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Anatomy of a Software Development Role: Deployment

  • July 11, 2005
  • By Robert Bogue
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Where's the position heading anyway?

More and more consumers are getting computers. The average level of knowledge on computers is decreasing while the total number of customers is still increasing. Because of this the demand for software deployment professionals is growing. Instead of software being installed with a batch file the program must today be installed through a large number of slightly changing steps. The larger number of installations requires more sophisticated handling. The lower tolerance for problems with software due to lower knowledge requires that installations be more bullet proof. The good news is that this means a greater need for software deployment professionals. It's more important than ever to be able to deploy software quickly and easily.

The difficulty level is going down even as the complexity goes up. The installation tools, often the last thing thought of by the industry, have been making good progress to get better. The release of Microsoft's Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolkit is encouraging since it is making it easier, and less expensive, to develop installation files that the Windows Installer service can install.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The deployment professional can often times experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of their role all in one day. They can see the software get deployed across the organization - only to find out that here was one application it wasn't tested with, and that one application is one of the mission critical applications for the organization - which the installation just broke. Here are just a few of the good, bad, and ugly things about the deployment role:
  • Good: High Impact - The role is one of high visibility and high impact to the user community. When done right it's easy to save hundreds of hours time for the users.
  • Good: Often get to use a number of different systems with a number of different configurations. This can be fun!
  • Bad: Never Enough time - Being near the tail end of the process the installation often gets rushed. The testing time to ensure that the installation doesn't break other applications is often hard to come by.
  • Ugly: Difficult to get right - Building good installations is still very technically challenging today. Over time good deployment processionals learn how to avoid big mistakes, however, even veterans are known to make mistakes that has huge impact.
  • Ugly: No matter how many systems you test your installation against, it always seems that a user will have a system that is slightly different. When something goes wrong with the installation, this person gets blamed.

Conclusion

The deployment role is one that is critically important to the initial impression of the software being delivered. A bad installation experience can sour just about anyone's taste. Because of this the role of the deployment professional is increasing. Although professionals are still often shared with other roles the deployment role is one which continues to grow.

About the Author

Robert Bogue, MCSE (NT4/W2K), MCSA:Security, A+, Network+, Server+, I-Net+, IT Project+, E-Biz+, CDIA+ has contributed to more than 100 book projects and numerous other publishing projects. Robert works with Crowe Chizek in Indianapolis as a strategic consultant. He was recently honored to become a Microsoft MVP for Microsoft Commerce Server and before that Microsoft Windows Servers-Networking. Robert blogs at http://www.thorprojects.com/blog You can reach Robert at Rob.Bogue@thorprojects.com.



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