Martin McGregor

Embracing the evolution of device management

When I started my career, computers weren't vital to all business operations and employees were not immediately issued a device.  

Back then, computers were considered an investment and employees had to make a business case to be issued one. They were seen as an asset designed to improve productivity and achieve better outcomes for the business. Managing and caring for end user devices was regarded as a major business priority. 

That was more than twenty years ago. Today things are a little different. Computers have transformed from being optional assets in businesses to essential tools. As devices became progressively indispensable in the workplace, organisations lost sight of their value and purpose. 

This shift in perception impacts how businesses and IT teams now prioritise device management. 

The importance of efficient device management 

When devices are poorly managed, users encounter software issues, hardware failures and security vulnerabilities, leading to downtime and reduced efficiency. Dealing with these issues not only disrupts operations but also negatively impacts employee morale and satisfaction. 

Research shows inadequate technology and device management is a leading cause of employee dissatisfaction and turnover. 

32% of workers left jobs when technology hindered their ability to work.

Adobe 2022 State of Work Report

Another study by Adobe found 91% of end users want their employers to adopt new tools and software to make tasks and processes more efficient. 

Consider the financial consequences of a high turnover rate. What sort of impact do recruitment costs, training expenses and decreased efficiency have on your business? 

Poor device management also places a burden on the IT support team as they must invest more time and resources into addressing device issues and providing technical assistance.  

The significance of proper device management goes beyond employee satisfaction and productivity. It also plays a key role in ensuring device security and streamlining IT workflows. Despite these benefits, businesses are supporting devices to a lesser extent than they did years ago and they're missing out on the advantages of effective device management.  

Consider how long it takes to onboard a new device. If it takes two weeks for each employee, think about the impact that has across the business. How much time is being lost each year and what are the financial implications? 

Now consider what it would mean if that two-week onboarding process were reduced to two days or 20 minutes. And what if the computer could be reset to a state of known good in as long as it takes to grab a coffee? 

As remote work and distributed workforces become increasingly common, devices are often the only connection employees have to the business. Acting as portals, end user devices shape the way employees engage with the company and their colleagues. Considering the role they play in our interactions, organisations must prioritise creating a seamless device experience for employees. 

Managing end user devices in the past 

Looking back, when desktop computers were first introduced into the workplace, each device was meticulously set up to cater to the specific needs of the individual end user. Training sessions were conducted to ensure users could navigate and use their computers easily. High attention to detail was given to customise the setup, including arranging icons and storing documents and applications in easily accessible places. Over the years this level of care diminished. Device management looks vastly different today. 

Changing landscape and the impact of remote work 

The IT landscape continues to rapidly evolve. Dispersed workforces, the rise of remote work and the ever-increasing threat landscape present new challenges for IT teams.  

Organisations need suitable endpoint management tools to stay ahead.  

Traditional solutions for managing end user devices are no longer sufficient to handle the complexities of modern IT environments. Along with losing sight of the importance of device management, over the years, many IT professionals gradually lost trust in the available solutions.  

IT teams have long acknowledged the need for better solutions and are fully aware of the challenges associated with managing devices. Despite the need for better alternatives, such solutions didn’t exist until recently. 

To grasp the potential of modern device management, it's helpful to examine traditional device management solutions, as well as the challenges associated with device management. These factors shape the way IT and security professionals may view the emerging benefits and opportunities of modern device management practices, requirements and solutions. 

The challenges of device management through the decades 

Twenty-five years ago, managing a fleet of devices was very different to what it is today. All devices were desktop computers. Managing them on-site was the primary focus and as they didn't leave the office, they rarely fell out of management. 

When I worked as a consultant, my role involved assisting organisations in resolving their device management issues. I would assess their requirements and develop a tailored solution for them. A persistent challenge I encountered was effectively transitioning the solution to the customer, particularly when the customer needed resources to maintain it. 

Finding experienced professionals who specialise in this area remains an ongoing challenge. There has always been a skills shortage in the IT sector. The demand for such expertise far outweighs the available supply, creating a constant shortage. This demand for IT professionals continues to increase as businesses become increasingly dependent on technology. 

Another challenge of device management has been the cost. The technology and solutions weren't where they needed to be and it became too costly and time consuming for organisations to manage their fleet.

Modern device management solutions 

Device management solutions fell short in the past and many IT professionals accepted the time-consuming processes and insufficiencies as the norm. It's time for mindsets to change because there are now affordable and effective solutions for managing devices in today's modern IT landscape.  

While the technology is now catching up to where it needs to be, many organisations remain unaware of the benefits of modern device management solutions or choose solutions which aren’t fit for purpose. While the challenge of a skills shortage remains, IT teams need to avoid investing in solutions that are ill-suited to the world we live in. Instead, they must present to their organisation the potential impact of providing a better service and increased efficiency to employees through effective device management. 

The potential for an organisation to remain efficient and resilient through challenges is one of the priorities, but more importantly we’re creating a technology culture that enables employees to do their best work. 

Cloud infrastructure has taken device management solutions to a new level. Cloud-native solutions are specifically designed to securely operate over the internet, helping organisations guard against cyber crime and overcome the challenges posed by remote work. One notable leader in this domain is Microsoft Intune, which has been a game changer for addressing modern challenges including remote OS patching, application updates, admin privileges and compliance reporting.  

A considered, well-resourced, and ongoing device management program can deliver efficient outcomes. This includes being able to ship a device directly to the user from the supplier and automating setup within 30 minutes. It’s a win for users and a huge advantage for IT teams.  

Automation in isolation will not achieve these outcomes; it's the proficient and sought-after IT professionals who, by using these modern solutions, drive these achievements. Securing consistent funding for the entire management program is necessary to ensure the continual retention of this specialised skillset, particularly when engaging with a third-party vendor. 

Embracing change for effective device management 

The evolution of device management has been driven by the growing complexity of the IT environment, the rise of cybercrime, the decentralisation of workspaces and long-awaited technological advancements. 

Organisations who effectively select and leverage modern tools available for device management can expect long-term benefits, including increased productivity, enhanced security, streamlined workflows, improved maintenance processes and overall employee satisfaction. 

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