Driving an Agile Application Compatibility Process with ACT 6.0
A few months ago, Marc Sweetgall, the Program Manager behind the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT), described what was new in ACT 6.0 from a product perspective. I wanted to go back and talk about how these features, and the approach in general, were all driven by YOU. Because the biggest thing that's new in ACT 6.0 is that it's not designed in the "ivory tower," but in the trenches. That's part of my job—to serve as your mouthpiece to the product team to make sure we get it right. The other part is to actually do application compatibility work, so I'm personally invested in ensuring that our tools support this work!
Data Should Be Actionable
The first thing we heard, and we heard it loud and clear, is that any data should drive a business action. There is the expectation that it does.
Adding Arbitrary Applications
This has long been the biggest feature request for ACT—the ability to add additional applications, which the inventory collector doesn't find. This is incredibly helpful when you find applications that are installed… "a little differently." I notice this with customers who have deployment systems that didn't do the typical registration techniques. (I've seen some pretty odd deployment techniques in the past, such as one that just dropped shortcuts to programs that lived on a server, which were just dropped into a special folder sitting on a desktop. I am not making this up.) There are also a number of applications created by boutique vendors that are very industry-specific and who, while creating really powerful solutions for the problem space, may not have the same level of expertise in the installer space. (For example, I know of one application where the customer has a 50% success rate on the application completing installation.) These don't always show up in any of the places where ACT, or any inventory system, is trained to look.
Less to Sort Through
One of my most frequent feature requests for ACT is to support use of the Delete key. You see, simply choosing not to care about an application is the single most effective way to transform the application compatibility tax into a sensible application compatibility risk management opportunity.
In general, I think what you'll find is that ACT 6.0 gets you refocused on application compatibility as a risk management activity. Instead of fighting you and trying to give you big lists, showing you data because it can and not because it should, the product now tries to help you sort out data, and give you information that you can take action on. It's still just a tool, and my number one piece of advice to customers who are migrating to a new platform is to build out your process first and map tools to that process second. Having this toolset now slide in much more naturally is a big win for me and for other folks who are driving application compatibility to help customers both complete their operating system migrations more quickly and exit the process as a more agile organization.
About the Author
Chris "The App Compat Guy" Jackson is a Principal Consultant and the worldwide lead for application compatibility at Microsoft, specializing in Windows, Internet Explorer, and Office internals.
Jackson is a widely recognized expert in the field of application compatibility, creating technical documentation, training, and service offerings used inside and outside of Microsoft and based on years of real-world experience with enterprise customers and independent software vendors. Author or co-author of numerous technical papers and articles, he is also a featured speaker at major industry conferences around the world and publishes a popular blog at www.appcompatguy.com.
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