Over 100 years ago, Henry Ford changed the world of manufacturing and ushered in the era of mass production. Personified by his apocryphal quote “A customer can have a car painted any colour he wants as long as it’s black”, mass production was all about ensuring the process of creating a product was focused on getting a working product into the hands of customers as quickly as possible.
When the PC era arrived about 75 years later, IT departments were faced with a similar challenge – how do they get a new PC into the hands of users, with all the right software and configuration as quickly as possible. And so was born the quest to achieve Zero Touch Deployment.
The tools used by IT teams over the years have evolved but one part of the equation was always challenging. The computers users wanted on their desks, in their laptop bags and at their homes were so diverse that deploying software to them was challenging. And each time a manufacturer updated their hardware the deployment tools, software images and configuration processes needed to be revised. With several different computer models in use at any one time and a burgeoning number of different applications to install and configure, IT departments struggled to keep up.
To some degree, the process was simplified over the last decade as more and more cloud-based applications, like Microsoft 365, and cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure made it possible to avoid software deployment completely by giving users access to the software tools they need from any computer. But security settings and other applications still required some form of manual action for deployment.
In January 2020 the move towards Zero Touch Deployment was injected with a powerful catalyst. The global COVID pandemic created a huge number of challenges. Logistics were turned upside down. In the past, IT departments would receive a shipment of computers that they set up, using a combination of automated tools and manual procedures and then hand to the computers personnel in the same office.
The rapid acceleration towards work from home made that model untenable. PCs had to be shipped directly to users at their homes and had to be ready to use without hands-on intervention from the IT team.
Zero Touch Deployment delivers a device to a user so they can start working the moment it’s turned on. Instead of looking at what’s easiest for the IT department to deploy the focus is on what’s best to get the user working. A user-centred approach puts new equipment in the hands of users so they can be productive as quickly as possible.
The value-add opportunities for savvy resellers like Data#3, are significant. Instead of simply selling hardware, they can value add by offering Device as a Service so computer procurement and deployment can be simplified. They can offer support and other services, allowing them to move from being hardware suppliers to trusted partners.
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While needs vary across industries, every organisation is ultimately seeking similar outcomes from their technology investments. Simply, the technology needs to work as quickly as possible, with the least possible interruption at the lowest possible cost. While these needs are not new, they have been brought into sharp focus through the new environment COVID-19 has created and the ensuing, rapid changes that businesses have faced.
The post pandemic world will bring significant changes. Antiquated work practices, where workers needed to be seen in order to be managed, have given way to hybrid workforces. The modern workplace now spans the home office, co working spaces, and anywhere with a reliable internet connection. In line with this, the tools required to support this new era of the hybrid workforce are also of a different breed.
While 2020 saw businesses rapidly adapt to changing conditions, Data#3’s Practice Manager for the education sector, David Wain says, “A number of foundational technology elements that have rapidly evolved over recent years, have helped businesses weather the storm.”
“Cloud applications such as Microsoft 365, backed with services such as Microsoft Azure, have enabled employees to work productively from anywhere – on almost any device,” Wain says. “And internet connectivity over fixed and cellular networks means the office network is no longer critical.”
These advancements have been supported by remote deployment and management tools, ensuring workers can retain full productivity capacity, even when working remotely and separated from the office and traditional IT support services.
With 50% of IT managers saying they spend too much time managing devices 1 and over a quarter of workers indicating they would leave their current job because of poor workplace technology, 2 the benefits of smarter technology deployment and management are clear.
Data#3’s National Practice Manager – HP, Paula Fountain, says almost every IT manager, whether they are coming into a new team or have been in their role for some time, faces the issue of the technology lifecycle.
“While technology has moved ahead in leaps and bounds, many IT managers are still dealing with unclear or ad hoc procurement processes. This makes controlling costs and budgeting for fleets a significant challenge for IT teams. Support is usually dependent on local access to computers and there’s no plan for equipment disposal at end of life,” Fountain explains.
This challenge is a key driver for Data#3’s commitment and investment in its advanced Device as a Service (DaaS) offering. Enabling IT teams to unburden their device lifecycle management challenges, DaaS utilises a lifecycle approach: from the point of selection of vendor and partner through to device selection and procurement, deployment, support (regardless of user and device location), and end of life asset disposal. DaaS provides customers with a truly digital procurement process and a Zero Touch Device Deployment model.
“Savvy IT managers have been trying to do this themselves for some time,” says Fountain. “They have sourced financing, leased equipment purchased and deployed their own onboarding and deployment used their own asset management platforms.”
The modern device procurement and management process offered through DaaS creates a compelling offering for organisations. Working with an experienced partner like Data#3, who can take the pain of device lifecycle management away, allows IT managers to focus on higher value activities across the business.
With the advent of powerful new consumer devices featuring attractive new form factors, a push towards the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model occurred. Particularly within the education sector, BYOD became very popular.
“BYOD was a response to users seeking devices they felt comfortable using. However, it created new challenges for IT teams when it came to software deployment and support. Security was also a key issue,” explains Wain.
The challenges of BYOD are part of what make DaaS an attractive alternative, Wain continues. Zero Touch Deployment – one of the key elements of Data#3’s DaaS offering- alleviates many of the issues inherent in BYOD scenarios. With a DaaS model, users can continue to access the devices they prefer, but with the controls needed to deploy and manage devices securely, and with the essential tools needed to maintain productivity.
“Users get access to great hardware,” says Wain. “And IT departments can be assured the devices are deployed securely, with all of the user applications loaded onto the device. Workers can hit the ground running as soon as they receive their device, and still enjoy the experience of unboxing a brand-new computer.”
“DaaS offerings in the Australian market range from very basic, essentially device financing, to end-to-end, cradle-to-grave, outsourced device services,” explains Fountain. “However, what businesses are seeking is a high degree of competency throughout their device management lifecycles, and new ways to improve their end user compute experience. This comprehensive servicing is what Data#3’s DaaS offering provides to our customers.”
Fountain says that a Software Operating Environment is the new SOE (Standard Operating Environment). When a device is procured and deployed to a user, Zero Touch Deployment ensures that the user receives a device ready for use, with software installed, configured and ready to work.
The focus is on the outcome: a ready-to-use computer that supports user productivity from the onset of provision. Data#3’s DaaS formula delivers and manages the hardware, and a suite of services matched to the customer’s needs. The DaaS managed service model generally includes a new device, deployment, management, support and end of life handling for a simple, predictable monthly fee.
“Data#3’s DaaS solution puts a device in the user’s hands quickly, without significant back and forth with the IT team to get the device up to speed. IT teams can easily deploy software remotely with assurance that security is given appropriate attention,” Fountain adds.
Another significant DaaS benefit is the reduced business dependency on specific device models. In the past, a SOE was deployed using software images tied to specific device models. Now that software deployment is a primary focus, procurement is easier and ensures further flexibility.
Businesses can choose the hardware they want, transition from their current arrangements smoothly and enjoy the benefits of Zero Touch Deployment and management across the entire device lifecycle.
The disruption businesses faced in 2020 caused many IT teams to realise their complex procurement processes were no longer fit for purpose. With employees and students working and learning from home, the need to utilise tools that support remote deployment and support became crucial. While many technology leaders have long understood the value of these best practice tools and processes, they lacked the strong business case and time to put these solutions in place.
“Many of the building blocks have been available, but few organisations have been able to bring all of them together,” says Fountain. “Through DaaS, Data#3 has deciphered the complexity of procurement and financing, deployment management, support and ultimately, disposal and replacement.”
Outside of a DaaS model, businesses have been able to lease devices over three-year periods, amortising the cost rather than outlaying capital funds. However, this arrangement requires negotiating the financing through third parties and organising payment arrangements directly with suppliers.
Remote deployment solutions aren’t new, but the impetus for utilising them was diminished when most users and devices were based in a traditional office. Following the significant upheaval of 2020, the tools have evolved. Remote deployment, management and support have all taken on heightened levels of importance as COVID-19 forced organisations to rethink how technology is best provided to users.
“This is why Device as a Service, backed by partners with robust systems to support business, is so important,” says Fountain. “DaaS enables the SOE to become hardware agnostic. Tools like Windows Autopilot make it possible for a user to unbox a device and have their personalised configuration automatically loaded- they can be up and running faster than ever before.”
Zero Touch Deployment, backed by a strong and secure Device as a Service offering delivered by a partner that understands your needs, enables any organisation to get the best return on investment and fastest time to value on new assets.
Data#3’s full DaaS lifecycle approach is designed to support businesses as they transition.