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Mastering the remote work surge: Your best moves now
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By Mark Wayt
The pandemic initially caught many companies flat-footed. Business continuity plans took account of scenarios like: “What if I lost my data center?” or “What if this site was offline?” But the situation we faced – social distancing and working remotely where possible – created a different and, for many, unplanned scenario.
HPE Pointnext Services can help you deal quickly, easily, and expertly with these challenging situations with a complete portfolio of work from home solutions aimed specifically at ensuring you have the right – and best – remote environments for your organization.
Strategies that worked for the old-ish normal
Pre-pandemic, many companies were starting (or in some cases were quite a way along) the journey of wholesale digital transforming their collaboration and digital workplace core tools: moving to Microsoft’s 365 platform, updating their clients to Windows 10, embracing the march of Evergreen. Those already on this flexible working journey in most cases were in a good place to weather this 100-year storm and enable their staff to stay productive while they sat at the kitchen table.
That’s not to say that these companies – even those that had adopted many cloud platforms – managed to avoid problems. For example, staff that usually sat in an office typically accessed internal platforms over an internal WAN. This bandwidth and workload quickly switched to Internet connections and VPN endpoints, which in some cases were overwhelmed.
But adding a license and maybe increasing capacity often provided a short-term solution. You may have put the Remote PC client on your workstations and allowed people to work from home securely. You may have even allowed them to VPN in via their untrusted devices (even if that was a huge security risk) as it “allowed them to work.”
Adapting to the new normal
So now that we are moving into the new normal, the question becomes: What now? What is our long-term plan going to look like, now that our remote workforce is a larger part of the workforce?
We’re already hearing CFOs stating they’re looking to save money on property/real estate by closing some offices and consolidating space into fewer ‘hub’ sites. People would work remotely by default, but come in to the office when they needed to, for example for a meeting. According to a Gartner survey:
“74% of CFOs & Finance Leaders intend to move at least 5% of their on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19.”
“Company leaders predict a shift of employees to remote work, from 30% pre-pandemic to 48% post pandemic.”
Office spaces will need to be smart. You may need your people to reserve desks before they come on-site. You may want to perform analytics on the occupancy of an office. You may also want to install fever detection capabilities to help protect your employees’ health when they’re on-site. Consider installing systems that keep your people safe by helping them practice social distancing in the office.
But what if your staff consists mainly remote workers? What then?
How do you remotely deal with device failures?
How do you manage the onboarding of new staff members who may not have their first day physically in the office?
How do you reimage someone’s PC or deploy a new device for them – bearing in mind that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to come on-site to pick up the device, especially if the area is still in lockdown, if it’s too far for them to travel, or if they feel unsafe doing so.
You need the ability to deal with this distributed workforce efficiently. Just as important, your employees must feel that they’re getting what they need and the ‘tools for the job’ are doing what they expect.
A new day in the new life
So, what is optimal now? What should a day in the life of an employee be like in the ‘new normal’?
Let’s take a hypothetical situation:
Jennifer is a new employee at OpCo. Once she has been offered the job, she gets a link to her personal email inviting her to enroll in the company’s HR system. She accesses the SaaS application (which could be on a browser on her personal PC or even on her phone) and goes through a step-by-step process. As part of this process, she gets an option to pick her laptop, and docking stations or accessories if she wants them. She then confirms her address. She also installs an app on her phone that helps with the onboarding. A few days before she is due to start, her laptop arrives, delivered directly to her house with accessories all bundled together.
On her start date, the app on her phone pops up a notification to tell her she can start enrollment of her OpCo identity. It works with her to set up multi-factor authentication and walks her through setting up her laptop.
She turns on the laptop, joins her Wi-Fi at home, and then logs in to the laptop with the credentials she has just created. The laptop joins her corporate domain, starts downloading all the applications she needs, and tells her to go ‘make a cup of coffee’ while it configures itself. A few minutes later, the laptop is ready to use, and Jennifer is logged in with her email open and all the applications she needs ready and waiting to use, with all the correct security controls in place and activated.
How does it all work? And can it work for you?
There are multiple platforms at work here to enable this happening seamlessly. VMware’s Workspace ONE allows for the enrollment and onboarding workflow – it integrates into a SaaS HR system such as Workday, which also supports other onboarding information. This app also knows the department the user works in, and thus the applications she needs to access. The HR system generates the right user object in the active directory (AD) and also ensures that it’s in the right groups to enable access to the right platforms.
This also aligns into a procurement system like SAP Ariba, which procures the laptop according to corporate standards, and ensures that the right vendor gets the order for the new device.
If the user has a lot of custom applications, those may be pushed through White Glove, a new Microsoft service that, in conjunction with supported vendors, enables a vendor to pre-stage a device at the manufacturer without IT involved in the build-and-deliver process.
If the user has a generic profile and just needs a light layer of applications, a regular autopilot process may be sufficient. The platform makes that decision based on rules you define – again, not something IT needs to be involved with, apart from ensuring the rules are kept up-to-date.
When the laptop arrives at the end user’s location, VMware Workspace ONE, Microsoft Windows Autopilot, Microsoft Azure AD, and Microsoft Office 365 work in tandem with Microsoft Endpoint Manager/Microsoft Intune and the customer’s on-premises SCCM platform to ensure that the right apps get loaded in the most efficient way possible. That means the user is up and running with the right settings, profiles, transformations, and information that they need.
If the device fails? The user’s profile is automatically synced to their Microsoft OneDrive, and you can ask the end user to reimage using a USB stick. Alternatively, the more modern Windows machines now allow you to bring down a stub and reimage the machine entirely remotely with only an Internet connection. Worst case, you send out a recycled machine with a base image from a store somewhere (it doesn’t need to be IT that looks after these now, as the image is ‘vanilla’), and the end user does the first run experience again.
But what if you are a Mac user, or are using Chromebooks, or have an iPad? That’s cool. You can use Workspace ONE with all the above, managing the join-and-application estate simply and easily. And with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), you could even adopt the full zero-trust model, enabling you to make clever decisions about how end users can access secure applications and be fully productive without compromising security. That could mean, for example, provisioning a VDI session on VMware Horizon instead of allowing a user to run a local application, so you ensure that data never leaves your controlled devices.
The whole idea is that with remote users and a wider user estate, you want to remove complexity from your workplace and simplify your environment and applications. This allows you to significantly reduce running costs while increasing agility – not a bad goal to have and, I’m sure, something any CTO or CFO would be happy with.
Impressive results with HPE Pointnext Services
So how does HPE Pointnext Services fit into this puzzle? We sit down with you and plan your roadmap. We help you build the strategy – we work hard to understand not only where you are, but also where you want to be. And we work closely with you to:
Build the right plans
Bring in the right skills
Deliver the right resources to enable you to get to this goal on budget
Enable your workforce to be super-productive.
And while HPE is a leading hardware vendor in this space, HPE Pointnext Services is truly hardware-agnostic. We have the right partnerships and the right skills to deliver a truly hybrid environment that may include on-premises compute, cloud compute, and SaaS tools to provide a simple, easy-to-manage Digital Workplace of the Future.
Mark joined HPE Pointnext Services in 2017 and brings to HPE his years of customer side understanding, knowledge and challenges inside the FSI, Security and Telecoms sectors, ready to help him work out not only what our customers want, but how they want to deliver it and gain best value.
Mark is a Worldwide Client Platforms Architect, owning part of the portfolio and covering all elements of Digital Workplace (VDI, Microsoft 365 & Windows 10) in the Worldwide Network, Workplace and IoT Practice Area in HPE Pointnext. He is one of the co-architects of the Greenlake VDI Lighthouse service and is currently building the analysis and delivery service for Citrix’s Workplace with Intelligence and Future Digital Workplace operating models, to add to the HPE Pointnext Services portfolio. Mark also still keeps his hand in regularly as a worldwide consultant on customer Digital Transformation projects.