Telecommuting, working remotely, and mobile working have been rising trends for many years. However, while most organizations had solutions in place to enable parts of their workforce to operate remotely, when COVID-19 arrived very few were equipped to cater to a rapid increase in demand virtually overnight. Even fewer had the ability to maintain seamless and consistent operation of IT services for a sustained period.
The world’s largest and most sudden work-from-home pilot, triggered by the pandemic, put many IT organizations on the ropes in the early weeks. Having struggled to address surging business demand to get people the access they needed to be productive, organizations were then faced with their own operational challenges: how do you keep IT services and support running while no-one is in, or able to come to a corporate location?
Device lifecycle management was one of the largest and more complicated hurdles that IT organizations had to overcome. And the large majority of them are still struggling to achieve the parity, in both service levels and efficiency, that they had before the pandemic. IT organizations that weathered the early stages of the crisis the best were those that had already invested in processes and tools that were location agnostic and had removed the physical handling of devices from the device lifecycle supply chain. Having designed for “edge” cases and assumed that every user is always remote, they were easily able to continue to deliver service to end-users, without the need for either themselves, or those they supported, to be in a corporate location.
These IT organizations were certainly prescient. External studies conducted by Accenture Research during the COVID-19 crisis indicated that as many as 35% of all employees plan to continue working remotely for at least part of the week, even when the crisis ends.1 Other research also suggests that in North America the number of people who work from home at least two days per week is likely to increase by 500 to 700 percent.2 This is a strong indicator that the impact of the pandemic on workstyles will be permanent for many, and that investments in transforming device lifecycle management now will continue to pay operational and workplace experience dividends well into the future.
The future state of workplace management
Successful device lifecycle outcomes can be achieved through co-created and managed solutions that are unique to each organization. These solutions should be centered around end-user satisfaction, based on an evergreen model, and proactively intelligent operationally.
Key areas for companies aiming for workplace transformation include:
- Device procurement & provisioning
- A current & secure environment
- Proactive & modern device management
- Device retirement & renewal
Device Procurement & Provisioning
Today, companies usually provide every employee with a standard device on the day they join the organization. Much of the first day or two will be spent setting up the device, installing applications, and requesting access as required.
Organizations with a more modern workplace approach allow new hires to access a portal before they join. There they can choose the device that best suits their personal work style and needs from a selection of corporately curated makes and models. Then on their first day, whether that’s in the office or at home, the employee receives the device, unboxes it, plugs in the power and logs in with their corporate credentials.
Within just a few minutes, the device will be fully provisioned with all the corporate settings and applications that the user needs, with the appropriate level of enterprise access enabled. In organizations that do this, new employees are connected (and productive) from their very first day.
How do leading organizations make this happen?
Devices of choice are predetermined by a set of fact-based personae created by assessing the company’s current user experience through endpoint management software. After a user selects their device, and the option to have it delivered to their home, the company’s internal ticketing system triggers an action in their partner systems to order and ship the device. The company can use several offerings to track the device. The company can use several offerings to track the device. Platforms including Intel® Transparent Supply Chain provide visibility and two-level traceability, dealing with any issues that might arise from counterfeit or dubious components.
The process is completed by leveraging zero-touch operations and modern device management processes that use Intel® vPro platform , Microsoft® Intune and Microsoft® Autopilot or VMware® WorkspaceOne to provision a new user’s profile, applications and access. Whether they’re in the office, or working remotely, the new user is set up and ready to go. Only limited interaction with the company’s IT department has been necessary.
Maintaining a current & secure environment
Onboarding is just one component of successful workplace integration. The priority should always be to maintain a current and secure environment for end-user computing. Many companies, however, have rapidly degrading devices and infrastructures that are still running on Windows 7. As a result, their infrastructure managers lack the tools they need to update and manage their aging fleets of devices. This makes it difficult to handle the threat of cyber-attack and leaves them little time to focus on other areas like longer-term application management strategy.
Now more than ever, companies need to implement a deployment plan to replace all existing Windows 7 devices. The priority? Installing Windows 10 instead and deploying hardware with integrated management capabilities such as the one available on the Intel® vPro platform.
How does this help infrastructure managers?
Infrastructure managers should aim to keep up to date through an evergreen model that supports their devices, firmware and applications. This model should be grounded in servicing and integrating device security to pinpoint issues at a hardware, OS and antivirus level.
We see leading organizations following the latest standards for Windows 10 services, including releases of feature and quality updates. Many OEMs provide solutions to assist in doing this at scale leveraging platforms such as Intel® Hardware Shield, an out of the box feature on 10th gen Intel® Core™ vPro® processor-based devices. These include HP® Essential Security, Lenovo® ThinkShield, and Dell® Endpoint security, all of which bring sets of capabilities that provide resilience to hardware and software. It’s up to each company to decide on the solution that best fits their device and workplace strategy.
Whichever solution they select, infrastructure managers should make sure that it will help them assess the impact of updates – whether to line-of-business (LOB), commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications – so that they can confidently deploy updates to critical applications. Once their preferred solution has been implemented, the company will finally have time to focus on its application management strategy.
Proactive & modern device management
Given the shift in future work locations predicted by Accenture Research3, it is vital for companies to concentrate now on enabling the continued productivity of their remote workforce. Issues often have a habit of arising during time-crunched activities. When this happens, and without an IT service-desk at the end of the corridor to fix their machine, users can feel stranded and the business may be impacted.
To address this, the first step is ensuring tools are available that allow support agents to access users’ devices remotely, even when their software or hardware has failed. Forward-looking companies take this further by deploying additional tools to monitor the performance of end-user devices at a process level. An example of this would be an Infrastructure Management team that can connect into the remote worker’s devices utilizing Intel®Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel® EMA) cloud based remote manageability capabilities to quickly resolve their issue within minutes. This enables proactive remediation of the issues that often impede performance and functionality – even before they impact the user.
Keeping users productive, more secure and healthier, avoiding the need for them to reach out for support not only increases their business impact, it also reduces the manpower required by IT to service a user-base that’s now more dispersed than ever.
How do leading organizations keep their remote workers productive and service-desk workloads low??
To effectively monitor endpoints, we see some leading organizations using tools that pull in and analyze multiple datapoints from their user devices, applications, and other technologies. The organization can use this data to validate incidents immediately and deploy automated fixes. Where those fixes can’t resolve issues, technologies are available, such as Intel® EMA, that enhance support teams’ capabilities with remote out-of-band management technology to access devices, even when they’re switched off.
The Intel® vPro platform, and capabilities like these, help shift incidents left. They do this by leveraging the right diagnostic and automation tools to take incidents previously solved by L1/L2/L3 or onsite support and direct them more efficiently to L0/L1/L2 support. These points are all targeted at creating great employee experiences and enabling service-desk efficiency.
Device Retirement and Renewal
To remove the need for big-bang upgrades dictated by budget cycles, device refresh needs to become a business-as-usual activity. As well as minimizing the upheaval that mass upgrades can cause, this will boost user satisfaction. Employees don’t like having to keep on using the same device for years. It raises the risk of failure through degraded performance and undermines the user experience. Particularly when so many people are working from home, it can make them feel “out of the loop” and lacking the support they need.
To address these issues, CIO’s should aim for a predictable, low-cost device refresh at least every three years. This means that instead of having to keep on using the same device for years, workers can simply hand in their old device and pick up a new one via courier. And just like the day they joined, the device will be set up with the required applications, access and files. Having been given the tools they need to succeed at their job, the worker feels supported – wherever they’re based, at home or in the office.
What happens behind the scenes when devices are retired?
At the end of a device’s life, the company should present two options for a device refresh: pick up the new device from an office or ship the device directly to the employee. In the office, once an end-of-life (EOL) device is turned in, the data on it is wiped and the device is either repurposed for reuse or recycled. If the device has an Intel® SSD and is shipping back from an employee’s home, Intel® Remote Secure Erase can be used to wipe a device remotely before it ships.
How your company can get started
If your organization is evaluating how to proceed with a workplace transformation involving remote employee enablement, here are a few points to consider before moving ahead:
- Be prepared for the “new normal”: Does your current technology enable your organization to build and support hybrid teams of remote and office-based workers? Rapidly assess your people, places and technology readiness to support short- and long-term remote working and new utilization patterns in corporate workplaces.
- Modernize your workplace with device deployment/management processes: Does your company utilize Intel vPro® platform-based devices with Microsoft Intune and Autopilot or Workspace One to effectively automate IT solutions?
- Understand device and employee performance in real time: Is your organization equipped with tools that effectively monitor user experience, sentiments and device or application performance – with the ability to proactively address known problems before they’re reported by users.
The time for the modernization of manageability has arrived. And that means supporting users and the business, regardless of where people are working. The good news? Solutions exist and are readily available. But up to now, enterprises have been slow to adopt them.
1 Creating an intelligent workplace
2 “Work-at-Home After Covid-19—Our Forecast,” Global Workplace Analytics, 2020.
3 Future Workforce Insights