Archive by Author | Paul Bray

Changes to Microsoft Windows Servicing and Support Models

A week ago today (6th September) Microsoft made two significant announcements relating to the Support of Windows 7 and the Servicing Model for Windows 10, commonly known as “Windows as a Service” or “Evergreen”.

Many organisations have been progressing at pace with the planning and delivery of their Workplace transformations, and these important announcements come at a critical time with approximately 15 months remaining support on the original Windows 7 End of Extended Support Deadline of 14 January 2020.

What Was Announced ?

Permanent Extension to Windows 10 Support Model

Microsoft operate a bi-annual release strategy for Windows 10, described commonly “Windows as a Service” (alternatively “Windows Evergreen”).  Each version of Windows 10 was to be supported for 18 months, significantly shorter than any previous version of Windows – and the source of much tension and concern within enterprise organisations. For those who have been following this as closely as I have, this culminated in an “Open Letter” to Microsoft about some of the issues that the regularity of these updates are causing, as well as the quality of the updates when issued!

Microsoft have now decided to amend the Windows service model, providing a longer support period for Enterprise and Education products .   Moving forwards Windows 10 will comprise a “Spring Release” (launched in circa March of each calendar year) and a “Fall Release” (launched in circa September of each calendar year).  Importantly, the Spring release will retain the default 18 month support lifecycle whilst the Fall release will be supported for 30 months.   The reason for the shorter support period for the Spring release is somewhat unclear, Microsoft suggest this is for customers with the agility to adopt at a faster pace, but this now seems unnecessary and uptake from enterprise organisations will, I feel, be very minimal for Spring release.

This announcement also applies to all existing (supported) versions of Windows 10, from 1607 onwards.

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) to January 2023

Windows 7 was due to end its extended support lifecycle on January 14th 2020 and it is this date that is helping to drive the transformation to the Modern Workplace and Windows 10.  Microsoft have announced they will now offer Windows 7 Security Updates through to 2023 for customers within the Volume Licensing Programmes.

This support will be available on a paid for basis (per device) and the costs for this support will increase year on year from 2020 to 2023 in order to encourage the transition to Windows 10.

What does this mean to my organisation?

These announcements are significant, and the fact that both changes were announced at the same time is an interesting move from Microsoft.  With over 250m commercial users of Windows 10 , the move from Win 7 to Windows 10 seemed to be a fairly embedded motion, and whilst these things are always complicated – many organisations are well progressed on this.   That said, estimates range that enterprise adoption of Windows 10 was sub 10%, and so clearly Microsoft needed to act and respond to feedback.

The extension to the support lifecycle for Windows 10 offers two key advantages.  The first is consistency of the version of Windows 10 being deployed  into larger estates.  Under the former model, the length of support allied with the rate of transition meant that many organisations would need to intercept a new Win 10 version midst their migration programme, and so potentially would have multiple “flavours” of Windows 10 in their environment.  With a longer support period this should be mitigated for many organisations.  Furthermore with an extended period of support gives a chance for a period of greater stability and for customers to extract further value from each release deployed.

What Should I do Next?

These announcements should not be a reason for complacency or to delay current activities.  Windows 7 was released in 2009 and in that time both the security landscape as well as the user experience expectations of users has changed dramatically.  Windows 10 offers a fresh and modern workplace platform that is  more secure and enables your users to be more productive and effective t.

We’d encourage organisations to continue to work towards the original January 2020 date for Windows 7 replacement within their estate. Whilst the cost for the further extended Win 7 support is not intended by Microsoft to be punitive, the funds could be better invested in more progressive solutions rather than in maintenance of older platforms.

However as ever, things are not always that simple and there are various other dynamics and considerations to contend with.  We are at a key point with regards to hardware chipsets transitions that impacts Windows 7 and Windows 10 supportability, with significant commercial considerations that need to be evaluated.   Added to that are the prevalent topics throughout 2018 of  “Device as a Service”  procurement models and technology evolution to modernise Deployment and Provisioning as just a few examples.  All of these factors need to be considered not least to enable you to make the transition to a Modern Workplace, but allow you to operate and manage it effectively in a world where the rate of change is going to be much faster than we’ve ever experienced below.

Finally just to say that in the cold light of these announcements Windows 10 is a three year old product, it is mature and a significant improvement on the prevalent Windows 7 environments within corporate IT.  Computacenter have been helping customers deploy and manage Windows 10 throughout this time period, so if you need any help or advice in this process, feel free to make contact with us.

The Evolution of the Digital Workplace

Earlier this week we hosted a round table event to discuss the evolution of the Digital Workplace.  We were joined by 12 Industry leaders from a broad range of industries and backgrounds for an evening of discussion and dinner. Thanks to our co-sponsors Microsoft and our hosts Nimbus Ninety for making this event such a success.

We centred the discussion on three topics that continue to inform and intrigue our conversations with customers.  Unusually for me it was a change to mostly listen, absorb and reflect on our strategy and approach, and how we might improve.

The topics we addressed over the course of the evening were:

  • What are the main features of the digital workplace?
  • How do you build a business case for workplace transformation?
  • How do you ensure a consistently user-centered approach across workplace transformation initiatives?

There were a number of key insights and findings from what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of discussion and debate.  I’ll cover each of these in turn

It’s NOT about technology

All too often Digital Workplace programmes are rooted in technology change agendas.  The Windows 10 transformation, the Office 365 deployment of the deployment of new mobile tools.  However, our discussion did not once cover a technology solution area.  Of course a couple of solution examples were given to bring points to life, but the conversation centred on a more outcome based approach that can be fulfilled by a range of both technology and procedural responses.  For us, as an IT supplier and integrator, it was refreshing and intriguing to elevate ourselves above the technology level and focus in depth on the business value and outcomes from the change agenda.

It IS about People and Culture

A large portion of the evening was spent discussing the user and cultural impact of technology and business change and how to deliver this into your users.  Remembering the connection between the internal users (employees/colleagues) and the external users (consumers) of your services.  Is there a distinction? Should there be?

What is clear is that many organisations are wrestling with this change, and in a fiercely competitive economy the war for talent is a very real thing.  If you fail to engage or enable your users they will simply move to an alternative employer or industry.  This is a startling reality that is affecting many businesses and industries now

It IS about a consumer levels of simplicity

I often cite a Gartner definition of Digital workplace, which references a “consumer like experience” in an enterprise context.  The feedback from our discussion was overwhelming.  It is not about “consumer like” – which infers an attempt to achieve the principles of elegance and simplicity that underpin the digital consumer tools upon which we are all so reliant.  The aspiration is for an experience that is equivalent to our consumer experiences.  No compromises.

For many this will be a new challenge.  We know what good looks like from a consumer perspective, yet we get bogged down in the translation of this to an enterprise context.  Various examples were cited of adopting consumer like tools and approaches, yet the enterprise challenges of security and compliance are very real and must not be understated

How do you build and deliver internal platforms that are as intuitive as what we enjoy in our home lives? How do you ensure the “inside out” support experience looks and feels the same as the “outside in” (consumer) lens of their engagement to your organisation to ensure common understanding and empathy? To not strive for this creates a barrier between your employees and your customers that your competitors will be actively looking to exploit with a better platform or better service model.

It IS about Change

We discussed “digital” at length.  The context of the evening was “Digital Transformation” but there was an agreement and recognition that organisations have been evolving and changing for a long time.  Digital is merely the mantra that is being used at the moment.  In order to execute the changes that organisations are trying to achieve, all the classic approaches and principles remain true.  The need to secure engagement at every level, from executive to grass roots.  The need to address the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) and the need for strong sponsorship and support to drive the initiatives in both the good times and the challenging times is key.

We spoke about adoption, the challenges here are twofold:

  • In not communicating what you are doing, and why, to secure engagement and support that will ultimately lead to usage (adoption) and value to your business
  • In declaring success too early. Delivering a solution or outcome and presuming it to be a success, not cognisant that users and consumers can be fickle and there’s a need to continually reinforce and underpin the initial success with an ongoing campaign to promote long term benefits.

NO ONE has all the answers

We brought together 12 leaders from enterprise organisations across a number of verticals.  The opportunity to discuss and engage with like-minded people was an invaluable use of time.  What was clear was that no one has all the answers, and we should take time not only to learn from our external influences (such as our consumer lives) but from colleagues and peers in adjacent industries.  What is clear is we live in a time of unprecedented choice and rate of change, no one has done everything and there is no blueprint for guaranteed success.  Sharing knowledge and expertise is fundamentally a core facet of what the Digital Workplace seeks to achieve…. And we learnt a lot from participating in the discussion.

Thanks again to all our guests and our co-hosts Microsoft and Nimbus Ninety for participating in an enjoyable and insightful debate.

The Stages of Digital Workplace Transformation

It has been some time since the last blog post, such is the frenetic pace of activity through early 2018 helping our customers with their workplace transformations.  This is a topic I’ve spoken of many times, often from a visionary or conceptual level, but I thought maybe now was the time to change the tone of the conversation to focus on HOW you embark on the Digital Workplace journey.

From my engagements with many of our customers throughout the UK and Europe, and recognising that a true Digital Workplace programme comprises a Portfolio of projects and initiatives, I’d summarise the process into the following key pillars

DWP_Programmes

Transform the Foundations

Whilst founded in aspiration towards a radically different state, most conversations related to Workplace Transformation invariably start with, or gravitate to, initiatives that I refer to as “Foundational”.  Whether these are remediation of current issues, or basic enablers for a future solution,  the key to building an effective Digital Workplace is in “getting the basics” right.  These activities often have disproportionate impact in that context, , as often these are the specific issues that are frustrating and inhibiting your users the most.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Pervasive Campus WiFi
  • Core Platform Upgrades (e.g. SharePoint)
  • Facilities Enhancements/Rationalisations

Modernise the Workplace

A lot of the focus of Digital Workplace programmes exhibits itself here.  These may be the introduction of flagship programmes to deliver a dramatic change to the user and technology environment.  These key projects provide significant modernisation of technologies and a more integrated set of capabilities within a solution that propose to significantly simplify the user experience.  Often the initiatives have a significant drivat this stage are driven as much by compelling events as anything, which creates a significant drive to implement them quickly.  However it is important to recognise that this cannot be done in isolation, and must be accompanied by adjacent initiatives to secure their success.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Cloud Productivity and Collaboration – e.g. Office 365 or G-Suite
  • Desktop Modernisation – e.g. Windows 10
  • Adoption of End User Cloud services – i.e. SaaS LoB Applications

Digitise the Experience

The final area of the transformation agenda is in initiatives that drive towards a digitalisation of engagement points and interfaces.  When we consider the examples of companies we would herald as “Digital Businesses” it is the elegance and simplicity of the points of engagement and interaction that we revere.

Within the context of Digital Workplace this is often the most difficult stage to achieve.  This is perhaps because it depends upon user behavioural and cultural change to ensure the uptake and effectiveness of what can be significantly challenging and complex initiatives.  However the promise these initiatives deliver, in terms of user experience benefit, reduction in time to serve through efficiency and automation are significant and they naturally form part of the portfolio.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Digitising Service Desk Engagement via Multi Channel
  • Experience Analytics and Automation
  • Chatbots / Digital Concierge

 

A Digital Workplace vision and programme will naturally encompass a range of initiatives from each of the three categories, covering the technology layer.  It is key to understand the market hype vs maturity in order to evaluate and time your activities accordingly.

But to reiterate, a true programme will not just consider the technology, it will also be comprised of initiatives addressing culture and user behaviour, organisational and operating models and a range of other factors. To achieve success it’s imperative to consider the portfolio approach and understand how each specific activity relates to, is enabled by, or is dependent upon the others in order to ensure its effectiveness and success.

2018 – Time to make the Digital Workplace real

We’re already pretty much through January and with the volume of activity in the first month alone, we can be in no doubt that 2018 is going to be a pivotal year for the Digital Workplace.

There are a number of themes and considerations that I’m expecting to be highly prevalent this year, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them with you.

Windows 10

The Digital Workplace is a lot more than just Windows 10, and the client environment clearly has other key platforms.  However Windows 10 IS the most topical subject in the End User market today.  From the conversations I’ve had throughout the past 12 months with customers and partners, it is clear that “the market” is not where it needs to be from a deployment and adoption perspective.

I hope you won’t need reminding that there are  less than 24 months before Windows 7 goes out of support by Microsoft and all enterprises need to have moved into Windows 10 (or alternate platform) to avoid security and compliance issues.  Also key to consider that from a User Experience perspective the vast majority of enterprise users are using an Operating System released in 2009 (Windows 7).  The world has changed dramatically since then, as too has the IT landscape, user demands and security landscape!

Key to a Digital Workplace is a modern platform that is engaging to users, secure, performant and reliable.  For very large organisations, the time to act is now. You may not realise but if you’re not already well progressed in your Windows 10 programme, you’re on the critical path towards January 2020 and a potentially significant issue.  Not least you are compromising your wider Digital Workplace ambitions.  We can help and are helping many organisations with this today!

User Experience

The next area that needs attention is the “User Experience” being offered to users.  Whilst quite nebulous, User Experience transcends everything from the devices and technologies to the ‘workspace’ environments (i.e. physical environments) and the engagement and business processes that users need to follow.  We represent all of these aspects and the importance of a positive user experience throughout them through our unique Digital Workplace Vision.

We have been observing for several years a degree of “user fatigue” within the workplace. Whether it’s failing to report troublesome issues with their IT equipment, to not exploiting technical capabilities that are being provided such as mobile devices or collaboration tools, the user experience of Enterprise IT is definitely something that needs to be addressed and enhanced.

We still talk of a “Consumer like experience” for the Digital Workplace, yet our consumer (Home) experiences continue to run ahead of the enterprise solutions.  Whether it’s in the identification and selection of appropriate solutions, or ensuring the adoption of transformational technologies in 2018 we need to ensure we are driving the benefits of these investments to enhance the effectiveness and engagement of our users.

Embracing Diversity and Choice

The fundamental challenge of building a Digital Workplace, that is the diversity and choices that are available to you.  Indeed, often the Digital Workplace lacks a specific definition.  I met two customers this week, both of whom had wildly different definitions of what a Digital Workplace meant to them.  Neither was wrong, as it was their needs they were expressing.

One of the key areas we’ve helped our customers with is in setting a defined vision for the Digital Workplace that encompasses everything we see as relevant to its scope, from ‘Workspaces’ through to Technology and Supporting Services.  With our established blueprints and solutions we’ve been able to guide our customers into focusing on key areas, understanding maturity and dependencies and building relevant programmes for change.

With the rate of change in this market place, the proliferation of tools from established and new vendors, establishing a vision and a path for delivering your Digital Workplace should be a key priority for early 2018 if you do not already have it.  We’re helping lots of customers do this and can help you too

 

Hopefully this helps give you some ideas as to what to focus on in 2018.  Knowingly or not, most organisations are moving towards a Digital Workplace, but there are a number of significant events and some key topics to cover as part of that, and so 2018 is a key year to ensure you’ve  establishing a core ‘fabric’ that will underpin its success.

2017 Reflections and Thoughts on 2018…

Once again we’re heading towards the end of another year…. I am not sure if its age or the much quoted “rate of change” in our industry but 12 months seems to feel shorter and shorter!

2017 has been a fascinating year in a number of ways.  We’ve seen key strategy and organisational changes from a number of our key partners, a major ramp up in activity of our customers and the market in their quest for “Digital Transformation”, and as ever, technology has continued to evolve, morph and transform our thoughts of what is and could be possible.

Before I turn my thoughts to what the next 12 months may have in store, let’s recap on the key topics and themes that have dominated my agenda this year.  I’ll keep it to a “top 3”

1.      Adoption is Key for Digital Workplace Success.

I often cite in my presentations to colleagues and customers alike,  that my focus is less on the technology, and more on driving cultural and user behavioural change to maximise the benefits of Digital Workplace transformations.  Throughout 2017 adoption has been the most prevalent topic of conversation.  Many customers have made sound technology and platform decisions, have invested wisely, often deployed modern features but have then struggled to achieve the anticipated business value and benefits. The reason for this is invariably down to poor user adoption.  This is not communication as we have classically known it, but a more meaningful, ongoing effort to understand the requirements of users, deliver solutions and capability in context of their needs, and then campaign users to embrace the features and drive changes to their behaviour and working practices.

As far back as February I signposted the tensions that exist in this area and it has been a prevalent theme throughout the year.  We often say we don’t deliver technology for technology sake, but it would appear we might have been doing that and have failed to create the connection to the users.  Expect more on this in 2018 as the transformation agenda ramps up.

2.      “Evergreen IT”

The dramatic change across all sectors of our industry to “as a Service” is having two profound and related effects.  The first is a transition in budgets from a traditional “Capex” model towards an operating expenditure (Opex) bias, but also the inherent rate and pace of change of these platforms and the impacts and pressures this has on customers (both at a business and a technology level).

In Computacenter, and more widely we’ve labelled this “Evergreen IT” to reflect the need to maintain platforms at a highly current level.  Quite a challenge for the large scale enterprises we deal with when these changes can be quarterly, or at best bi-annually and represent a lot of “heavy lifting”

Most of 2017 has been dominated in this context by Windows 10 Evergreen (Windows as a Service) though the concept pervades all cloud platforms (e.g. SaaS including Office 365, Salesforce, Workday etc).  We’ve spent a lot of time working with key vendors, building robust service models and educating our customers and the market on what this shift actually means.  It is a profound and fundamental shift in our entire industry and we’re just at the start of delivering and operating in this way, but it’s certainly here to stay!

3.      “Small t” transformation

Had a small personal fight with myself to pick theme number 3 of my self-imposed limit, but in reflecting on the year, I’ve gone with “small t” transformation.

First I need to explain what I mean by this.  We are engaged in a raft of transformational activity across a vast array of customers.  Many of them are doing fascinating and ground breaking things in their B2C business model which is to be heralded widely.   What we’ve tried to do is encourage such ambition into the end user enablement agenda, i.e. the “Digital Workplace”.  Through Digithons, workshops and other engagements throughout 2017 (and before), we’ve seen and heard all kinds of topics and agenda in this area.

However, perhaps controversially I would define what we’ve seen and heard (in the main) as transformation with a small t.  The requirements and objectives have been around projects that you might term as “fix the basics”, “quick win” or “foundational” (I prefer the latter term) to address immediate and existing challenges and frustrations in the user experience and ways of working (poor WiFi, ineffective meeting room systems, aged hardware etc).  Each of these things are VERY important, to quote the term above they represent the FOUNDATION upon which an effective Digital Workplace needs to be built.

However we need to move quickly to a more connected agenda, looking at how we enable and support business outcomes – really exploiting the tools and functionality to challenge and modernise business processes and ways of working – as that’s where the opportunity and return from the Digital Workplace investments exists.

Summary

Hopefully this blog does not end on a negative note.  There has been lots of great development and activity in 2017 and we expect it to continue and accelerate further in 2018.  But this is largely the story of the year (my year) and so inevitably will be a core part of my focus for 2018.

As this blog has now got quite lengthy I’ll defer my star gazing to the 2018 agenda and cover this in the next blog post…..in early January after a bit of a rest!

Happy Christmas!

Paul

‘Blueprint’ for Delivering a Digital Workplace

In the final blog post of this short series, we can reflect on the topics discussed to date; the rate of change in the market, the changing role of IT and the impact of the users on the creation of the Digital Workplace.

What we have done to date is to explore independent perspectives of the changes and challenges that a Digital Workplace presents, from a Business, IT and User perspective.  We all know, and often see, that the tensions we’ve discussed exist and cause challenges in the formation and execution of future business strategies.

A true Digital Workplace strategy emerges at the intersect of these perspectives.  Of course, each party will have individual challenges and requirements, but we need to find a point of consensus (a common strategy) and rally round this to ensure timely and effective execution.  In establishing this “joined up view”, we can reveal our full blueprint for the Digital Workplace.

Evergreen Overall Graphic

We know that we need to be more collaborative, more user centric, more agile, and more responsive to the business needs.  We have tried to identify some of the ways to achieve this, and reflect on the changes that are being made in each area.

However, a Digital Workplace requires joined up thinking.  Activities and processes need to be justifiable, understood and embraced across the business, and co-ordinated as a strategy so that the Digital Workplace does not become merely a series of siloed solutions and initiatives.

The opportunity exists to drive change, to disrupt rather than be disrupted.  To give yourselves the scope and capacity to proactively transform, rather than continually react to shocks and surprises within your business and market.

I’d like to offer a few examples of how we are doing that, with our developments and the solutions we are delivering today.

We are moving towards an Evergreen’ state.  Evergreen is a metaphor to describe the “as a Service” philosophy that now underpins much of the IT landscape today.  It presents challenges and some risks; change at a continual and rapid pace, the changes to our operational procedures (which have been honed and evolved over many years of learning), as well as the impact on the complex ecosystems that surround our modern platforms.  These are significant challenges, but evergreen also provides significant opportunities.

Evergreen can only be adopted successfully if allied by changes in IT, user behaviour, and operational processes.  We are exploiting analytics capabilities to improve and enhance user experience but also to allow us to operate at a faster pace.

The practical applications of this are in allowing us to continually monitor and optimise the user experience.  From anticipating issues before the user has need to raise an incident, the continual optimisation of core platforms to respond to demand profile, or the development of new capabilities to eliminate identified friction points impacting the user.  Analytics capabilities allow us to further industrialise to our service delivery, enabling us to know specifically what is happening in an environment at any time, informed by data.  This also allows us to focus more in the activities of our staff and users – such as in the testing, which becomes a new burden in a world of continuous change.  We can target the critical services we operate, whilst using technology to focus on those that pose less risk, thereby reducing the tension and demands on people to drive the pace of change required.

Being able to operate effectively in a digital environment requires not only new capabilities but   new behaviours.  Greater awareness of the market to understand and anticipate its developments, a culture that promotes innovation and embraces change, and a willingness to act on opportunities and drive change are key to maximising the potential that this window of opportunity affords us.

We are looking to help our customers lead and drive this change by reinventing the way that we engage with, and serve them with our capabilities and solutions.  One example of this is our Digithon.  We bring together users, IT and representatives from the business to identify the opportunities and build a partnership to drive change.  To make this transformation requires a form of understanding, a “charter” for how each will work with each other and on their own to help deliver these outcomes.  The old adage of “throwing things over the wall” cannot apply and will not deliver the benefits and outcomes that we are striving from Digitalisation and the Digital Workplace.

All parties need to come together, to flex and adapt in order to find ways to work in unison and orchestrate their activities effectively within the Digital Workplace – it can only be achieved by “joining the dots” and leading the change together.

Building the Modern Workplace – Summary from Microsoft Inspire

The Microsoft Ignite conference was held last week in Orlando, Florida.  Unfortunately I was unable to attend directly, but a number of our Subject Matter Experts did and we had a busy stream of communication with updates and announcements.

There were some significant developments within the Modern Workplace area that I wanted to add my own reflections on.

Teams as the Communication Hub

Even prior to the event there were rumours and some vague news releases about the future of Skype for Business (Microsoft’s primary collaboration platform) and Microsoft Teams, the new Workspace collaboration tool that has taken off since its recent launch.

At Ignite, Microsoft did confirm that Teams will become the primary Communication hub for Microsoft solutions within enterprise.  Though not immediate (new versions pending), Skype functionality will effectively be ported into Teams alongside the raft of other extensible features and capabilities it offers, and eventually customers will need to manage this transition.

We have been using Microsoft Teams at Computacenter for the past few months and I can certainly testify to its effectiveness both in driving collaboration and as a “hub” for activity.  Teams has removed much of the friction of sharing and co-editing of documents, providing a central, highly accessible repository for information and an effective chat and communication function.

However, Teams and Skype are very different tools.  The latter is a lightweight communication tool typically used for chat (though it offers voice functionality), whilst Teams is a far more immersive (and heavy-weight on the desktop) tool.  Beyond the technology differences, we mustn’t lose sight of the user adoption considerations.  As we’ve observed even technologies we deem to be “highly intuitive” still need to be carefully introduced so that users understand and derive benefit from them.

I can understand the changes that have been announced, one criticism I often hear is of overlapping functionality and user confusion as to which tool to use, and Teams has certainly become a “power app” in very short space of time, and so executed effectively,  it makes a great deal of sense to focus development and user experience around it.

Streamlined Device Deployment with Autopilot

The second area to cover relates to Microsoft’s Autopilot solution.  We’ve heard a lot on this over the past few months, and certainly presents a compelling initial proposition of streamlining device provisioning to users over the cloud.

Autopilot works in similar ways to solutions like Apple’s Device Enrolment Programme (DEP), where a device is pre-registered to a management system and on first launch connects via the cloud to receive profiles and configurations that adapt it towards the corporate standard.  We have heard much interest in these kind of solutions, easy enablement and access is a central tenant of the Digital Workplace, but for many customers there will be challenges and constraints to overcome in achieving this.  The premise is not quite the simplistic “visit your local hardware store, buy a laptop and connect it to the network/internet” that some people observe it to be, but it does offer some advantages in some situations.

That said, there are many situations where advanced Supply Chain services are required – for example in inventory management, asset management and ensuring configuration and control of deployed hardware.  We are seeing growing interest in “Device as a Service” solutions (probably worth a blog at a later time!), and so capabilities like DEP and Autopilot could ultimately sit well alongside the range of other techniques we employ to optimise provisioning and supply side processes for enterprise customers.

Transitions to the Cloud with Unified Endpoint Management

One major Workplace announcement this week was “co-management” for devices which can be connected both to Active Directory as well as Azure Active Directory.  The premise of this is to allow a more gradual transition of “workloads” as Microsoft referred to them  between the traditional on premise management platforms to the cloud hosted InTune solution.

There seems to be, and I am sure there is, complexity that sits behind this.  I agree with the direction, in that customers rarely have the opportunity to disregard platforms, tools and processes that they have invested in for a wholesale shift to the cloud with no compelling event or reason.  However there are significant use cases for cloud management that can now be achieved much more flexibly, and this announcement may help provide a “bridge” to manage a transition towards cloud solutions – in a similar “hybrid” model that we see so effective across other elements of the infrastructure stack.  There were also announcements around a broader transition towards a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform with integrations with JAMF – which will allow it to compete more effectively in this new battleground for diverse platform management that we will watch with interest as the EM&S proposition continues to grow and evolve.

A Wider Perspective

There is a vast amount of activity and development not only within Microsoft but in the wider Workplace partner community.  Often it can feel a challenge to keep up with the announcements and developments, let alone consider how to introduce and integrate these into your Digital Workplace strategy.  What is clear is that there is a vast amount of opportunity to be gained in re-evaluating the solutions and operational processes to try to drive towards a more agile and integrated Modern (read: Digital) Workplace.

Finally, Computacenter are proud to be a Platinum sponsor for Microsoft’s Future Decoded event on 31st October and 1st November at the ExCel centre in London.  Come and visit myself and the team to continue the conversation and talk about how we can drive a Modern Workplace that Enables Users and Your Business.

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