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.

Categories
Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

Deploying the future

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

This is the second part of a series about the digital transformation journey we are doing at Sandvik. You can find the first part here, Leaving legacy in 2018.

When I joined Sandvik back in 2017 we were right in the middle of upgrading our Configuration Manager environment from SCCM 2007 to SCCM Current Branch. This was a huge project in which we invested a lot of money and time into with our delivery partner.

We finally pulled through. Everyone involved in the project did a huge effort to get us there, from the SCCM delivery team/technicians to local IT. This was our first step towards the future for our clients and this meant we could start working on Windows 10.

Configuration Manager and deploying applications were however still somewhat of a struggle for us. Every other time we did a large deployment we had to deploy in waves, spend a lot of time and effort into not “killing” the slower sites which often meant deploying on weird hours and asking users to leave their machines on during the night at the office. It happened more than one time that we had to pull the plug on deployments since we were consuming all the bandwidth in the network for some sites, even the bigger ones. We did have a peer-to-peer solution, but it was not spread out to all sites and machines.

We had to fix this.

Since we had moved to SCCM CB a lot of new opportunists opened up (maybe not from day one though) which meant that we actually had tools in our toolbox to solve this in a new way, such as Branch Cache and Peer Cache (which in them self are not new functions).

We decided to start with Branch Cache since our biggest problem was application distribution. We piloted the Branch Cache at a few sites to see if we actually could gain something from this, and the results were really promising so we started deploying this throughout our whole environment, starting with the most prioritized sites without local distribution points and then over to all sites. When Branch Cache was widely deployed, we scaled down our 1E Nomad solution and eventually removed it.

We managed to do the following bigger things without causing network interference and seeing Branch Cache being utilized.

  • Deploy Office 365 ProPlus update to > 25 000 computers
  • Deploy Windows 10 feature update to > 18 000 computers

And then we had the one we are most proud of to date. We deployed Teams to > 25 000 users, with utilization in Branch Cache of 70%. This is our best number so far for applications, and then we are not yet using phased deployments in Config Manager.

Our next step right now is to get Peer Cache out on a few sites, especially sites with bad connections to the closest distribution point. The reason we want to get Peer Cache out in the environment is to ease PxE installation on our smaller/remote sites. In parallel to this, we are also investigating how we could utilize LEDBAT for the traffic between our SCCM servers. This, however, requires that our SCCM servers are running at least Windows Server 2016 and we are not completely there yet. But there is still a lot of time left during 2019!

The take away from this

The biggest takeaway, Branch Cache works, and it works really well. If you have not yet started to investigate Branch Cache, I would advise you to do so. This has saved us a lot of headache and time since we can now deploy with great confidence that we will not disturb our critical business systems with our traffic which might not be as critical. The fact that we have managed to reduce the WAN traffic with up to 70% for larger deployments has improved the trust of other teams that we can deploy things in a disturbance-free way.

I also want to point out that our team of technicians and architects has done tremendous work making this possible.

Categories
Digital Transformation

Leaving legacy in 2018

(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

Imagine that you run the workplace area for a global industrial company, which is a very traditional industry when it comes to IT and the workplace (low risk taking). This company is running the almost 10-year-old Windows 7 and Config Manager 2007. The ambition level is to “keep the light on”, we can’t move too fast.

Your first thought is probably not that this company is striving to be innovative in the workplace area.

Now, imagine that said company has made the move over to Windows 10 for the majority of its PCs and is keeping up to date with Configuration Manager current branch, deploying the latest update with a two week delay from release. Said company has also positioned itself to be a front runner (high risk taking) and is eager to adopt emerging technology.

How long do you think this shift took?

What if I told you that we shifted this around in two years, moving from a legacy environment to a aggressive, front running, position where everything is kept up to date. Would you believe me?

We actually did this shift, in about two years’ time. Migrating over 18 000 clients during 2018 with little technical friction, this on a global level. We still have PCs left to migrate, but the majority of the remaining machines are up for replacement during 2019.

Doing this, we saw these things happen:

  • Over 99,6% application compatibility for Windows 10
  • Start-up time reduced from an average of 130 seconds to 20 seconds
  • People WANTED to move to Windows 10

Before we closed 2018, we also piloted Windows 10 servicing with 1803 for about 700 computers. This was somewhat of a bumpy ride, hitting some hard blockers such as anti-virus and VPN clients not liking the upgrade. But this was expected, these are problematic applications. The installation it self, work really well on the client which could run the update (since we were in the middle of replacing our anti-virus and only consultants got the VPN issue not everyone in the pilot was affected).

Right before the Christmas holidays 2019, we made the 1809 upgrade available for our early rings.

So where did we close 2018?

  • Deployed over 18 000 Windows 10 clients, globally
  • Upgraded around 700 clients to 1803
  • Made the 1809 upgrade available for 100 clients
  • On top of this, we upgraded Config Manager three times

If we manged to move from legacy to front runner in 2 years, imagine where we will be in 2 years from now.

“Change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again” – Graeme Wood

What this all comes down to is building trust. Building trust in the organization and building trust in an ever-changing world.