In this three part series I will describe what kind of information you need to gather before your first System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2012 installation. In Part 1 I will cover the information about the people that play a role in your SCCM 2012 installation.

For the sake of this article, I am going to assume that you are new to SCCM, even with respect to its predecessor: Systems Management Server (aka. “SMS”). This article will focus on the aspects of gathering the required information to support implementing a new SCCM 2012 environment, rather than upgrading from a previous version. As it pertains to fact-gathering, I want to emphasize the “what”, “how” and “why” aspects, so the effort makes sense. All of this is, or should be, performed before you even begin building a test lab. The reason for this is because of the nature of SCCM 2012 and its many facets of capabilities.

SCCM 2012, being just one component of the System Center 2012 suite of products, is in itself a suite of features, each of which can be enabled or disabled. This makes it one of the most complex products within the suite, possibly within the entire arsenal of Microsoft products. Knowing which features to enable will depend entirely on a combination of your computing environment and the goals you wish to achieve by implementing this tool within it.

As I already mentioned, this article will focus on the fact-gathering process, with some tips on how to gather the information, and why it matters with regards to planning your Configuration Manager environment. Once you have the data, you can design the environment, and then you can build the test lab and proceed on towards that ultimate goal: production implementation.

The territories ^

There are three primary areas from which you should focus your efforts in gathering the information to support your SCCM plans:

  • The People
  • The Network
  • The Devices

Part 1 of this series will focus on the gathering of information about the people in your organization as it impacts your SCCM implementation. This is not about logging birthdays or personal information, but really about roles and responsibilities, at least on the IT department side. There’s also the customer (aka end-user) side, which is focused on understanding how they use their computers, network services and their storage needs.

Part 2 will focus on the Network topology and the network environment. Part 3 will focus on computing Devices, including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, mobile devices and servers. It will also conclude with some final thoughts about how all of this impacts the project design and implementation.

IT staff ^

SCCM 2012 installation preparation - IT Staff

What

You should gather as much information as you can about your IT department as it pertains to roles, responsibilities and general skill sets. This will help you map out who may be assigned specific roles within the SCCM Site hierarchy. Chances are high that you won’t be doing it all by yourself, even as much as you may wish that to be true.

What to Gather:

Why

SCCM 2012 is a complex tool, and it often takes more than one person to effectively manage it. The most common places you’ll find it being used are large organizations, where the need to get a holistic view of the environment is critical, and being able to use that same view to automate the management and control of the devices within it is even more critical.

Each of the features within SCCM can be assigned specific, delegated access rights, to allow or restrict what your IT staff members can do. If you have a clear picture of who does what within your IT organization, where they are located, and what skills each of them possesses, it will make it much easier for you to design a management structure. This information will also help design the hierarchy itself, as it often helps determine which remote locations will need a “primary” site or will do fine with a “secondary” site.

Review the available Security Roles provided by Configuration Manager 2012 and start mapping out which users, or groups of users, should be given what access rights to each of the features you plan on implementing.

How

If you are already familiar with the IT organization in your company you have a good start, otherwise start with an official organization chart and go from there. Be careful not to rely entirely upon official job titles or descriptions alone. Many IT workers these days are responsible for multiple duties which may not have anything to do with their official job title. Ask questions and map out actual functional roles. It’s more important to find out who really does what, than to simply recreate the organization chart. The method or tool you use to collect and organize this information isn’t that important, as long as you are familiar with using it and it does what you need it to do. Microsoft Excel will usually suffice, but anything that will allow you to sort, filter and count entries will work fine.

Users ^

SCCM 2012 installation preparation - Users

What

Identify the predominant business function and computer-related activities at each physical location throughout the organization. Determine relationships between the functions performed and the impact on computers, network links, servers and storage and job or process scheduling.

What to Gather:

  • Departments or Groups and their functional roles with respect to computing needs
  • Local server and storage demands related to on-site activities
  • Special server applications
  • Special network configurations (firewall exceptions, etc.)
  • Special scheduling configurations (processes, backups, scanning, etc.)

Why

That way in which employees use their computers, as well as server-hosted services, will impact hardware and software needs on the client devices, as well as servers. It will also impact network connections, storage systems and all of the things in between. The variety of combinations of uses and resources is endless.

Some examples that may help illustrate special computing and network needs include:

  • Multimedia Production: Large data files, network rendering and compilation, backups, broadcast transmission
  • Application Development: debugging, compiling, testing, backups, version control and team libraries
  • Call Centers: 24x7 SLA terms, integrated telephony systems, web applications, database servers

Not only does this information help identify special computing, storage and connectivity requirements; it will also help identify scheduling constraints. For example, you may have to adjust implementation schedules and maintenance windows to suit business scheduling demands.

When you are configuring software distribution options in SCCM, you will need to know how it will fit in with the scheduling needs of various target groups (users or devices), to minimize impact on production services. For example, if you are constrained to performing software updates between 3:00 and 4:00 AM you will have to determine how to address a one-hour window when deploying large applications or bundled software updates. Failing to take this into consideration could be detrimental to business operations and your career as well.

How

This will involve a mix of organizational and computing research. On the organizational side you can start with an organization chart, or a directory of business operations (if it includes physical locations). You can also consult management and even the Network Management team. You may still need to get questions answered by e-mail and phone calls.

On the computing side, you may be able to glean this information from what you will gather for devices and server data centers (that’s covered in Part 3). Consulting your fellow IT staff, especially those who are at the remote locations, can usually fill in a lot of blanks about what each location does and what their requirements are.

Next Up… ^

Now that you have at least an idea of what to gather about the people in your environment, and why it matters, what’s the next step? In Part 2, I will continue on with gathering information about your Network environment and your Active Directory configuration.

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