Monday, January 28, 2013

IPA MarketPlace Download to Deployment Part 1

Hi there fellow IPA-lovers and Happy New Year! Well I guess that holiday greeting is a little belated, considering we have almost reached the end of January, but that's life in the Big City (of Indianapolis)...

Here's an article written by ININ's own Ross Blaettner, a guest blogger here at with his second contribution (of a two parter, no less). You may recall an earlier post from Ross on gamification.

Ross works at ININ as an IPA Template Developer the Strategic Initiatives team, a fine group I've had the pleasure of working with on a couple of customer engagements for IPA. He and the gang are gearing up for launching the MarketPlace at ININ, which is very exciting stuff for IPA!

This time around Ross is helping us get ready to share IPA Templates and other stuff on the ININ MarketPlace.

Thanks again for your contributions Ross. Everyone else, enjoy!

MarketPlace Download to Deployment, Part One:

The Case for Next, Next, and FINISH!
by Ross Blaettner

When you buy and try new tech gear, do you ‘plug and play,’ or ‘plug and pray?’

Apparently, one letter—essentially, one factor—can re-express your entire deployment experience.
Perhaps this vital character forms the difference between seconds and hours, satisfaction or frustration.

(And there’s more to this question than comparing optimists versus pessimists.)

Enter the determinists. Fortunately, there are factors within development control. “Yes, you can get a fortune cookie and write the message, too.”

The implied corollary: “Yes, you can write software and control the deployment experience, too.” So, let’s now focus on the gift of giving a good, consistent deployment, sending a consistent, predetermined and favorable message.

When deploying your solution, think about the host environment and conditions. What’s the best case scenario? What’s the worst case scenario? Importantly, what factors exist between those two outcomes?

Sometimes better documentation and step-by-step verification can isolate certain problems before they become ‘lost’ as elusive and confounding effects. Unfortunately, however, in practice, the quantity of documentation can be inversely proportional to likelihood of its adherence.

Then, documentation introduces levels of interference, due to differences in language, interpretation, format, or human error. Honestly, technical writing is a specialty of its own; the reality: there’s more involved than “technical” and “writing.” Of course, even if the documentation is perfect, the reader may be distracted, thereby skipping steps 5 and 13. If you provide support, how do you know that all steps completed successfully? When troubleshooting, it would be nice to give people the benefit of a doubt, but real-world experiences suggest otherwise.

Well, fortunately, in many cases, you can communicate directly, quite frankly, in binary, with the host machine. Here’s the key proposition: let’s wrap all of the prerequisites, preconditions, and setup activities into a solution-centric installer for a fast, efficient, and consistent experience, complete with logging and unbiased step-by-step assurances. Instead of requiring a captive IT professional to follow steps, give him or her freedom to take a short break while your installer works its magic. (Chances are, you will both fare better as a result of this latter approach.)

If you rely on a certain subsystem, check for its running state or even perform an interoperability check during the install. Can files’ existence, versions, or registry keys validate expected conditions? What are your system requirements? How can you query the operating system for its proof of compliance? How can installation routines prove that they have appropriate levels of system permissions?

As the installer continues, check every step for success. Communicate exceptional conditions through the UI, with an emphasis on strategies for resolution. Remember, the presence or versioning of just one file could make the difference between play or pray!

In a follow-up article, I will present a few free, easy and amazing tools for crafting your very own installers. Now, get your MarketPlace solutions’ step-by-step instructions and pseudocode ready for “Next, Next, and FINISH” convenience and automation!

In the words of Rick McGlinchey, “Happy processing!”