A significant change is happening about how workplaces are managed and used in the future. Software vendors like Microsoft refer to this as The Modern Workplace.
For the past 20 years enterprises followed the paradigm of a strictly controlled workplace. Workplaces should stick to a company standard. Deviations to this standard were unwanted and considered to lead to higher management costs. The goal was to have a golden (single) image of the base installation and only accept small changes to settings and software. To achieve this goal, users were restricted to a minimum of rights without any self service capabilities.
This model worked well for years, but todays requirements on productivity and the increasing complexity of usecases must lead to rethink this approach. All major software and hardware vendors (Microsoft, Apple) seem to have understood these new challenges and created their own vision on how a modern workplace will look like in the future:
Enable the end user to perform certain tasks by himself, easily supported by an self service engine that drives these user initiated tasks in a controlled way. Starting at the deployment by providing an out of the box experience to the end user, continuing for software distribution via an AppStore including the ability to install software updates when it fits the user’s work schedule. With such tools, the end user can tailor his workplace to optimize his own productivity.
Support highly mobile usecases where workstations could easily be out of the company network for weeks. Control must not end at the company’s network perimeter but instead must handle devices which mainly live on the Internet as well as those in the internal network.
A closer look on the current market reveals that most vendors have solutions to support this new workplace concept:
Mobile Device Management Software is used for the basic management of the devices instead of heavy tools like ADS-GPOs and SCCM. Most MDM vendors support the traditional computing operating systems (Windows, macOS) nowadays as good as the mobile platforms and keep focusing on them.
Deployment methods which leverage the hardware vendor’s preload instead of reimaging the device are upcoming and supported by zero touch technologies like DEP (Apple) or Autopilot (Windows).
Internet Directories like AzureAD are more and more replacing traditional identity providers like ADS.
MDM systems are usually provided as a cloud service and accessible from the Internet or when installed on premise reachable from the Internet to provide services and control to Internet living devices.
The biggest obstacle for moving towards the modern workplace in a traditional enterprise is the cultural change that comes with it. While Startups have already adapted to the new paradigm, most users of traditional enterprises consider self service more as a burden than an opportunity. Not to mention the security department which likes strict control much better than loose, lightweight management.
However, as vendors move fast in this direction and are stopping support for some traditional methods (Apple will very likely discontinue imaging technologies with the next macOS version) and Millennials are demanding a certain degree of freedom for their productivity, also enterprises should consider the modern workplace at least as an option.