Choosing the Best Application Packaging Service

Choosing the best application packaging service to assist with your organisation’s business as usual (BAU) or project-based packaging activities is not a trivial process.

Application packaging is a niche skill set, and as such many organisations don’t have internal resources capable of performing such tasks.  And even if they did, in many cases they don’t have the capacity to implement large-scale migration projects.

This is when they seek the services of application packaging contractors or an external application packaging service provider like Alkane Solutions.

The Problem

When organisations don’t have application packaging knowledge internally, it’s impossible for them to deduce a good application packaging provider from a bad application packaging provider simply because they don’t understand the technicalities involved.

I’ve seen it time and time again – non-technical people recruiting for technical roles that they know little or nothing about; it’s a recipe for disaster.  And using recruitment agents to supply technical resources is no different – all they do is data mine keywords from CVs (which individuals often lie about having knowledge of) and send them over in bulk format for the organisation to rationalise (I often wonder what value recruitment agents add, but that’s another story.).

This engagement process takes a long time to separate the wheat from the chaff, often resulting in considerably more chaff than wheat.  And organisations will only discover that they have hired chaff after a few months’ time and several thousands of pounds later.

But it’s not only non-technical people that can be easily duped.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Many years ago, I was an employee of a large global IT services provider.  We’d won a contract for a large project and required more application packagers to assist us.

I interviewed over 25 people and rejected them all.  Around a few hours were spent reviewing CVs and a further 25 hours of pure monotony interviewing each candidate.

Sadly, the market was (and still is) awash with charlatans who don’t understand packaging best practises; who cobble together poorly written scripts, and who don’t understand the basic principles of application packaging.

We then decided to engage an external application packaging service provider instead, to rid ourselves of the painful and laborious recruitment process.

We invited multiple services to pitch for the work.  One presentation stood out; four people turned up, spoke eloquently, were all suited and booted and armed with snazzy PowerPoint presentations.  Our management team were salivating before they’d even heard the pitch!

In honesty I thought sending 4 people to pitch for an application packaging contract was overkill.  But ultimately, they delivered a polished presentation and they sold us the dream very well.  They demonstrated previous experience and gave a good general overview of the process.  The numbers stacked up and we agreed terms.

Three months later we realised that we’d made a mistake. A big mistake.

The quality of application packages being delivered was inferior.  They were full of junk registry and files, not optimised correctly, no conflict resolution, didn’t conform to our application packaging standards, and the documentation was full of spelling mistakes.  And these applications were potentially going out to dozens….if not hundreds, or end users.

We could see the authors of each application package by consulting the associated documentation.  And to my horror, I realised that the people packaging our applications though the external application packaging service were the names of candidates that I had rejected from our internal interview process!

Choosing the Best Application Packaging Service

Choosing the best Application Packaging Service provider is a challenging process whether you are technical or not.

In the past I’ve seen network administrators profess to be able to package applications, software houses, and even generic IT bods.  But the fact is, they can’t.  They are what I refer to as the ‘next, next, next’ people who can only package basic applications and would balk at the thought of troubleshooting and debugging an application.

Application packaging is a skilled discipline.  Don’t just trust a silky sales pitch when choosing an application packaging service.  You will likely end up with a bunch of cowboys packaging your applications with their experienced service delivery manager  portraying a more impressive facade.

Applications are one of the most important aspects of the modern business.  Without them, most businesses wont function.  Don’t neglect them.  Do your due diligence when choosing an application packaging service provider. Understand who will be packaging your applications and find out what experience they have.

At Alkane Solutions all members of our packaging team have a minimum of 5 years’ experience.  And any packages that get delivered to our clients go through a stringent quality assurance process by our senior packagers, who have a minimum of 10 years packaging experience.

Application Packaging Service for the NHS

NHSAlkane Solutions have been successfully providing a specialist application packaging service to the NHS for several years. We have extensive experience of packaging and configuring clinical applications.

NHS Application Packaging Specialists

Providing an IT service to the NHS has introduced us to a variety of interesting applications; single sign-on applications, terminal emulation software, clinical hardware drivers, bespoke clinical software, dictation software and a whole host of others.

We’ve packaged applications in multiple formats including App-V, ThinApp, MSI (Windows Installer) and even scripted installations using PowerShell.

We’ve delivered applications to standard desktop environments using SCCM and to non-persistent virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) using the full App-V infrastructure.

Clinical Application Experience

Some applications we’ve encountered are old and ‘officially’ unsupported on the target platform.  Others have been poorly written by software vendors and contain hard-coded paths and unsigned drivers. Then there are specialist clinical applications that may require bespoke configurations across multiple departments, sites and even Trusts.

All of these aspects provide challenges throughout the application packaging process. And having experience of packaging such applications provides a distinct advantage since previous research can be reused and applied to new environments at a fraction of the time (and cost) it would normally take.

NHS Web Applications

Migrating web applications that were designed for Internet Explorer 8 and earlier requires an understanding of browser emulation and compatibility modes.  Coupled with this, it’s also advantageous to have knowledge of how web applications are rendered in the browser.  Alkane Solutions have expert knowledge of both.

Java in the browser also presents an issue from a functionality perspective and a security perspective.  Alkane Solutions can target web applications to run with specific versions of Java, whilst maintaining a locked down and secure environment.

Do You Require Application Packaging for the NHS?

If you think your Trust can benefit from a specialist application packaging service for the NHS, please contact us now and we’ll respond within 2 business hours.