12 Jul Modern Endpoint Management: five ways to make it a win for your organisation
Delivering an array of benefits, particularly for organisations with a distributed workforce, Microsoft’s Modern Endpoint Management suite is solving for all sorts of operational challenges. But it takes a strategic approach to ensure these tools are delivering an uplift for security, efficiency, employee experience and return on investment.
Ironically enough, device management has been a less ‘visible’ issue for IT teams to address during the great shift to flexible and remote working. The boom in Zoom, Teams and other apps to support collaborative working across multiple locations was the headline priority, together with a renewed focus on cloud transition as a way to provision remote teams with a fit-for-purpose tech stack and virtual working environment.
But while IT teams have been required to put a lot of their time and energy into the tech employees experience through their devices, the matter of hardware has also been a tricky one to manage during a pandemic. Provisioning and managing devices during lockdowns has been challenging, but it has also inspired tech leaders like Microsoft to invest further in tools to solve for these challenges while giving organisations the opportunity to step up security and efficiency for device management.
While the tools themselves are the initial investment organisations must make, there are a whole host of considerations for IT, risk and HR/workforce leaders to explore if these five key benefits of Modern Endpoint Management are to be realised:
1. A seamless, consistent employee experience
The lifting of lockdowns towards the end of 2021 has taken some of the pressure off organisations to support remote working arrangements. But a highly competitive job market is making talent retention and attraction difficult and remote working is one of the carrots candidates are looking for. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index report, remote working roles advertised on LinkedIn attract 2.6 times more views and nearly three times more applicants compared to on-site roles.
As we saw during lockdowns, the ability to secure, deploy, and manage corporate and personal devices remotely was something of a superpower for IT teams with Modern Management tooling and processes already up and running. Being able to send a device from the factory to an employee’s home where they can logon to access their pre-configured profile can help employees be productive from day one of working from home. This straight out of the box experience can also help employees feel like they’re on board from the beginning and part of a modern organisation that gives them what they need to get their job done.
Modern Management tooling continues to support this responsive employee experience by enabling fully remote patching and upgrades to the standard operating environment (SOE). Employees no longer have to return to an office location, or connect to a VPN, to refresh their device and get access to the very latest app features and protection for their data and device.
Where employees are using non-standard devices and operating systems – under BYOD arrangements, this plug and play and standard refresh routine can become more complex, with trade-offs between security and useability. And, as highlighted in a recent article on the rise of evergreen IT solutions, this remote refresh cycle isn’t a hands-off scenario for IT teams. It’s more a shift in emphasis from using significant IT resources on the actual deployment of upgrades to education and support for best-practice use of new app releases.
2. Less IT overhead
With a thorough and holistic approach to Endpoint Management, IT teams can also tap into the benefits of the Microsoft hive mind. They can access powerful data on issues arising from system or application upgrades and how to prepare or solve for them. Taking cues from these learnings can go a long way towards eliminating the intensive testing and teething troubles IT teams will often find themselves bogged down with in performing a system or application upgrade.
Keeping operating systems and apps up to date with less hassle before, during and after is just one efficiency gain IT can look forward to with Microsoft Endpoint Management in their tech stack. When an organisation chooses Surface devices for their inventory, their refresh cycles are far easier to track too. Warranties are logged automatically as are hardware issues such as battery life. With automation of device diagnostics and renewal reports, there is little to no human overhead involved in making sure devices are replaced before reaching the end of their useful life span.
3. More value and alignment
These are just some examples of how a mature Modern Management approach can reduce the ‘keep the lights on’ overhead for IT and allow leaders to channel time and budget into other projects and services. This can, in turn, pave the way for better engagement between IT and other business units as they evolve from a troubleshooting shop to an education and enablement outfit.
But it can often take time for this evolution of an IT function to take shape and be accepted by the wider organisation and the team itself. When there is a strong culture of IT being there as the fixers, independence can seem scary at first. In a recent project involving the merger of two tech stacks, a modern management solution was a necessity for post-lockdown provisioning of employees that had been office based. But it also created a practical and necessary rationale for consolidating strategies and processes for tech support. While one team had relied on outsourced tech support, the other were accustomed to a fully fledged internal helpdesk. By introducing Modern Endpoint Management, less support was needed, giving the merged IT team freedom to move forward with a new structure to support more innovative, less reactive work.
4. Locking out cyber threats
Given the growing popularity of Zero Trust as the foundation of a cyber security strategy, it’s no surprise to see a growing number of our Endpoint Management projects being driven by cyber teams. For one of our clients with offices and employees spread across Australia and Asia, their top priority was to move from patchy levels of device management across locations to a consistent set of processes across all devices and locations, supported by the Microsoft Endpoint Management suite.
With such a high degree of inconsistency in the status of devices, this was quite the logistical challenge. But once we understood the footprint and the desired state, we could work together with the cyber and IT teams to uplift both device security and the look and feel of the operating environment, bringing advantages to employee experience as well as reducing risk of cyber threats and data breaches.
In a project like this standardising device management for improved security can be far simpler when two conditions are met – IT are free to control devices regardless of who owns them and there are a limited number of identity profiles to cater to. When there are BYOD arrangements and a wide variety of access requirements for teams and individuals, project parameters and implementation can quickly balloon. When the scope is larger, protocols can become more complex, compromising efficiency gains for IT teams and ease of use for employees.
5. Levelling up for cloud adoption
At the end of the day, securing devices is about protecting data. For organisations looking to roll out zero trust best practice as a comprehensive defence mechanism, protecting end points is really just the beginning. As Microsoft say, zero trust needs to ‘extend from the chip to the cloud.’ If organisations aren’t yet ready to take the step up with securing their data architecture and infrastructure, stricter management of thousands of end points introduces at least one layer of data protection.
This is the reason for the ‘why’ question we’ll always ask clients when they approach us for a quote on an autopilot solution, for example. Is their goal to rollout an identity solution? Are they aiming for the dream state of plugging in any device and mapping it to a profile to preload an environment, application and data set for that user? If they are and haven’t yet made a complete move to the cloud, then they’re likely to be somewhat disappointed in the scope of benefits modern endpoint management can deliver.
This isn’t to say that an organisation’s only option for making a decent return on their endpoint management investment is to push their applications and data to the cloud without further delay. When they have a heavy investment to recoup from on prem infrastructure, this may not be viable, and a hybrid solution can be the best way forward.
 2022 Work Trend Index: Annual Report: Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work, Microsoft, March 16, 2022.