggest letting users know that anything that’s only compatible with W10 will have to wait until the W7 upgrades are made.”
Rogue Credit Union doubles down on loyalty and forges its own path in service of its Southern Oregon market. Learn all about that in “Anatomy Of Rogue Credit Union.”
An Alternative To Windows On The Enterprise Level
Jeff Johnson, Senior Vice President and CIO, BCU
BCU ($3.6B, Vernon Hills, IL) is largely making moot the challenge of migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Instead of migrating, the cooperative is adopting the IGEL operating system to deliver a Windows 10 virtual desktop to all the devices on its network through Citrix. That single desktop will deliver specific apps based on group membership and access rules.
“Our IT support team will go from managing 700 desktops to one,” says CIO Jeff Johnson. “That’s a huge improvement.”
Users can access their individual desktop from any device, Johnson says. Laptops will have native Windows 10 with the same app access management.
“We’ll do this all using the new zero-trust framework, which is a huge for security,” says the longtime credit union technologist.
All Lemonade, No Lemons
Julie Wesche, Vice President of Technology Operations, BECU
BECU ($21.2B, Tukwila, WA) has a long history of major tech rollouts, including a multi-system conversion in 2003 that was the first of its kind in the industry, and the resulting culture of cooperation is helping the cooperative make the most of the move to Windows 10.
“Some departments have already been upgraded,” says Julie Wesche, vice president of technology operations at the nation’s fourth-largest credit union. “Others are in progress, and others are in the queue.”
Experts from Dell are executing the migration process with help from departmental subject matter experts and a program team that includes a project manager, testers, business analyst, desktop and Citrix engineers, a technical writer, client product team, and cyber security support.
“Meeting, listening, and communicating with the teams has been very important,” Wesche says. “It helps us understand how to minimize disruption, maximize employee satisfaction with the experience, and identify the level of support each team needs.”
From her perch as the technology operations lead, Wesche can already see the benefits accrue beyond the improved features of Windows 10 itself.
“We’ve increased our knowledge of our client applications and how employees and departments use them,” she says. “This will help at many levels, from supporting employees’ business-as-usual needs to our future shift to Office 365. We also now have a network of enterprise client SMEs as partners with IT at a detailed process and operating level. That will make future upgrades even smoother.”
Read more about the changes to Windows in "ATM Suppliers Dish As Windows 7 Deadline Draws Near."