blog May 18, 2021  |  Workspace

The Benefits of a Modern Workplace Solution

Type
blog
Service
Workspace
Author
Jake story
Date
May 2021
Modern Workplace Solution – laptop on desk

Today, employees work remotely from multiple devices and consume more applications from the cloud or as a service. This is a fundamental shift in how people work in a short space of time. Now, organisations need to keep pace with this and re-evaluate their tools and processes for provisioning, managing and securing employee devices.  

Device and image-focused management, which was once best-practice, is now too time-consuming, resource-intensive and inflexible. Now that the workplace has shifted, so too must the IT that supports it. By changing to a lighter management model for end-user computing (EUC), organisations support evolved working habits, enabling employees, IT and the wider business to be more agile.   

But there’s more to this than just changing tools. It requires modernising processes, acquiring new skill sets and revising roles. These changes affect everything from application deployment, testing cycles, communication and even engagement with other business units.  

This modernisation will primarily impact desktops and laptops running Microsoft Windows, which are most of the computers in use, accounting for a significant share of IT operational overhead. By reducing device-level overhead, employees take a more active role in managing their workspaces and it becomes more hands-off for IT on a day-to-day basis. This may mean that some professionals may have to alter their role, which requires a carefully managed transition. 

To skip through to a particular section of this post, please use the links below...

  1. The State of Play
  2. EUC Recommendations in a Nutshell
  3. What is UEM?
  4. How Management Processes Change
  5. Moving to Modern Management

The State of Play

Before at-scale home working, forced on office workers by lockdown in 2020, organisations were typically hesitant to modify well-established EUC processes in fear of disrupting business as usual. But the mantra here is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t wait for it to break’ – mainstream operating systems are evolving faster and employees are demanding more from devices and platforms all the time. With so much change in the workplace since 2020, the issue is not whether to move to a lightweight modern workplace solution but when and how. Here are some stats to consider: 

Distributed Workforces Aren’t Going Anywhere 

  • 60% of employers agree remote working is now a pre-requisite (1) 

  • 30% of the workforce will work multiple remote days by the end of 2021 (2). 
     

IT has a Host of New Challenges Caused by the New Normal 

  • Cost: IT teams are increasing spending on systems and data integration by up to 48% (3) 

  • Complexity: on average, there are 21 stakeholders involved in a technology purchase decision (4) 

  • People: 49% of organisations don’t have an IT liaison role to address department silos (5) 

  • Availability: 54% of organisations cite technology and infrastructure as the top barriers to remote work (6) 

  • Security: 91% of security professionals reported an increase in cyber-attacks because of the shift to remote work (7). 

Citations for this section can be found, at the bottom of the post.

IT’s Responsibilities Today and in the Future 

  1. Ensuring a consistent user experience at scale for remote workers including purchasing hardware and software; setting up devices; answering help desk tickets; providing remote support. 

  1. Enabling business services across siloed departments/ functions including HR, legal, security and compliance, retail and employee experience. 

Cloud Adoption is Central to Supporting the Anywhere Workforce 

Digital infrastructures are central to driving successful business outcomes, and cloud adoption is how organisations can standardise platforms and reduce time-to-market. Organisations need to... 

  • Rethink what infrastructure is and does 

  1. Utilise digital platforms at all levels (hardware, software, data)  

  1. Deliver efficiency and cost consolidation  

  1. Enable the agility required to make distributed workforces seamless. 
     

  • Take a modern, cloud-based approach to managing EUC 

  1. Manage endpoints and processes in the cloud 

  1. Standardise and automate operations across multiple platforms 

  1. Improve efficiency and speed of innovation. 

Citations from this section can be found at the end of this post.

Recommendations in a Nutshell

To reduce management overhead and keep pace with the changing workplace, IT must: 

  • Shift the focus of workplace management from devices and system images to users and entitlements. 

  • Adopt unified endpoint management (UEM) tools to support the constant change that occurs at the device, user and policy levels. 

  •  Transform the provisioning, configuration, application management, patching and security of digital workspaces by adopting user-centric, dynamic processes. 

  • Align key stakeholders with a unified vision for workspace management and security. Establish new levels of collaboration with security and application teams. 

  • Help EUC, Engineering, IT Operations and Support teams understand the organisational and professional benefits of enabling a dynamic workplace evolution. Provide access to the tools and the knowledge needed for this transformation. 

  • Encourage a more proactive role for employees in the onboarding and management of their workspaces. Plan to communicate and educate employees accordingly. 

What is UEM?

UEM enables IT to manage, secure and deploy resources and applications on any device from a single console. Instead of provisioning PCs by  

  1. building images 

  1. establishing staging servers 

  1. relying on complex and heavy PC Lifecycle Management (PCLM) infrastructures 

  1. Being limited to pre-configured standards. 

Organisations can use UEM tools to securely enrol any device—such as a Windows 10, macOS or Chrome laptop—and reliably deliver applications, data and personalised settings to it. This includes user’s personal devices as part of a bring-your-own (BYO) programme. 

The advantage of lightweight management is that it remains simple even when the environment evolves quickly. For instance, when managing mobile devices with UEM, one IT staff person can typically support 2,000–5,000 users, despite fast refresh cycles of 18–24 months for devices and platforms. By applying a lightweight approach to PC management, similar benefits can be obtained. 

Because traditional PC management processes are highly entrenched in EUC teams and the skillsets of IT practitioners, many organisations are reluctant to face the possible disruption caused by modernisation. But over time, these older processes will become a barrier in effectively managing the modern workplace. 

Instead of a “take it or leave it” approach, which is common in many organisations that use imaged PCs, provisioning can be based on a user’s specific needs and requirements. An individual’s profile (rather than a device’s profile) determines which applications and services are delivered. As a result, organisations can fit technology to user workflows and requirements in a more dynamic and agile way. UEM overcomes the rigidity of traditional tools and processes in several ways... 

Device and Platform Choice  

Employees want a greater choice in how they work, and PCLM tools, coupled with traditional processes, present a roadblock in enabling employees to use personal devices for work. Managing PCs through standard system images and hardware is an obstacle to adopting a greater diversity of device types, form factors and platforms because each system introduced substantially increases the work required to manage the PC environment. 

Unified endpoint management works across multiple platforms, enabling you to configure, control and monitor a wide range of devices from a single management console. Because configuration processes can be predicated on user-based policies rather than on the underlying hardware configuration, organisations can enable different device ownership models, ensuring that policies follow users on any device. 

Distributed Workforce  

Anticipating that workers will expect a mix of remote and office-based working, OS updates, application delivery and device security need to be provided in ways that are independent of location and network.   

Traditional PC management processes, especially those related to patching and application management, are increasingly out of sync with evolving employee work styles. They are designed to manage devices on the corporate domain and network and are tied to traditional network architectures. 

A modern management framework based on UEM overcomes these limitations by keeping all endpoints (whether in the office or elsewhere), up-to-date and compliant with corporate policies. New processes can be established to onboard, distribute applications, give secure access to corporate resources, and monitor and support a remote workforce.  

OS and Application Management  

Traditional management processes were designed to evolve through major feature releases every 3 to 5 years, but modern operating systems evolve through smaller, more frequent updates to target a specific issue. According to industry experts, the work required to absorb frequent OS updates using traditional PC management processes and to test and pilot applications against new releases increases management costs. Under a modern management model, not only is the cost of absorbing OS updates lower but support, administration and deployment also present less overhead. 

Indirect costs, or the lost productivity due to downtime and the time spent by users trying to resolve their own issues, are also reduced because devices running dynamic operating systems and their associated applications are generally more reliable. Just as a user might start watching Netflix on a TV but then switch to an iPad, PCs can increasingly be considered appliances. Users can quickly swap devices when facing an issue, so downtime and lost productivity is minimised. 

How Management Processes Change

Implementing modern management means augmenting existing processes or replacing them with dynamic ones. These changes affect everything from application deployment, testing cycles, engagement with business units and even how information is communicated to IT across the business. 

 

Traditional management 

Modern management 

Deployment  Image management is high touch, requiring IT resources  Faster onboarding options, including deployment and self-service enrolment. 
Configuration  On-network Group Policy Objects (GPOs)  Configuration based on profiles and cloud policies defined in conjunction with the security team and managers. 
Patching  Monthly patch round-up  EUC establishes how and when updates are applied and determines distribution rings. Greater reliance on users testing. 
App management  Resource-intensive packaging  Easy packaging in combination with comprehensive self-service application catalogue, based on users’ entitlements defined by the business. 
Security  Reactive  Proactive. Adopted to users’ work style, applications and data requirements. 

Dynamic processes reduce overhead, improve agility and introduce security benefits, but transitioning to the new processes also requires reorganizing the EUC team and rebalancing skillsets. IT skills in new tools and approaches need to be expanded while those based on PC management processes will be in less demand. 

Moving to Modern Management

The shift to modern management reduces overhead and enhances agility for IT, employees and the entire organisation.  

To navigate this shift successfully, many processes and best practices need to be reinvented. Using UEM tools to manage all devices means reorganising teams and rebalancing skillsets. Organisational structures that separate mobile and desktop management functions need to be rethought as the benefits of a single, combined team tasked with supporting all users and devices become more apparent. 

This is a large undertaking for an IT team to deliver alone alongside day-to-day delivery, which is where a cloud partner like Ekco can help. With experience across leading Modern Workplace technologies such as Microsoft 365, VMware Workspace One and more, our team can help you identify a path forward that supports your vision, streamlining deployment and IT support while making the workforce even more productive. 

All of these benefits are in scope but only achievable through careful planning, effective communication and a shift in IT culture. Modernising EUC can act as a catalyst for other areas of the digital workspace, such as application delivery, onboarding and endpoint management. The benefits extend far beyond the IT team, enabling other changes to be made across security, support and lines of business. 

To learn more about Ekco’s Modern Workplace services, get in touch with our team today. 

Citations in this blog 

1 VMware, Inc. “The New Remote Work Era: Trends in the Distributed Workforce Survey.” 2020. 

2 Global Workplace Analytics. “Work-At-Home After Covid-19—Our Forecast.” Kate Lister. April 2020. 

3 Computer Economics, Inc. “IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks 2020/2021.” 2020. 

4 IDG. “2019 Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker Research.” April 22, 2019. 

5 IDG. “2016 IDG Enterprise Role & Influence of the Technology Decision-Maker.” August 16, 2016. 

6 Gartner, Inc. “With Coronavirus in Mind, Is Your Organization Ready for Remote Work?” Jackie Wiles. March 3, 2020. 

7 VMware, Inc. “Global Threat Report: Extended enterprise under threat.” Rick McElroy. June 2020. 

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