Surface is Microsoft’s awesome line of computers that can change from full-fledged laptops to lightweight tablets almost instantly. In addition, they’re super-powerful, as we proved time and again during this lab series. They’re also a pure joy to use.
However, after releasing Windows 10, Microsoft had a small problem: Most Surface devices were running Windows 8.1, and the Surface Pro 3 was still being sold with Windows 8.1 on it. To help solve this problem, Microsoft asked us to teach IT pros how to move these devices to Windows 10 as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We did just that and more. We delivered a series of hands-on labs (HOLs) that taught IT pros how to deploy and manage Surface devices by using tools like the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) and System Center Configuration Manager. These labs also integrated Microsoft Office 365, Intune, and Azure Active Directory into their lessons.
A HOL solution
This massive project was a complete turnkey solution for our customer. We built the HOL images, wrote the lab guides, and created all the supporting collateral. Everything went through our copyeditors and testers to make sure it was spot on.
If preparing all the material wasn’t enough, we also handled all the logistics. For each event, we prepared and shipped all the devices. Our advance team was at each event to set up the lab workstations, decorate the lab area, and integrate the labs with the event’s identity and evaluation systems.
During the event, we staffed the HOL area to provide support for attendees. We greeted every attendee who sat down at one of our lab stations and explained the content and purpose of each lab. In fact, we often provided support that far exceeded our labs, such as helping attendees solve problems with their own environments.
After the event, we tore down the lab stations and handled all the logistics of returning the equipment to our office for storage. We also carefully tracked device inventory and took care to maintain the devices (e.g., firmware updates). We used the time between events to update the lab environment, guides, and any supporting collateral to current versions.
Two years around the world
This project wasn’t a one-off event. For two years, we ran these events in the Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Events we worked include:
Ready is a global education and networking event for Microsoft employees. It has combined several internal events, like TechReady, MGX, and S4.
Formerly known as TechEd, Ignite is a global education and networking event that’s open to public. It’s similar to Ready in many ways but far bigger.
Usually around key product launches, Microsoft invites field employees from around the world to attend technical airlifts in Seattle. The explicit purpose of these airlifts is to train attendees.
Surface Pro 3 to Surface Pro 4 and Book
We started the series by using Surface Pro 3 devices because these devices were still running Windows 8.1 when Microsoft released Windows 10. Therefore, the series initially included three labs:
However, when Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book devices hit the streets, the initial reason for the HOLs was mute. Regardless, Microsoft found the HOLs valuable enough to keep them going. So, we transitioned the series to the new device lineup and added four new labs: