Where is the Documentation for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Features?

Where is the Documentation for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Features?

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Many of our existing Configuration Manager customers are used to thinking in terms of installing and configuring sites, and then configuring individual features, such as hardware inventory, software distribution, and software updates.  This reflected the product evolution and our internal development teams, as functionality was added over the years. It was also reflected in the management console, with new nodes for each feature.  As the product grew, the number of nodes in the console increased and made it challenging to navigate.

The new design of the Configuration Manager console in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager changes that, with the focus on common scenarios and grouping similar tasks. Although you still have nodes under each of the workspaces (Assets and Compliance, Software Library, Monitoring, and Administration), they no longer necessarily map to features. Many features now overlap and share common terms and functions, to provide a more consistent administration experience.

For example, we use the word “deploy” to send anything to clients, such as settings, packages and programs, and software updates.  In the past, we used “assign”, “distribute”, and “deploy” for these similar client management functions, depending on the feature used.  The goal for Configuration Manager and the System Center components is “a single pane of glass” where the administration experience is reduced in complexity to minimize your administrative overheads. You can then focus on what’s important – managing computers – rather than spending time learning and remembering the different vocabulary and configuration variations for the different features.

The documentation library for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager reflects this change of thinking from features to scenarios and management tasks.  Customers have often told us that they want documentation that better reflects how they manage computers, rather than be forced to know how these map to our features.  So when we designed the new documentation library for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, we divided the documentation into these guides that group similar administration and management scenarios:

 

Guide

Description

Getting Started with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide helps you get started with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with an introduction to the product, what’s new and changed since Configuration Manager 2007, basic concepts, and some frequently asked questions.

Site Administration for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide provides the information to help you plan, install, configure, and maintain System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

Migrating from Configuration Manager 2007 to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide provides information about migrating an existing Configuration Manager 2007 infrastructure to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

Deploying Clients for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide provides information to help you plan, install, configure, and manage client deployment in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

Deploying Software and Operating Systems in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide provides information to help you plan, configure, and manage the deployment of software and operating systems in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

Assets and Compliance in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide provides information to help you manage your devices (computers and mobile devices) in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager.

Security and Privacy for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager

This guide contains security-related information from the other Configuration Manager guides and privacy statements for the product.

 

Within each of these guides, you will often find sections that relate to the features that are you familiar with.  For example, in the Deploying Software and Operating Systems in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide, you will find the section Software Updates in Configuration Manager.  But you will might also find sections that are you not expecting, such as Content Management in Configuration Manager, which is not a feature name that you’re familiar with, but an underlying infrastructure for deploying all software to clients – whether that’s applications, packages and programs, software updates, or operating systems.

Customers have also asked us where to find documentation for the reporting feature. Because reporting spans all client management functions as well as the configuration status of Configuration Manager itself, the Reporting in Configuration Manager section is in the Site Administration for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide.

The one guide that probably most closely maps to feature names that you’re familiar with is the Assets and Compliance in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide, where you will find the familiar names of features that describe their functionality, such as remote control, and inventory.  Even here, we’ve tried to group similar tasks so that hardware inventory, software inventory, and Asset Intelligence is grouped under Inventory.

A potential downside of this rearrangement is that existing customers sometimes have a hard time finding the documentation that they need, because they expect it to be organized and named by feature area.  We see this most often with mobile devices, which are now so similar to manage as you would computers, that we have integrated this information throughout the different guides.

For example, installing the mobile device client and managing mobile devices that connect to Exchange Server is integrated into the Deploying Clients for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide.  After mobile devices are enrolled by Configuration Manager, configuring hardware inventory and deploying applications is the same as for client computers, so you will find this information in the inventory section and application management section of the Assets and Compliance in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide and the Deploying Software and Operating Systems in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager guide respectively. Ironically, the downside to the “single pane of glass” can make it harder to find this information.

In addition, the documentation does not cover every single aspect of the product. We provide documentation as supplemental to the product when it’s needed, rather than for the sake of having documentation.  We expect that the new design and adding need-to-know text in the product itself reduces the need for a lot of documentation.  The less documentation you have to wade through, the quicker you can get the job done.  

As an example, you might have seen demos and presentations for the new search functionality that is used throughout the console to help you quickly find objects.  You will not find documentation in the library about how to use search; this functionality should be intuitive. If you are turning to the documentation because you are having problems using search, please provide this feedback to the product group by using Microsoft Connect, so that they can address this in future versions.

Similarly, we haven’t documented every single option that you can configure.  We worked with the product group to make configuration options intuitive to understand, and provide need-to-know text in wizards and dialog boxes. We kept the documentation for when there wasn’t enough room in the UI for you to make an informed choice, or there was a level of complexity involved that wasn’t suitable for the UI. 

When you think a particular option that isn’t documented needs additional information, let us know by emailing SMSDocs@Microsoft.com.  We can incorporate that feedback with our documentation updates, and let you know about updates and revisions by using documentation announcements on this blog.

For customers who are more used to thinking in terms of feature documentation, we’ve now added some “Where is the documentation for …?” entries to the Frequently Asked Questions for Configuration Manager page, and we supply links to the main topics for these areas. In our January documentation update, we added entries for Setup, role-based administration, and mobile devices.  If you are having problems finding the documentation for a feature that you were familiar with from Configuration Manager 2007 or covered in a blog post or presentation for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, email SMSDocs@Microsoft.com.  

And if you have any other feedback about the documentation library design or content, we’ll be happy to hear that and respond to it as well!

-- Carol Bailey

This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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