ConfigMgr Guides, Resources, and References

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ConfigMgr Guides, Resources, and References

As a relative newbie to the whole IT professional thing, one of the first things I learned was that there’s a near infinite amount of things I still need to learn and that Google was my very best friend in the field. While that’s still true 7 years later, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of the pathfinders who are generous enough and willing to share their wisdom online. This post is about some of the resources I’ve found along the way. The goal is to help navigate some of the vast amount of resources available to a ConfigMgr Admin, new or veteran.

Communities

I’m a very big fan of how the ConfigMgr community is always ready to share how they get things done. One of my favorite ways of learning is talking to other ConfigMgr admins who’ve done what I want to do and have an opinion on it. I think it’s a sign of a healthy product when the development team is actively interacting and engaging with the community; there are a few ways to do that.

Twitter

I’m pretty new to Twitter myself, but it is a veritable smörgåsbord of information and networking opportunities. I use TweetDeck to keep my eyes peeled on the #ConfigMgr, #SCCM, #PowerShell, #CMPivot, and #MMSMOA conversations. Through watching those hashtags, you’ll get a feel of who to follow to keep up to date with the latest information. Have any recommendations for hashtags that you’re following? Leave a comment below!

WinAdmins Slack

The WinAdmins Slack is a Slack group that covers a wide array of topics that a typical Windows Systems Administrator might be interested in conversating about. Some of these channels include topics like Active Directory, ConfigMgr, Exchange, O365, PowerShell, Windows OSD, and a ton others. The Slack also includes channels that aren’t IT related, so it’s a good chance to talk to others with similar hobbies or passions. If you’re worried about participation, the ConfigMgr channel has almost 5500 members alone!

To join the WinAdmins slack, you can e-mail winadmslack@gmail.com for an invite.

Reddit

Reddit is a social news aggregation site with sub-communities, also known as Subreddits. These are good places to post general questions or look for opinions on a decision. There are a few that come to mind when it comes to ConfigMgr.

/r/SCCM – One of the first ways I ever interacted with the ConfigMgr community was through this subreddit, and it’s how I found the WinAdmins slack. This subreddit has participation from the ConfigMgr development team, several superstar MVPs and thousands of other ConfigMgr admins, making it a great place to share information, or ask a question.

/r/SysAdmin – A more general subreddit, but this community is certainly the largest IT subreddit I follow. You’ll often find very useful posts about news or the latest disasters spawned by the most recent Patch Tuesday.

ConfigMgr UserVoice

Arguably one of the best ways to interact with the product team is by submitting your ideas on how to improve ConfigMgr. There are a few ways to accomplish that officially; the UserVoice and the Smiley Faces in the console, pictured below. The product team is responsive to feedback via both of these avenues, and it shows they really care about their work.

Conferences

I’m a very introverted individual, and though I suspect this is a fairly common trait amongst IT professionals, conferences are still one of my favorite things to get to do. It’s a great opportunity to be in proximity with potentially thousands of like individuals who share either a similar passion or similar experiences. Also, it’s a great opportunity to fangirl over some of the rockstars who’ve helped shape your career…

For ConfigMgr, there are three general conferences that I’m aware of or have been to, that I would recommend to anyone who’s able to go.

MMS – Midwest Management Summit

I’ve only been to MMSMOA once so far, but far and away, it was one of the most valuable experiences of my career. It’s really cool to feel like a part of a community in the various online groups that are available, but it was never more real for me than when I was at MMSMOA in 2018. I was exposed to more than I can absorb, was overwhelmed the entire time, and learned a ton of helpful, useful information, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. This is a real-world conference, with real-world solutions, and the sessions are not recorded; this encourages participation with the audience and speakers, and it’s great. Deep, and pretty wide.

MMS has since started spin-off editions in order to be available to those who aren’t able to make it to the main event, and they put work in to make sure it’s worth your time.

You can read more about MMS here, and on Twitter @mmsmoa.

Microsoft Ignite

The big event. Microsoft’s huge, giant, stunning, impressive showcase of the year. Your superstar Microsoft MVP’s will be here with the latest to share, and there aren’t many networking opportunities like it. Real, real wide, but not very deep. However, it is great exposure to the entire Microsoft stack, and the range of IT Professionals attending is incredible. Additionally, all of the sessions are generally recorded and made available online, so if you miss a session you’re interested in, you can always check the VOD later.

You can read more about Microsoft Ignite here.

Local User Groups

If a System Center user group, Windows Management user group, or any relevant IT “thing” user group is available to you, locally, I highly recommend participation in those events. The production isn’t going to be comparable to a big conference, but that’s not the point. It’s a great opportunity to network with some of your local peers! Finding some local user groups can be difficult, though. It’s possible such a user group does not exist in your area. If that’s the case, there stands an opportunity to start something new! It doesn’t have to be extravagant, and could even start out as a booth at a local pub. You can use Twitter, local Facebook groups, local subreddits, or any number of ways to reach out to potentially interested IT professionals in your area. Maybe your TAM is even willing to help you start one.

Learning

You could call this section training, but I always think of the Rocky movies when someone brings up training, and am somehow let down by that fact. For ConfigMgr, these are the resources I’ve recommended the most.

Justin Chalfant’s SCCM Video Guides

Justin Chalfant (@setupconfigmgr) of PatchMyPC posts, very regularly, to his blog, and the youtube channel linked here. These videos are probably what I see most often recommended, and for good reason. Justin posts quality videos, with great details, and paired with a paired with a lab, are a great way to dig in and learn ConfigMgr. I’m sure there are other channels out there, but Justin’s videos are the ones I know, and the ones I recommend.

Home Labs

Speaking of labs, I can’t recommend one enough. Microsoft provides a free to download lab, by way of the Modern Desktop Deployment and Management Lab Kit, and it’s a quick and easy way to get started with your own lab. Build it up, tear it down, and do it again. Break what you can, and then fix it; deploy Windows 10 to a VM, then deploy an app you’ve packaged to that VM, and then remove that app with a configuration baseline! Outside of these pre-built labs, you could take it a step further and build a lab yourself, from the ground up. This is how I did it, and it provides the most opportunity to learn, in my opinion.

Books

Recommending books in 2019? Yeah, why not. These books helped me when I first started out. Real-world opportunities, a lot of free time, books, and labs. These are the two books I’m familiar with and have on my bookshelf in the office. I’m providing Amazon links to the books for your convenience, but they’re not affiliate links or anything like that.

System Center Configuration Manager Current Branch Unleashed

Mastering System Center Configuration Manager

The One-Stop Shop

/u/ExeqZ on Reddit posted a Google Document intended to serve as a community-driven, one-stop shop for ConfigMgr resources. The ConfigMgr Community is one of the most eager communities out there when it comes to sharing knowledge. This document serves as a single point of reference for contributor blog sites, relevant twitter accounts, Microsoft documentation, and a lot more. You could have an entire bookmark folder dedicated to ConfigMgr related links, and still learn about something new from the doc.

So here I am, trying to do my part in sharing the doc wherever I can. I expect that this document will evolve over time, and maybe Google Docs isn’t the final form of a resource like this, but it’s a start.

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a techie, and you’ve probably been inspired by one of the many people featured in this Doc. Maybe you want to give back to the ConfigMgr community and this is a low-effort way to do just that. You can contribute your favorite blog, guide, twitter account, or whatever, just add it to the doc where you see it’s most relevant. Don’t see a category that you think is relevant to what you’d like to contribute? Just make it! That’s the whole point, it’s by the community, for the community.

I hope that something in this list has helped you out if you’ve made it this far, and if so, let me know what you found interesting! If I posted something wrong, or if you have anything you would like me to add, just let me know. Interested in one of these for PowerShell resources? Let me know below, and I can start working on that as well.

If you’d like to reach out to me, you can always contact me @tstolswo.

To find other posts I’ve contributed to the blog, you can check my Author page here.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Every SCCM Administrator

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Maybe you’re like me and you’ve watched the first week of January come and go without giving a single thought to a New Year’s resolution. You already know you’re not going back to the gym and you’ve accepted that you can’t say no to pizza. So this year, instead of picking a resolution you know you won’t stick with, here are five New Year’s resolutions every SCCM administrator could benefit from.

New Year’s Resolutions for SCCM Administrator

  1. Implement a front end into your task sequence

    Whether it’s TSLaunch, ConfigMgr OSD FrontEnd, or even MDT’s UDI, there is always value in implementing a front end into your OSD task sequence.My personal favorite is UI++, created by Jason Sandys. Its simple XML syntax, clear documentation, and frequent updates make it an easy choice if you’re just getting started.

    What should you do with it? Here are a few easy wins for any environment:

    • Implement a preflight to ensure only supported models are running your task sequence
    • Ask for the domain user name of the end user receiving the device so you can immediately associate that new hardware with a specific user in SCCM
    • Create a department dropdown that decides which applications are installed and which OU the machine is moved to

    If you already have a front end, that’s great! Implement something new that adds value to your service desk or end users. If you can’t think of any, I’m willing to bet your service desk can!

  2. Standardize your packaging process

    Keeping a standardized packaging process makes troubleshooting application installations easier for your frontline, your own team, and you! Implement something like the PowerShell Application Deployment Toolkit and make it a standard across all of the applications you and your team package this year.

    You don’t need to know PowerShell to start using PSAppDeployToolkit. The included Word document and simple cmdlet names make transitioning from batch files easy. Rich and automatic logging cranks out a verbose MSI installer log by default and paints a picture of what state the machine was in when the install began. Present prompts to end users and give them the option to defer application installations, all under a company branded banner.

    Whatever you choose to use to package with this year, put in the extra effort to package everything that way, no matter how simple the install.

  3. Eliminate Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008/R2 in your environment

    January 14th, 2020 is almost exactly a year away. If you already finished your Windows 10 migration a couple years ago, ensure the last handful of Windows 7 machines you have in your environment disappear. You know, that one sitting under the desk of the untouchable user no one wants to work with. It’s time to get management involved and kick that thing off your network.

    Also, don’t forget that Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 are also no longer supported on that same date. Work with your infrastructure team to ensure they have everything they need to build new VMs and enroll into your SCCM environment ahead of their big push to spin up new hardware. There’s nothing worse than discovering 100 newly built VMs aren’t in your SCCM environment or boundaries.

  4. Get certified

    In my opinion, the single most important thing you can do to stay relevant in IT is to keep getting certified. Certifications are the continuing education of the IT field. Make them mandatory for yourself to keep your skills sharp and relevant in the workplace.

    I’m personally studying for the new 70-703 to replace my older 70-243 and round out my MCSE. The 70-703 has been around long enough now that there is some great content on PluralSight you can get through in just about two weeks. Channel your inner Shia LaBeouf and just do it! Don’t let your dreams be dreams!

  5. Take on an apprentice

    See, you were rocking through this list until you hit this one. “I’ve already got a front end! We already use PSAppDeployToolkit! What even is Windows 7?!” Yeah, this is the tough one.Stop for a minute and think back to how you started working with ConfigMgr. Think about the very first time you learned what “/q” did to that installer you double-clicked a hundred times. And think about how appreciative you are towards those individuals that taught you those skills you use every single day.

    This doesn’t need to be anything formal. You don’t need a company sponsored internship or an interview process. Find that one guy or gal on your help desk that shows some passion in their work and take them out to lunch. Teach them how to silence an installer or, heck, how to read one of those PSAppDeployToolkit logs you just standardized all of your packaging around. Whatever it is, don’t forget that you’re in your current role because someone took you under their wing and made you a better tech.

Have a better SCCM-related New Year’s resolution in mind? Comment and share it below!

Cody Clements

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