Categories
Digital Transformation Intune Tips & Tricks

Recovery in a world without OSD

One of the big issues I hear people talk about when it comes to utilizing an image- and OSD less approach is “What if the hard drive breaks and we need to reinstall the machine?”. This is based on that assumption that we need to create a custom image with the drivers and such for recovery purpose. Disks do break, so this is a real problem.

However…

You probably bought that computer from one of the big computer manufacturers out there meaning that they thought of this.

In this article I will post many bold and naive statements, which you might not agree with. I understand that, but we also need to challenge how we have done things for the last 15 years. I’m not saying this is the whole truth, but I want to challenge the way you operate!

Disk failure

What happens when a consumer computer breaks down? Your typical home user does not have a Windows Deployment Services server running in their home network.

Most of the big manufacturers provides you with a new, fresh image created for your computer from their website, often using their recovery tool. The process to obtain the recovery image is a bit different based on which manufacturer, but it’s an uncomplicated way to recover a broken machine without the need to creating custom images.

Making use of what has already been created (and probably covered by the support commitment) should make sense. If someone else that we know and trust already created this, why shouldn’t we utilize it?

At least Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and HP offers this service in one way or another.

A second option to this, but less ideal, is to use a generic Windows 10 image downloaded from Microsoft (or your Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre). The device will be missing all drivers to start with, but that is usually addressed using either the Windows Update feature or the driver update tool for that particular vendor (which you should consider using anyways to keep your drivers up to date on all your machines).

Resetting the device

If you for some reason need to reset a computer, there is no need to use an external media source to re-install Windows 10. This is built into the operating system, just like on your phone.

In Windows 10, instead of injecting your custom image, you simply reset the computer. Depending on where you are coming at it from, you might have to do it in different approaches.

Microsoft have documented this process very well here, so I won’t dig into it further on a how-to level.

Conclusion

I’m going to make a bold statement that many of you might not agree with. But operating systems deployment and creating custom images are a thing of the past. It will still be around for years to come since change does not happen overnight, and most companies have invested heavily in this. But it will start to fade away as more and more companies dare to trust the OEMs that their images are good enough. This will not solve data-loss at all, but it will bring the device back up and running which is often just as important for the user. Creating a custom image is an artform, but soon that artform needs to evolve into something else. There is a shift happening and we need to find other approaches to the old problems when we use new tools.

Today, this will not fit all scenarios. But if you look at the big picture, this could probably cover 80-90% of your user-base. Heck, you could have your users replace disks them self and then recover the operating system (imagine that!).

I’ve tried this with several different types of machines and manufacturers, and it works really well. You can even reset a custom image using the built-in reset feature. The result, however, can be a bit strange if you have removed a lot of the built-in apps etc. But the machine will still work and the user might not notice (especially if you make sure to deploy the needed apps to the end-user using Intune).

Combine this with the power of Office 365 and the cloud for storing your documents and work and you will have a pretty sweet setup where the device isn’t that important anymore.

Do explore the different possibilities in using standardized recovery media, but I’m not saying it will solve all your problems but it will take away some headache and hours spent on creating and maintaining custom images.

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

Providing a modern workplace

This is a topic I’ve covered in some earlier article from the aspect of how we did it at my former employer. This time my idea is to cover this in a broader and more generic sense.

Living in 2020, IT is more than ever a big part and an enormous influence on your work environment and how productive you are.

IT is shifting from being a “technical” topic to be more of an HR topic, since it influences so many parts of your employment, a poor IT experience will heavily influence how happy you are with your employer. However, IT are still the ones responsible for it.

From talking with friends, peers, former co-workers, and customers there are a few things that tends to come back when it comes to IT in bigger organizations. And that is the lack of trust in that end-users knows what tools they need to perform their work and expects to get tools that support them in their daily work. There are of course exceptions to this but speaking in general terms I’m guessing that you don’t ask IT what tools you need to do your job; you ask your peers. Well unless you work in IT, then I guess you would ask IT… You get the point!

Users has diverse needs

We need to start considering our computers and mobile devices as tools, not “toys” in lack of better words.

If you think about it, if you were left one day at work without a computer and/or mobile device, would you be productive? Probably not. This means that these are crucial tools for our work since you are doing your business through them. Giving you something that is not fit for purpose would eventually be a bad investment, or not the correct tool. Still, computers and mobile devices are rarely considered business critical from an IT Service Management perspective.

If you think about it, your company spends a lot of time finding the right machinery, servers etc. for your business needs, but what about that computer you spend your day in front of doing business? Was that selected based on what your needs are or where you given the “corporate computer”?

Trying to stick to a “one size fits all” setup is deemed to fail eventually in a modern workplace. I have different needs for my computer/phone than people working as e.g. a communications professional. Also, a manager has different needs than the peers in their team.

I’m not saying that you should buy all the shiny things people points at and don’t standardize. What I’m saying is be smart in what you are buying. You have a diverse team with diverse needs, make sure you can full fill them!

For whom are IT working?

One thing that is extremely important, but sometimes forgotten, is for WHOM IT exist.

IT does not exist to provide IT with work tasks. IT exists to enable the employees of the company with tools fit for their needs to do their job in the best feasible way.

This is something we shall never forget. This is important. This is the sole purpose of an IT department. To be a support function to the core business.

At the same time, end-users need to understand that there is reason behind why things are done in a certain way. If they don’t know, it’s time to tell them!

Set goals and visions

To combat this, listen to what your end-users wants and communicate with them. Set clear roadmaps and vision for where you should be in let’s say five years. This will give you a goal to work towards and a roadmap to share.

By listening to your end-users, I’m not saying that they should dictate your every move. Be coherent in what their pain-points are and strive to minimize them. Thas how you can add real value and build trust in the organization.

I far to often hear “those people at IT have no idea what they are doing”. That shouldn’t be true. We should be the best at providing the services for OUR users. We should be the ones knowing their needs and strive to meet them.

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

What is Windows Autopilot – management edition

There are A LOT of misconceptions what Windows Autopilot is. Today I will try to sort those misconceptions out.

You have already heard a lot of different presentations about Windows Autopilot, why you should use it and why it’s so great. Because of that, I’ll leave most of those things out. This wont a technical post about what Windows Autopilot is, this will be more of the management edition of this.

Windows Autopilot – the concept

The basic theory behind Windows Autopilot is to streamline and take away time-consuming phases in the setup process of a corporate computer.

In the “traditional world” you would need to be on the corporate network and press F12 on the computer to initiate the installation of your custom image, that your IT-guys built. This custom image of Windows contains all your customizations, drivers and settings are pushed through Group Policy Objects, also called GPO. Many companies requires the computer to be “known” before it’s installed and you do what is called a pre-stage where you create the computer account in the active directory (AD) and assign group memberships. This process can take from an hour up to a few hours based on your connection and size of image (it’s usually pretty big).

In the world of Windows Autopilot, you take advantage of that the hardware manufacturer has already put a Windows 10 installation on the computer, with drivers installed from the factory (this is actually how computers are shipped even if you don’t use Windows Autopilot). Your vendor/partner/IT-department registers the computer hardware ID, which is unique to each computer, with your Microsoft tenant. Computer can also be joined to Azure AD groups based on this hardware ID.

When the computer is launched the first time, the user will be greeted with “Welcome to Contoso” and then asked to sign in. When sign in is completed, the computer is registered in Microsoft Intune and settings and customizations are applied.

This process is A LOT faster than traditional OS-deployment. The entire process and the computer are ready to use in 30-60 minutes (based on connectivity). All traffic is routed through the internet during setup and any connectivity to the corporate infrastructure can be routed through VPN if needed.

If you do the math, you can deploy a whole lot of more computer for a lower cost using Windows Autopilot.

Windows Autopilot – the reality

This sounds pretty neat huh?

But what is Windows Autopilot? Is it a completely new tool? Will it replace Microsoft Intune? What will my IT-technicians do, they spend 80% of the time installing computers today?

Without getting to technical about this, Windows Autopilot is a new name on a bunch of things that has been around for a while. And some new features.

Windows Autopilot is utilizing a lot of different technologies and should be viewed more as a workflow or a process rather than a technical feature. It combines the power of Azure AD, Microsoft Intune, and Microsoft Store for Business to provide a streamlined process for installing new computers. That’s about it.

This means that Windows Autopilot is nothing else than an automated and standardized process of setting up computers for your company.

However, from a technical point of view, there is a lot more things going on though. But this is the simple version.

Key take-away

The key take-away, and the thing to consider, around Windows Autopilot is if you need all the fancy switches and total customization you have with the traditional approach. Or would a lighter weight management do the trick for you? It probably will…

There are of course some if’s and but’s around this, but in general there aren’t that much. Your users could get their computer delivered straight to them and set them up by login in, given that they have internet access at their location.

There are options to prepare the computer for the user by having a technician do half the registration and setup to then re-seal the computer and ship it off to the user, if you want to minimize the amount of work being done by the end-user. This way, initial setup will be shorter for the end-user.

If you view Windows Autopilot as an automated process to setup computers in your organization and not a technology, things get a lot easier. With that said, it won’t suite all your special situations for computers, but you will cover most cases for office-based work!

Categories
Digital Transformation

Expectation management and communications

Before we get started, I’m in no way pretending to be a communications professional. These are just my experiences and learnings down the road.

Let’s face it, and we all know this. In general, we in IT are not great in end-user communication and expectation management. We live and breathe technology, and somewhere we sometimes forget that someone is supposed to use our fancy-best-of-breed-solution.

Okay, a bit over generalizing but if you have worked in IT, I think you might recognize this. We often forget about the end-user and we fail to tell them about all the wonderful things we do, but also what they can expect from us.

I will try to provide you with a high-level view, to help YOU take the decisions what to do and why, not really the HOW in this post.

Now that we have managed the expectations, let’s get into this.

Expectations management

Since you are reading this, I assume that you are in some way involved in the end-user service area and are either providing or helping to provide services to end users. You are operating in the layer where most users interact.

But what have you promised your end users? What are they buying from you? Do they know or are they just “paying the bill”? This is something that varies between organizations, depending on size, location, culture, and previous structures of the IT department.

But what are you selling to your end users? Are they just buy “a computer” or are there more services attached like deskside support and a helpdesk?

There are a lot of questions related to this, and hence one of the themes for this post.

What do your users THINK that they are buying and what are you delivering?

This is the most important part which is also the trickiest one. To set an expectation with your users (which are your customers) on what they will receive buying the service from you. It might be that you are the only one that are allowed to provide this service within you organization, or that you are the preferred one but they could operate it them self or turn to a third party to provide this.

None the less, making it clear for the end users on what to expect from your service is increasingly important. Especially since enabling new services is three clicks and a credit card away…

What value are you adding to the equation?

End-user communications

Enter end-user communications. This is a hard area and there is a reason that organizations hire communications professionals. They might not know all about fancy IT stuff (that’s not why they were hired), but you can make sure that they know all about getting your message out there!

From my experience by working in the end-user area, this is something that is super important but also, very often forgotten about. We tend to update something we consider as small, but it might have huge end-user impact. If we don’t successfully inform our users about this, we might cause unnecessary frustrations. Even though we need to adopt an Evergreen mindset, we need to make sure that our users know what’s going on. Keep them in the loop.

I’m no communications expert, but I’ve seen and delivered the outcome from projects where there were a lot of end-user communications and less communication. What do you think where the most successful, in the aspect of user adoption?

Yes, the projects where extensive end-user communications were performed.

However, you always need to adopt amount/channels/information to whomever is the target for the change. Some information might only be needed by your support people, other information might be of more value to your end-users.

The go-do / take away

So, what is the takeaway from this?

Try to define your services for your end-users possible and communicate these. A PDF hidden away on a SharePoint site will never be found, putting it on some sort of intranet site might be a better idea to clearly state to your end-users what they can expect by buying the service from you and what value you add to them.

This is of course something that varies between businesses, but defining services is a crucial step to set the expectations right with your users.

I would also really encourage you to reach out to your communications professionals within your business for advice and work together with them. They can really help you get you message out there, making sure that your end-users (customers) understand why things are happening and changing in the way they are. But don’t expect them to do your work for you. You will still need to put in the effort but getting their advice and/or input might change the success rate of your project.

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

The end of an era

It has finally happened. The process of decommissioning the old trusty Internet Explorer has begun.

Microsoft announced on the 17th of August that Micrsoft 365 will lose its support for Internet Explorer on August 17th, 2021. This is a quite tremendous change for many organizations, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Internet Explorer will be phased out eventually. Also, the “old” Edge will reach its end of life March 9th, 2021.

M365_Edge_ProductTeams_0-1597603232572.png
Image source: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/image/serverpage/image-id/212662i312B0747F33CC94E/image-size/large?v=1.0&px=999

Back when Windows 10 launched, there were a lot of buzz around the new, improved, browser Edge. However, it never took of (I however really liked it). A lot of business systems where built back when Internet Explorer was the thing and not always have the effort been put into adopting it to modern web.

With Windows 10, something called Enterprise Site Mode list was introduced, which was basically a XML list of sites where if you tried to go to them using Edge you would get redirected to Internet Explorer since that site was on your “not compatible” list for Edge.

We used this to a limited extent at my previous employer, but Internet Explorer was the default browser since we had no clue what other systems would have issues if we transitioned to Edge (or Chrome for that matter).

However, that was a few years ago and a lot has happened to Edge and there is a new Chromium (Chrome) based version out which is really good! And if you are a fan of the Chrome browser, but don’t want to have yet another browser installed to confuse your users, the new improved Edge is the way to go. It’s Chrome, but in a Microsoft shell (and you have Azure AD support without any extension).

But what does this all mean?

It means that it’s time to take the bull by its horn and start moving away from Internet Explorer as the default browser. The death of Internet Explorer is yet not announced in any shape or form but losing support for Microsoft 365 services is a major step in that direction.

The first step you need to take is to change into modern browser as the default for all your users. Since I’m a Microsoft advocate, I would suggest looking at the new Edge if you haven’t done so yet.

The new Edge comes for all supported Windows platforms, but also macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS. You could have the same browser for all corporate web interactions on all platforms (and of course directing mobile devices traffic using Application Protection Policies).

Also, deploying Microsoft Edge out to your clients is easy. If you are using Microsoft Intune to manage your devices, Edge for Windows is part of the “App type” to make it even easier to deploy.

What is your default browser today and are you looking to shift to the new Microsoft Edge?

Comment below!

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

The grey-area between work and private applications

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

TLDR; Microsoft AppStore, consider making this available for your users to unlock their full potential.

So, you have taken the leap over to Windows 10? (That’s awesome since support for Windows 7 ended 14th of January if you didn’t by additional extended support, I´m really hoping you did move).

Windows 10 brings you a LOT of new features, services, ideas and challenges. One of those is the Microsoft Store which grants your users access to all kinds of apps and other things like themes and language packs.

This is great, isn’t it?

This is an interesting topic. On one hand you have the fear of more support and your users demanding support for things your IT department is not prepared nor staffed for. On the other hand, this is a hidden gem full of potential and users expecting things to work in a certain way. This post will cover that, but mostly on the end of “this is a great idea” rather than “lock that down, we don’t support that!”. I’m not in any way judging someone or saying “your decision is wrong”, more on the hand of giving the point of view from someone who was responsible for 35k clients and what I learned from that and form talking to customers, peers and friends who uses Windows 10 in a corporate setup.

Disclaimer before I start. I will as usually oversimplify stuff (as the naive millennial I am), don’t care about network capacity and things like that. This will target an expected user behaviour and user expectations. Also, I’m aware that I’ve in some way or another discussed this with people who reads this and I’m not calling you out on any things mentioned in this in any shape or form, you inspired me to write this. I might also be neglecting any legal/licensing aspects of this.

Microsoft Store – the difference between private and corporate

But let’s start with the basics. What is Microsoft Store?

Microsoft Store is a marketplace for applications, much like the AppStore/Google Play Store we know from our phone (I know MacOS also have this but I’m leaving that out for now). The store offers users to download applications to their machine from a trusted source (applications are checked by Microsoft before being published) and they can install these without privileged access (admin access). All applications are installed in a user-context and user A will never see user B’s applications. The risk or malicious code is extremely small.

There is however one major thing to point out here, which is easily missed. There IS a distinction between your private sphere and your corporate sphere.

If you download e.g. Spotify or Netflix, this application will be connected to your PERSONAL Microsoft account if you download it from the public part of the store. If you choose to download it without and account, it will still be connected to a “personal sphere”.

BUT if you download an application from the business side of the store, this will be connected to your corporate account. To download things connected to your corporate account, you need to enable Microsoft Store for Business and this will give your users a new tab in the store called e.g. Contoso. Everything downloaded from this tab, will be connected to your organisation and you will have to obtain a license for it (free or paid). This requires your users to either sign in with their Azure AD account, you to enable hybrid join or the machine being only Azure AD joined.

This means that Windows can keep track of what is private and what is corporate which means that you will only need to keep track of what YOU support.

What if your employees are more productive if they listen to music? Should you block that on their computer? And what happens when you block e.g. Spotify on their corporate computer?

Well, most information workers today have corporate issued smartphone… You didn’t restrict that app on those kinds of devices. So, your workers will consume that service, with a privately owned account, anyways on a corporate device…

And to be honest, if you blocked this one their corporate phone, they would use their personal device instead (or even an old fashion radio).

Enter the grey-area between work and personal life

What does your user expect in the form of services, support and how to use their devices?

User behaviour has shifted a lot since the dawn of device management. We are now entering 2020 and most people have some form of knowledge of how to use a computer or a phone. This means that the expectations are shifting and we at IT needs to adapt to this and understand that our users now know their way around a computing device (computer or phone). Concepts as internet, App-stores and browsers are not new, this has been around for about a decade (the Apple AppStore was released 12 years ago, in 2008). The next generation workforce is also entering the market, and now I’m talking about the Gen Z people who doesn’t know about the world without internet and computers. Millennials are entering their 30’s, time to move on and stop being scared of us.

All this, and the fact that >80% of the population in Sweden have access to a smartphone, means that we need to expect more from our users today than we could 10-15 years ago. We can also expect that they know what services they need, e.g. Spotify might not be a corporate app but might be something that your users’ need to stay focused (and paying for them self). Simply put, we have more experienced users today and we need to meet their expectations, not limit them from reaching their full potential. Simply put, using a computer to perform tasks is not a new thing anymore.

The use of such apps leaves a grey-area between what is work and what is personal. E.g. Spotify might be something your user is using to stay focused to do their work better, while paying for it as a personal service, and it’s not accessing any corporate data since its running in an isolated container (I’m intentionally leaving out network from this). Since this is a subscription service, purchased privately and consumed on personal devices, this won’t require any support from you and the user won’t expect it either. They application will also be “owned” by their personal account, not the corporate one.

What do we support?

One thing I’ve heard from several different customers/partners/peers is “What if they call and want support on application X, we must support whatever we allow on the device”.

My usual answer to this is “Do you support Angry Birds on iPhone?”. The most common answer is no.

Why? Well, it’s not a corporate app. Neither is Spotify, Netflix, WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter is a corporate app. UNLESS you make it available in the Microsoft Store for Business.

If you make it available in Microsoft Store for Business, that means that you as a company acquired a license for it and you actively made it available for the user. The same goes for applications from Apple AppStore (using VPP) and Managed Google Play. Any application you mark as a corporate approved application, you should expect your users to expect support on.

What about everything else in the app-stores? Well simply tell your users that this is not an application approved for your company and they need to reach out to the application developer/vendor for support, its simply “not supported” by your organisation. Like I said earlier, you don’t support all +130 million applications in the iOS AppStore, do you?

What does real life users expect?

By talking to network of friends, customers, peers, and former co-workers. What do they say?

Well it was a straightforward, non-statistical secured, answer:

We do not expect IT to help us out with applications we obtain for “personal use”

This means if they have problems with e.g. Spotify or any other applications which is not work relate nor sanctioned by/licensed by their employer, they won’t call IT. This is also something I can confirm as previously being the operations manager for the client platform in a global company, support for app-store apps is not a huge problem. And if you managed the expectations from your users in an effective way, you will be fine.

Let’s face it, the way we use technology today is different from that it was 5-10 years ago. We need to adapt.

The go-do…

What’s the go-do from this? Well, I’m not saying that you should make this available for all users tomorrow but consider piloting this outside the comfort of IT and evaluate the outcome before deciding. This might be an appreciated addition to your offering towards your end-users.

What are your thoughts? Do you see the app-stores on the different platforms as hidden potential or a potential support problem? Let me know in the comments.

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
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
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.