Categories
Modern Workplace

Evergreen – the road to stay current

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

I´ve touched on this in an earlier article, but it’s worth coming back to.

When we talk about Evergreen, we often get stuck in talking about Microsoft products (Office, Windows, Config Manager), but “Evergreen” is larger than that.

Keeping applications up to date is a challenge we struggle with like everyone else. There is basically always a newer version of our VPN client at any given time and the one we have in production does not support the latest Windows 10 feature release (this has for real been the case since we got started with servicing Windows). This is not the only one, there are several other examples of applications which are hard to keep up with.

You might argue that we don’t need EVERY version of our VPN client, and that is true. We need the one compatible with our back end and the latest Windows version.

But there are other applications which are working in the Evergreen context.

In our IT environment, we have several other applications which have a lifecycle much like Windows or Office, but sometimes with an even higher pace.

Two examples of these are Google Chrome and Adobe Creative Cloud. However, we don’t give them close to as much love as we do to the Microsoft application even though many have a crazy high penetration of Google Chrome usage without it being the default browser. Google updates Chrome every 6 weeks, that’s about 8-9 times a year. So, wanting to keep up with this and testing every release is a huge effort.

One could also argue that a lot of web-based services are also evergreen, since they are constantly updated, a little bit at the time. Sometime smaller changes, sometimes bigger (like when Facebook changed their design a few years back and everyone went crazy). But taking this to a desktop world is where the new challenges lays for the corporate world.

This is a vast area of improvement, realizing that the Evergreen spans outside the soft and cosy Microsoft bubble.

My point is not to make a big complex process for every little application, but to take the evergreen concept with a bit more ease since the idea around this is not new, it’s been around quite some time for at least browsers.

This might be a little bit over simplified, but for many of the applications you don’t need a big testing process for every update of e.g. the Windows 10 version or Office 365 release. Of course, for business-critical applications and applications with a lot of customizations/integrations, this is a good idea, but that can’t be most of your applications. By optimizing and prioritizing what applications you need to do application testing for, you will minimize the effort in moving between versions in an evergreen world. Think of it as application verification rather than application testing, since you want to make sure the application still works (which it most likely will).

We could also twist it a bit. Your users are using a smartphone, let’s say an iPhone. Apps for that iPhone which comes from the store are updated on a regular basis, and you don’t really control when Microsoft wants you to update Outlook to a later version on the phone. But it still works even after being updated. Of course, there aren’t as many integrations toward mobile apps as for desktop apps, but I want to highlight the mindset in this.

However, this also puts a great demands on the ISV, and you need to put more clear demands on your ISV’s to commit to this process when discussing and dealing with line-of-business applications.

The world has changed, and we need to adapt to this, even if we think it’s scary and will give us a lot of extra work.

And to loop back to a previous post again, to navigate the evergreen jungle, Desktop Analytics should definitely be your best friend in this since it can provide you really good insights about applications, drivers and much more!

I hope this article inspired you to start looking into how you can get moving with the Evergreen concept within your organization, and feel free to leave a comment or send me a DM if you want to discuss this further!

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

Dare to break old habits in 2020

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

We all love email, don’t we? It’s such a fast and efficient way to communicate. You can just write your short message in the subject line and the person you send it to will see straight away what you wanted to ask…

Okay, there might be some irony in that part.

Emails are great, but not in communicating “one too few” in 2020, there are so many other great tools. We also have a new generation of workers showing up which don’t really get the whole email thing. We also have this whole thing with crowded inboxes. I’ve met people who have over 10 000 unread emails, and I bet you have too, so how would your email even be found or noticed in that case?

So, what can we use instead?

What if there were a tool which is based on chat, much like text messaging. Were you could easily share documents and you keep all conversation history? Oh, and group chats to include more people would be awesome!

In fact, there are several tools which does this such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Google Hangouts. But since I’m a strong Microsoft advocate, I’ll focus this article on the Microsoft product Teams.

What is Teams?

There is a lot of buzz around Teams, and have been for quite some time now and if you are not looking into it yet it’s time to get started since Skype for Business is going end of life in 2021.

But what is Teams and how can you make use of it?

Teams is a collaboration platform in the aspect of “one to one – one to few – one to many”, and keeping it focused to your team (virtual or organizational) and not your complete organization, but of course based on size and such. Teams is not a new social intranet; this is where Yammer comes into play if we speak Microsoft terms.

Teams is heavily centralized around conversations and collaboration in different context. Conversations can either be private in chats or more public in a team where everyone in the team can participate (private channels are coming as well as presented at Ignite during Q1 of 2020).

Collaboration can also take different shapes and forms in Teams. But to set the expectations right, Teams is based on SharePoint Online and shares the same access principles and collaboration feature set as SharePoint Online.

Teams shouldn’t be looked upon as “yet another place” to look for news and updates, it should be considered as the hub where you keep track of things. The more conversation you move to Teams from especially email, the easier the transition will be. Also, this is your one stop shop for calls, meetings and chats which means this should be a part of your daily workflow!

And yes, Teams is so much more than what I just wrote. But it’s an easy place to start and an effective way in to using the platform!

So why should you care?

Even if we all love sending email, it’s not an efficient way of communicating since we all know that feeling after a few days of and you have 200 new emails where most of it is “for your knowledge” or just irrelevant. There is also a significant risk that you miss something important and you will need at least a day to go through it all.

Teams can help you gain more transparency and faster collaboration. You also get the benefit of traceability of all discussions you have had either in personal chats or larger forums, and its SEARCHABLE.

Looking at the trend and buzz around Teams, it’s here to stay and is a more modern way to communicate. Emails will still have its place in the world, but not as we use it today. There is also a whole new generation out there who doesn’t really understand why one would use email to communicate since it’s not efficient.

Let’s break the old habit in 2020 and send less email and more instant messages! It doesn’t have to be Teams since this is more a behaviour than a product. I promise you, both you and your users will find it more pleasing to get less emails!

Categories
Me

My break-up story

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

Sandvik IT Services. It’s not you. It’s me….

I’ve decided it’s time to move on from Sandvik IT Services and do something else.

I started my professional career at Sandvik IT back in 2011. A young kid who didn’t really know what he wanted to do when he got older. I still don’t know, but now I have some sort of idea. I left Sandvik in 2013 and spent 4,5 years at Microsoft as a Windows consultant (or Workplace which it would be called today). In 2017 I decided to come back to Sandvik since some cool challenge was presented to me and an awesome manager was hiring.

During my time at Sandvik IT Services, we have done a ton of cool things.

  • Rolling out Windows 10 in a large global environment
  • Established servicing for Windows 10 and Office365 Pro Plus
  • Changed hardware vendor
  • Changed sourcing partner
  • I got an internal award for Passion to win (first ever to get the award)
  • Put Windows Autopilot in the production environment
  • Put co-management into the production environment (SCCM)
  • Established an awesome relationship with our partners and vendors
  • Been disruptors in enterprise IT, tried making it more punk
  • Established “no one remembers a coward” attitude in the team
  • Evangelized digital transformation
  • Engaged with next-generation information workers to get them to work with IT
  • Talked at conferences
  • Showed up in several of our vendor’s presentations and marketing material

There is even more cool stuff that I can’t think of right now.

I’ve really appreciated that I’ve been let to work towards my personal vision: everyone deserves a good digital workplace. During my time at Sandvik, I’ve really tried to reach this goal. Simple, effective, and smart workplace.

There is still work to be done, we can always improve.

I’ve also grown a lot as a person during my time at Sandvik. I’ve been given the possibility to explore and try new things. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone from time to time. But also realizing what I like doing and what I want to pursue. This is something I’m thankful that I was encouraged to do.

And finally. I’ve had so many awesome colleges. I will miss all off you terribly, not seeing you on a daily basis will leave a mark!

But now the time has come for me to move on and face new challenges. In mid-November, you will find me at Advania – Knowledge Factory as a Technical Specialist within Devices!

Categories
Modern Workplace

Desktop Analytics – the new black

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

On the 16th of October, Microsoft released a new tool called Desktop Analytics where we got quoted, which to me is insane but also proves that we are doing the right things right now.

We have committed to follow the Windows 10 Feature Upgrade schedule of two updates per year, which put high demands on out applications and devices to be ready for this. That is where Desktop Analytics comes into play. This tool provides us with insights around all applications present on our computers and we can identify many known issues before they happen.

By adopting this workflow, we can create more dynamic pilot groups to make sure that we cover as many scenarios as possible before deploying the update to all end-users. This will also help us build a bigger trust in the organization around the Windows 10 feature updates.

Having bigger upgrades of Windows two times per year is a tremendous change from how things have been done in the past, where larger upgrades where released every 3-5 years. Now this happens 2 times per year which comes with a lot of new challenges when we have such a large and complex environment with a lot of older applications which were not designed for Windows 10. However, we are seeing most applications to be working, but this also puts a larger responsibility on the application owners to keep their application up to date and move quick if there is a problem.

We still have things to do around this, but we are getting there and by getting new tools with access to better data will help us take better decisions going forward.

If you haven’t yet read the blogpost from Brad Anderson, you can find it here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2019/10/16/announcing-general-availability-desktop-analytics/

Categories
Digital Transformation

Redundant systems

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

Okay, so you are shifting to Microsoft 365. That’s great! It includes a lot of things that are useful, and a lot of services you already have from another vendor. You might even have the same service from multiple vendors.

Let me put some context to this.

Your users need a phone conference system, so you go and buy this from vendor A which require a specific license. Vendor A isn’t that great on videoconferencing or does not do it at all. So, you reach out to vendor B and buy a video conferencing system to use in your meeting rooms. The licenses for this system were pretty expensive, so you decide to also go to vendor C and buy a more cost-efficient system which can be used from a user’s computer and you put a lot of time into getting the system from vendor B and C to work together. These two systems also have the possibility to do phone conferencing. It never gets a 100% smooth, but your users settle in for this, hey it’s corporate IT.

Then comes Microsoft Teams and does all these three things you bought separate products for, but you add this to the mix as well since Teams is the future and all users have a license for it. The three old ones are still there, and everyone is confused when to use what.

Does this sound familiar?

This doesn’t just go for Teams and meeting platforms. This can be applied to any service you provide to your users. You have one or two solutions, then comes the new product that you and your users want, and you just add it to the mix without decommissioning the old solutions. Hey, your users still love the old one then why remove it?

We have been there and still are

When we started our journey towards Microsoft Teams as a collaboration platform, we had a lot of solutions doing parts of the things Teams does. We had one solution for chat (Skype), two-three for video conferencing and at least two for phone/online meetings to name a few.

Having several solutions that do the same thing is not a wanted state for several reasons:

  • You will have to pay multiple licenses for the same thing
  • Your users will get confused when to use what
  • Your users will get frustrated when they can’t use solution A to connect to solution B
  • Life cycle management for several products is a hassle

But just throwing out that expensive video conferencing system you installed in your board room is probably not something you wish to do since you will have to replace it with something just as expensive. So, saving parts which can be integrated into one solution is the way you want to go.

Our trickiest one to close is our old online meeting platform, which people are fond of. When we introduced online meetings through Skype, people were missing some features which they had really liked in the old setup. At the same time, we had a change in user behaviour where users were connecting to the meetings through their computers instead of dialling in which had an impact on the network resulting in poor call quality. This gave Skype a bad reputation internally and everyone wanted the old, quite expensive solution which “worked” were you often called in with your phone for audio. Eventually, we have reached a state where the trust is high in Teams and functionality is good which have made the shift a lot easier. This also gave EVERYONE the possibility to host online meetings, not only the ones who had an expensive separate license.

Remember to retire old services

This doesn’t only apply for Teams and Microsoft 365, this can be applied to anything. In a big corporate IT environment, it can be hard to close services which have been loved and heavily used by the users. It’s important to put in the effort with making the users aware of WHY you are transitioning into a new service. Letting the service die by itself is never a clever idea, you will gain a lot by putting the effort in to decommission something (and it will be cheaper). Even if we might act like it sometime, we never replace/change services just because we like new shiny things. There is ALWAYS a business case behind every major change, and the goal is always to improve the service even if the road there might be bumpy.

If you can optimize and simplify your environment by decommissioning redundant services, get on it!

Categories
Tips & Tricks

Making use of Windows features

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

Have you noticed that Windows 10 has a lot of built in features, some of them which are really good?

In this article my idea is to shed some light of two small ones which might not be known to everyone. These can be useful in an enterprise perspective and might even replace some other applications that you might have bought separate licenses for.

It might require that you be on Windows 10 1903 or higher.

Clipboard history (Win + V)

Ingen alternativ text angiven för den här bilden

In the Windows 10 1809 release there was an improvement to the clipboard feature in Windows. You no longer need to go back and find that text or picture again that you copied earlier. By enabling and using Windows button + v you can retrieve old data that you have copied. You can also set it to synchronise between devices.

Screen Snip (Win + shift + s)

Did you know that there is an improved Snipping tool in Windows 10 called Screen Snip? This can be used to take screen shots or screen snippets and add annotations if needed. It’s easy to use. You can either find it in the pen icon in the task bar or use the shortcut windows button + shift + s. You can then select to either take a snippet, window or full screen shot.

If you want, you can also through Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard set the Print Screen button to activate this instead.

Ingen alternativ text angiven för den här bilden
Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

Increasing device flexibility

(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

Let’s dig into hardware, since this is an important part of the workplace services.

In the old world, IT centrally basically dictated what computer to buy (you had a handful to choose from) and the ones available probably didn’t really fit your needs but it was the closest you could get.

Okay, not THAT extreme, but I hope you get the point.

Limiting the selection of computers (and a set specification of these) are great in some sense:

  • Standardized range of models
  • No “surprises” for the support team
  • Easy for end-user to pick a device
  • Life cycle management becomes easier
  • Centrally decided which models and specifications to use = no discussion

There is also a bit of a flaw in this setup. There is no room for flexibility and user needs. You will get stuck with something which is what you needed, but not completely.

Let’s start with an example

You have this range of computers to choose from:

  • Computer A – Small lightweight laptop, great for travel but not powerful
  • Computer B – Standard laptop, fairly mobile, fairly powerful.
  • Computer C – Powerful and large workstation, lots of power, lots of memory.
  • Computer D – Executive top model. Pretty powerful and slim design. Expensive.

For a user who travels a lot and needs a powerful computer. Are any of these a good fit?

Taking a new approach

As part of the transition from one hardware vendor to another, we decided to change this approach and offer a broader range an even having models which overlapped. All of them could be specified to the users need. In this context, range means certified for our custom image.

This also meant that we offered a more complex setup, potentially offering about 15 computers towards our end-users. This is where Local IT comes into play for an important part. Creating the custom range for THEIR site. For us, Local IT are the ones providing the user with hardware, which should be fit for purpose for the end-users need.

Just because we centrally offer 15 models doesn’t mean that all 15 should be offered to the end-user on all sites. Most sites actually ended up offering just a few models BUT could get that special machine which just a few users per site needs and the possibility to upgrade the processor, RAM and the hard drive size without making it a non-standard device.

New challenges for central IT

Having this broad offer created new challenges for us as central IT. How do we explain to local IT when to pick what computer, especially when models might overlap? This is something which we hadn’t dealt with before in the same way and this also positioned us in a different place.

We are becoming an enabler rather than a provider.

Positioning us as enablers doesn’t just apply for hardware, this could be said about a lot of our new services. But this is where we need to go since we operate on business demands and not on what we think is interesting. We enable the business to succeed and to do that we need to understand and meet their demands. Once again, understanding each local business need is very hard as a central organization and we need the local IT staff to help the user to navigate the jungle we are creating by adopting a more flexible environment where we no longer dictate what devices can be used.

The conclusion

So how do we tackle this? We have only found one effective way and that is information. Information about the services and information about the hardware so that a good decision can be made as close to the end-user as possible.

However, we are not making things easier for ourselves right now. We are about to enable Windows and Mac managed from Intune. How should we position that and why should one be picked over the other or the traditional custom Windows PC? We are working hard on creating good service descriptions right now to assist in making this decision together with the end-user. Defining what you can do, but also what you cannot do, with each service becomes increasingly important to make this decision.

Since the modern workplace puts more focus on the user, the approach to what device the end-user consumes the services on must change. We cannot be a “Windows only” environment anymore. Different people have diverse needs and if we want to keep being an attractive employer, what device you can use is not something IT can afford dictate. You need to meet the end-user on their grounds and provide tools they are comfortable and used to work with since they will bring their own work style.

Today we are doing this shift with our devices. Who knows, tomorrow it might be the applications.

Categories
Digital Transformation

A millennial in the workplace

(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

This post will be a bit different. This will not be a post about how we are enhancing our digital workplace. This article is about me and my experience, a millennial in the workplace. As a fairly young on a quite senior role as a Solution Architect in a quite senior organization, these are things I think about daily.

The thought behind this article is to shed some light on how one of those scary millennial’s thinks about the digital workplace. We are still quite scary, even though many of us have hit our 30’s. Millennial’s, also called Generation Y, are born in the early/mid-’80s to the early/mid-’90s.

Disclaimer: I might generalize a bit regarding millennials. (A bit = a lot). Also, I’m known to be quite naive (in a good way if you ask me). Last important part, these are my opinions and not everything is backed up by data.

But what do we know about millennial’s?

  • We believe our self to be entitled
  • We were raised with computers, but we know of a world before the internet
  • We believe in a flat corporate culture
  • Work-life balance is important to us
  • We look for meaning full jobs
  • We don’t by diamondswe buy avocado toast

Okay, there are a lot of things we can say about the millennial’s, some good and some bad. It’s a term which is being thrown around a lot. But I will focus this article of my experience as a millennial in the workplace.

The start of it all

Being part of the generation called millennial’s, at least in my school in a small town in Sweden, we got our first experience with computers in school in the 4th or 5th grade. We had one or two computers in our classroom which we had turns researching basically. Moving up to 6th to 9th grade we had more computers in some classrooms, but still not one each and not used in every class. During this time, we had one or two computers at home (my mom worked within IT). Collaboration on this stage was sitting a group in front of the computer, one typing and the rest telling that person what to type.

Heading into high school (Swedish “gymnasium”), this is where computers took off. I attended more of an innovative school where all the students got a computer. Stationary, but still a computer. This was so cool back then; we were the only school in my city where everyone GOT their computer. Collaborating on the same document didn’t happen here, everyone wrote their piece, and someone had to put it all together in the end. This was in 2003.

Heading to college in 2007, things had changed. Laptops were cheap, and the ultra-book made its entry (those small ones). This is also the time I shifted from PC to Mac (and claimed I would NEVER go back). Around 2007, this is when Facebook took off in Sweden and cloud services started to pop up. We used Google Docs a lot for collaborative work and you got used to co-creating documents and presentations. It was easy working on big assignments in a large group where everyone could write their part simultaneously.

First workplace experience

Getting my first job in 2011, you expected that “wow, a place where they actually can put some effort into getting really good tools and collaborating”. Imagine the confusion when you don’t find those tools and realizing that “wow, I had better tools in college on a budget”. This is where shadow IT is born on a grassroots level and unsanctioned apps MIGHT be used, there are no tools and you have the mindset from college that “if no one gives it to me, I´ll find one myself”.

Jump forward to the present time. I today have Microsoft 365 for seamless collaboration at my fingertips. I have great hardware (a computer and a phone I like). I´m back at where I was during college, but with more mature tools. But I´m still not pleased, it can always be improved.

What is the end goal I´m looking for, the ripe avocado of my dreams?

The perfect digital workplace

Gaining 8 years of experience from various kinds of workplaces and IT environments, I’ve noticed a few things that are important to me and my digital workplace. Some might be traits of my generation; some might just be personal preferences.

A few things I picked up along the way

  • Always have two phones to separate work from personal life (work-life balance). For me, this is the only true way to disconnect from work.
  • Don’t have more stuff than you can fit in your daily bag and always bring the computer with you home. Who knows, you decide to work from home or a coffee shop tomorrow. Just because I´m leaving the office doesn’t mean the workday is over. Work is not a place, it’s something I do.
  • Please do manage my devices, but also let me control it myself and personalize it to be my own. Getting corporate settings and software which is a hassle to manually install is awesome, but I want to be able to make the device MY device. (Read my article on managed devices here)
  • IT Security is important. Multi-Factor authentication and strong passwords should be standard in ALL corporations and it’s not hard. My phone is always in an arm’s reach, not hard to verify my identity. Just do it!
  • Good hardware is important. It lasts longer and you take better care of things you like. Good hardware = fit for purpose.
  • Corporate issued bags are NOT my thing. I get a personal bag and pay for it myself since its “not in the corporate web shop”.
  • Get good peripherals. A good wireless mouse is important and a good headset for all those Teams calls you will make all over the place (from multiple devices). A noise-cancelling microphone is key for a good meeting.
  • Cloud services are here to stay. It doesn’t matter if it is Microsoft, Google, or anyone else. This is key to successful collaborative work and personal productivity. Access your work anywhere and share it with colleges.
  • Stay current. I expect to use the same version of Windows/Office/[insert application or OS here] at work as I do at home. Time to market is a real thing even within “Internal IT”. (You can read more about it here)
  • People in my generation know their way around a computer, they have always been there. All of us might not be computer engineers, but we know what we like and how to use it. Corporate IT often adds a layer of frustration by locking key features, creating bumps in the workflow, and not reaching that full potential productivity.
  • If something is weird, question it! (This might just be me)
  • Dare to be disruptive and challenge old principles. You will never progress or grow as a person or organization if you don’t try new things. (Read our story)
  • Be yourself and stay true to yourself. For me, this is my most valuable learning of all. Be smart and own your personal brand!
  • No computer is complete without at least one sticker

“Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.”

Unknown

What is the conclusion of this?

What is the perfect digital workplace? I would say it’s very personal and most definitely differ from person to person, much like everything else. I´m not saying I´m expecting my employer to give me the devices of my dreams, what I´m getting at is that I´m expecting tools that can make me productive and gives me the possibility to work in the way I prefer. If I´m able to be productive I can do a better job. “Empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more” might be the mission of Microsoft, but it makes sense for everyone providing workplace services.

As you can see from the links I’ve added throughout the text to my own article, this isn’t just a vision from some parts. We are making many of these things reality which shows that this isn’t just some dream state for a millennial. This can be done for real.

My goal is not to make my digital workplace better. My goal is to make everyone’s digital workplace better. Everyone deserves a great digital place to work.

Categories
Modern Workplace

Moving to modern management

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

I guess by now, most people are back from summer holidays (at least in Sweden) and I always feel that the much-needed summer break acts as a reboot both for motivation and ideas.

This fall will contain a lot of exciting things happening at once. We have a lot of exiting happening. The one that I´m most excited about is introducing Windows Autopilot and an Intune managed PC. This is a TREMENDOUS change for us, and this is probably “part 1”.

Traditionally, we have for the last 20 years or so we have managed computers, in the same way, using on-premises server infrastructure and creating our “own” Windows version. This has gone through several different generations; we are currently on our “generation 4” which is based on Windows 10. We manage these custom images using Config Manager and a bunch of group policies.

That’s how we have “always” done it and we are comfortable doing so.

But what happens when things are moving to the cloud and we change our work habits?

We don´t have the same work style today as we did back when Windows XP was released, not even Windows 8.1. The world has changed, and it keeps on changing. We are moving to consume things as a service and our “office” might not be on the corporate network all the time. Does it make sense to use a client heavily dependent (and designed for) on-premises infrastructure?

After a lot of preparations, we will this fall start testing how we can utilize Intune to manage PCs and enrolling them through Windows Autopilot.

This is truly exciting and a big shift for us, moving from very old-school and wanting to manage everything to more of a light-touch approach where we manage what’s needed to keep the device and information secure.

“Does this setting add any value?”

Coming from an old-school setup we have A LOT of policies and preferences configured. Some makes sense, some are old left-over which never got removed and some are obsolete. We have even found some XP setting which are still there but doesn’t get applied. So how do we decide what to keep?

We did inventory all settings a typical PC has in our environment and did somewhat of an identification of what GPO’s correlates to MDM-policies. But not all these settings make sense in a new world where we want light touch.

Our working thesis has been: “Does this setting add any value?”. By asking us that question, we are trying to avoid configuring things just because there is a setting for it. This has left us with a more relevant configuration. We removed a lot, but also kept a whole lot of settings. So not all our “legacy” settings were irrelevant.

Innovating for all users – lead by the few

In our very first “version” of a modern managed Windows computer, we are leaving ALL on-prem things behind. No co-management, no hybrid-join, no file shares. It’s a clean cut.

However, we still have a lot of things that many users would need which resides on-prem making this new platform not fit for all scenarios at this point. But that was not what we were going for. This will be a cutting-edge platform targeted for those users who can and are willing to break free from the old environment and are using mostly cloud based applications.

However, our objective is to use the learning from this modern platform to improve on our standard platform, helping driving innovation for all our users!

Cutting lead time

One massive thing this will also mean for our end-user is shorter lead times. When setting up a new computer, even if we utilize White glove so that local IT can put their touch on the computer to provide that little extra service only, they can do.

Today, imaging takes from 1,5 hour up to 3 hours for our image (taken into consideration that not all sites has superb internet connection). If we can reduce this down, this means that our users could potentially receive their computer much faster, even if there is a hands on step by a local IT technician if the end-user is not comfortable doing the enrollment them self. Our infrastructure might not be mature yet for full coverage, but we can start on the bigger sites without any issue.

Where are we right now?

Right now, we are in an early pilot phase were we are identifying the last things before we can let some real user try this (we are basically 4-5 people running a cloud managed PC). It’s still limited to a “cloud only” environment without any connection to Config Manager or other on-prem systems, so it will not be for everyone at this stage. But this will help us find the road forward to our next generation workplace.

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

Staying current in the new world

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

In this post, I´ll keep covering our digital transformation. If you haven’t read the previous part, you can the first part here and the second here. This is the story of how we left a legacy workplace in 2018 and started to build for the future.

One thing I’ve noticed that you often come across when you working bigger changes, and especially moving to new technology, is variations of the phrase “yeah we don´t do it like that here, it would never work”.

If you have never tried it and you don’t really know what it is/means, how can you be so sure that it will not work?

I quite often play the “hey I´m a millennial”-card when discussing change (it works surprisingly well), especially when I talk about things that might be a bit naive and oversimplified. But it´s an effective way to push forward and skip over some of those road bumps which you tend to get stuck on.

We now live in a world which is ever changing when it comes to the workplace. You can update the Office suite every month and Windows feature updates are released every six months. This is quite different from the past.

So how did we decide to navigate this?

The first step we took was to accept that this is what the world looks like now. No matter how much we complain by the coffee machine, this is the reality now.

The second step is to sell this to the organization, especially key stakeholders such as application owners and senior management. This is the tricky part since this is not so much technology as politics.

Instead of seeing each upgrade as a project itself, we built a process to support this flow of an evergreen world. This means that once we have finished the last step in the process, it’s time to start over again. Our process contains the following steps (imagine this as a circle):

  1. Inform stakeholders that new release is coming in 2-3 weeks.
  2. Release update to first evaluation group (ring 0) to clear any compatibility issues in the environment.
  3. Release update to second evaluation group (ring 1) which contains application testers for business-critical applications, to give them as much time as possible to evaluate.
  4. Release update to third evaluation group (ring 2) which contains application testers for important business applications which are not deemed critical but still would like to evaluate on an early stage.
  5. Release update to the first pilot group for broad deployment (ring 3) to make sure that deployment works on a global scale. This step is estimated to happen 2-3 month after the Windows 10 feature upgrade is released, but it also depends on the outcome of the previous steps.
  6. Release update to broad production (ring 4).

During this entire process, we are monitoring the deployments and keeping track that nothing breaks. If an application is identified as problematic, the computers can simply be rolled back to the previous version of Windows 10 and that application will be put on an exclusion list (basically be put in ring 5) until the application owner has taken action on the application. This has however not yet happened.

Does this process work in the real world?

Yes. We ran through this but at a slightly higher pace when moving from Windows 10 1709/1803 to Windows 10 1809. To our knowledge, we did not have any major incidents where we broke an end user’s computer. We upgraded roughly 18 000 computers in a matter of a few weeks.

We did have errors though, and a lot of them during the first week. But all errors were indicating that users were not able to run the upgrade (it was blocked). This was also expected based on the earlier test we had run with the earlier rings, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Everyone was confident in the servicing, and all errors were either “solved by them self” or fixed by our technicians in bulk or case by case.

After our first major Windows as a Service experience, we still trust the servicing. We were even more confident after the upgrade that the Windows as a Service process works.

BUT, having static rings as we do today is far from ideal. Until we have better tools (such as Microsoft Desktop Analytics) to create dynamic rings, this is our approach. We will spend some time fine-tuning the setup and move to dynamic rings once we have the tools.

The outcome

  • Users had the update as available for 21 days, after that the installation was mandatory
  • We upgraded roughly 18 000 computers in about a month
  • No major application compatibility issues
  • Branch Cache took about 50-60% of the workload
  • No reported network disturbances during this time caused by SCCM

Bonus learning

One thing we realized quite early on was that the phrase “application testing” scares people, especially management. Testing is expensive and time-consuming is a general feeling and causes unwanted friction when you want to speed up the pace. Therefore, we decided to rephrase it. We were not aiming to do “application testing” in ring 1 and 2, we are aiming to do “application verification“. This minor change in the wording changed the dialogue a lot and people became less scared of the flow we set up. Verification is less scary then testing.