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Dell enables its People Strategy through a Connected Workplace powered by Windows 10 Enterprise

Dell values its people and its reputation as a technology leader. That’s why the company chose to reduce risk, cost, and complexity while enhancing security and employee satisfaction by standardizing on Windows 10 Enterprise. Based in Round Rock, Texas, Dell wanted to ensure that its workforce felt productive and inspired. But a fragmented IT ecosystem had increased support challenges, IT staff time and labor costs, and overall employee frustration. By implementing Windows 10 Enterprise, the company has streamlined its environment and given employees new freedom as to how, when, and where they work.

Dell uses Windows 10 Enterprise to enable its People Strategy and create a Connected Workplace where employees collaborate in a highly mobile and flexible work environment to deliver breakthrough performance for customers, partners, and team members.

Background

Dell has been on an incredible journey for more than three decades, with strong growth on a global scale. Dell attributes its success to its people─customers, business partners, and team members─who keep the company moving through a rapidly evolving world of technology. Dell designed its People Strategy to attract and retain the world’s top talent and to ensure that Dell is a compelling place to work, where everyone feels valued, engaged, productive, and inspired.

Flexibility is a key aspect of the company’s business strategy, positioning Dell to compete for the best global talent. The company’s Connected Workplace initiative is a great example of strategic flexibility, because it enables team members to do their best work in the way that works best for them. Connected Workplace provides an innovative opportunity to promote changes in cultural norms, leadership practices, and work processes to the benefit of individuals and the business. Connected Workplace also provides a new way for people to approach work in terms of how, when, and where work is conducted.

“Combining the best Windows operating system ever with our award-winning, touch-enabled Dell Notebooks unlocks a new level of power and productivity.” says Chris Murphy, Vice President, IT Team Member Experience Services at Dell. “I believe we have contemporized the desktop like never before and have really changed how people work every day.”

In the Dell Connected Workplace, all team members use a suite of applications and common collaboration tools based on a corporate standard. Securing and making data accessible allows Dell employees to be productive in a variety of work scenarios.

Connected Workplace is a significant achievement that supports the company’s People Strategy. It truly enables the business by establishing an advanced ecosystem where people work and play in a flexible way that produces outstanding results and fosters high workplace satisfaction. The Windows 10 Enterprise operating system has become an important part of the Connected Workplace vision because it provides the security, scalability, flexibility, features, and high-quality user experience required.

Challenges

In early 2014, Dell realized that operating system (OS) version fragmentation within its IT ecosystem had increased support complexity. Windows 7, the company’s primary OS, had been deployed for years, and its aged feature set and limited ability to support the Dell mobile strategy negatively impacted employee productivity. Windows 8.1 had also been deployed as part of the company’s modernization initiative, but Dell IT found it difficult to support, and employee adoption was low.

Increased security risk was another challenge. Dell security engineers were more concerned than ever about the frequency and severity of attacks that they read about at similar technology companies whose systems had been compromised. They knew more had to be done to mitigate risk at Dell. Endpoints were not the only target perceived to be at risk; Dell security engineers knew they had to harden the entire IT environment—enterprise security was a top priority because a high percentage of the company’s workforce works remotely.

Dell DevOps was impacted as well. Application developers for Windows clients were experiencing elongated application development life cycles because their efforts were out of sync with the client platform team, causing both groups to work without a common timeline for collaboration and communication. This made it difficult to verify that platform changes did not impact existing application interfaces, and it also hampered both groups’ ability to simplify workflow and drive faster adoption.

A similar challenge surfaced when development teams in the company’s consumer space started work on applications in the Windows 10 Enterprise operating system, in advance of its general deployment at Dell. This resulted in a gap between what developers wanted and what the older systems and technology could support. Microsoft released Windows 10 in the consumer space first, so it was natural that application development teams supporting consumers would want to take advantage of the newer capabilities that Windows 10 had to offer. But their enthusiasm created islands of technology, and internal support teams had to catch up.

Finally, the company’s quality assurance process had been complicated by the need to test both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of all updates, and the Dell IT Service Desk was burdened with multiple problem determination procedures for each device. All this added up to increased staff time, labor costs, and employee frustration, along with decreased employee satisfaction.

Dell tried to accelerate the pace of IT modernization within the OS and application development groups, hoping it would fix or at least minimize many of these challenges. But the company soon discovered that broader platform changes were necessary to equip Dell with the technology it required to enable robust business growth, its Connected Workplace, cloud migration, and services adoption.

Impact

By the middle of 2014, internal customer experience ratings were dropping, and it was clear that steps were needed to address the growing level of employee dissatisfaction with the existing technology platform supporting the business. More alarming, however, was a growing concern that issues would spill over and impact Dell partners and consumers because of the high level of interaction that Dell employees typically had daily with these external groups. After all, when employees are dissatisfied with their work environment, their frustration often becomes visible through interactions they have with people outside the company, and Dell places too high a priority on those relationships to let that happen.

Dell also believed that its industry reputation as a technology leader was at risk if it continued to nurture and patch an aging technology platform. It took many years to build the Dell brand as a leading channel partner and strategic services provider for Microsoft solutions, and being recognized as a thought leader who fully understands the technology behind its solutions and services portfolio was very important for growth.

Alternative solutions

Dell IT evaluated several options to improve the technology environment. Because Windows 8.1 had already been deployed on a limited scale, IT considered broader deployment as a logical choice and embarked on a path to transform the company’s standard Windows 7 platform to one based on Windows 8.1.

But feedback from technical and business team members using the newer platform was mixed, and only a small percentage of folks who received early versions of the platform said it met work requirements and their expectations for an enhanced mobile experience. Some employees reported that using Windows 8.1 reduced their productivity due to differences in the user interface, loss of the Start menu, and other unfamiliar features.

Therefore, Dell IT decided that the fullest realization of a Connected Workplace based on a single integrated platform required a more comprehensive and innovative solution to address the magnitude of challenges the company was experiencing. The end goal was to put the IT ecosystem back on track as a business enabler that met everyone’s needs, from technical engineers to application developers to partners.

Opportunity

Dell and Microsoft enjoyed a close business relationship, and they worked closely during the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP) for Windows 10. With the launch of Windows 10 in the consumer space just a few months away, Dell engaged fully in the TAP to better understand the new operating system’s features, capabilities, and benefits—and to make it easier to bring Windows 10 capabilities into Dell with assistance from Microsoft. Through the TAP, Dell gained advanced information on Windows 10 enhancements, updates, and other aspects of the operating system.

“We are excited about the potential of Windows 10 as a client platform because it promises to be more than just another OS deployment but rather a platform that continuously delivers value to our business.” says JP Glick, Director, Client Computing, at Dell.

Dell takes security very seriously to protect its own, its partners’, and its customers’ information, and active discussions within Dell at both technical and executive levels had taken place about data security, device security, and network security. When senior managers and executives began to realize the potential security benefits that Windows 10 provided, they immediately agreed to establish a strategic initiative to implement Windows 10 as the company’s standard enterprise client platform. Security was a top priority, and Dell was convinced that helping itself, its partners, and its customers move in the right direction to secure their assets was the right thing to do.

“The security improvements in Windows 10 play an important part in how we protect our data and have enhanced the overall security posture of our endpoints.” says Alan Daines, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer at Dell.

Dell IT worked closely with senior management to establish a project mandate, and work began immediately. The Windows 10 deployment project was targeted for completion by the end of 2017, with deployment occurring in phases across the company. The end goal of the project was rock solid and included the following objectives:

  • Improve engineering productivity.
  • Reduce time to market for upgrades.
  • Improve data, device, and network security.
  • Simplify software distribution.
  • Reduce problem remediation time.
  • Reduce IT Service Desk load.
  • Continuously deliver client features.
  • Improve IT agility and responsiveness.
  • Support mobility and the Connected Workplace.
  • Improve customer experience.

 

Everyone agreed that undertaking enterprise-wide deployment of Windows 10 would provide Dell with hands-on experience related to the challenges that partners and consumers may face in their own deployments and better equip Dell to serve as an expert advisor. The company’s vision was to be able to make the most of its expertise to help partners and consumers have a better experience of their own with Windows 10 and Dell services. Dell learned a lot along the way, and the knowledge it acquired has been readily shared with consumers and partners who are beginning their own deployments.

Lessons learned

Today, when customers ask Dell to help them understand and prepare for Windows 10 deployment, Dell advises them that the technical challenges Dell experienced during and after its enterprise rollout were not too difficult to overcome. But Dell did find it challenging to foresee and plan for the cultural impact that Windows 10 as a service would have on previously established communication, collaboration, and procedural processes that supported the company’s pre-Windows 10 environment. Dell encourages customers to think through this challenge—especially how the benefits of ongoing application development and testing, occurring in full sync with service-based platform changes, may impact their environment.

Solution

Dell implemented Windows 10 Enterprise to take full advantage of its ability to connect with Microsoft Office 365 solutions in the cloud—including Microsoft OneDrive for Business and Exchange Online and to manage both business and personal accounts. Dell plans to enable Windows 10 advanced security features such as Device Guard, Credential Guard auditing, Windows Information Protection, and other core components. Dell IT is mindful that security, connectivity, and device support must not impact employee productivity; it should operate behind the scenes. Windows 10 Enterprise fulfills those requirements, and Dell IT is satisfied with the security protection, ease of use, and device support Windows 10 provides as user-configurable options.

Dell took advantage of components of Office 365 to facilitate quick rollout and adoption, using interoperable cloud services to enable Connected Workforce with web functionality for business and technical applications. This helped Dell IT reduce the time necessary for new device builds and device reimaging because employee data resided in the cloud and not on a local drive. This provided Dell IT with flexibility in provisioning and ongoing maintenance, plus application deployment efficiencies. Employees need only authenticate once, and everything else is seamless.

OneDrive for Business and Dell cloud-based storage were used to help employees store and protect their data in the cloud and easily transition between devices, mobile or otherwise. OneDrive for Business also facilitated the mobile employees’ “work from anywhere” capability in the company’s Connected Workplace.

Deployment

In August 2015, Dell launched the first wave of its deployment plan, providing laptops running Windows 10 Enterprise to a limited number of engineers and application developers while the company was still participating in the Technology Adoption Program. This would be followed by a second wave of deployments in October 2015 to customer-facing employees who work remotely and who support partner and consumer communities. The rest of the deployments would occur in waves beginning in 2016 and continuing through 2017.

“From a deployment and manageability perspective, Windows 10 and Windows as a service deliver improvements on clearly defined timelines that are adaptable and advantageous to businesses.” says Bill Moore, Product Owner at Dell. “The resulting standardization that each iterative cycle of branch update delivers will have positive effects on operational support processes and the types of feature deliveries that our customers expect.”

As part of the plan, the Dell IT Service Desk assumed support for Windows 10 just prior to the beginning of the second wave. Service Desk employees received two types of training to enable them to deliver primary support for the new operating system—general training on Windows 10 was provided by Microsoft, and platform-specific training was provided by Dell IT Client Engineering.

Dell IT offered three deployment methods. With Method 1, employees received Windows 10 either through a new “factory-generated” device or through a service by which they could have their existing device upgraded. Method 2 was a self-service option where employees were provided with the ability to download media and install a corporate image on their own. Method 3 was a service provided by IT where a technician reimaged the device.

Deployment is proceeding on track, as planned, with no unanticipated events that present an obstacle to project completion. Dell IT Service Desk workers, employees, managers, and IT staff have all been surprised at how smoothly and quickly the transition has taken place.

Benefits

Business

Dell gained significant business benefits from standardizing on Windows 10 Enterprise. Dell executives and senior managers were pleased that the project moved through phased deployment with little change to their departmental budget or to the company’s CAPEX and OPEX structure.

By upgrading to Windows 10 Enterprise, Dell has achieved the following business benefits:

  • Reduced risk of security breach
  • Protection against data loss
  • Smoother maintenance cycles
  • Robust support for mobile strategy
  • Tighter DevOps integration
  • High employee satisfaction
  • Cost savings and avoidance

 

Today, employees at all levels of the organization are pleased with their new Windows 10 features and capabilities, particularly the way they can now work freely from wherever they choose. Many employees received the latest and greatest Dell laptop technology with Windows 10 Enterprise and all of the company’s solution components fully enabled to support them right away. The instant productivity, simplicity, and enhanced communication and collaboration drove adoption, and employees are excited about the freedom and flexibility to customize their computers to best suit their roles and responsibilities. User experience has improved substantially.

Technical

From a Dell IT Service Desk perspective, the upgrades made to the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager environment to support Windows 10 brought a significant reduction in call volume and trouble tickets related to devices and operating systems. Dell also saw better OS reliability, fewer migration issues, and fewer questions about usability and functionality.

To utilize Windows 10 fully, most employees did not require any additional training beyond what they already knew, so training staff involvement and training costs were far lower than for similar technology deployments that Dell had executed in the past. Dell attributes this to Microsoft rolling out Windows 10 in the consumer space first, thus increasing general knowledge about the OS and making the most of what people knew from previous versions of Windows. Microsoft deciding to bring back the Windows Start menu and other familiar features greatly promoted employee adoption and satisfaction. Another benefit Dell saw was improved employee productivity because of the familiarity and ease of use of Windows 10. This has further reduced IT Service Desk support demands and helped Dell empower employees to do more on their own with minimal direct support and cost from IT.

“We get to enable our users with the most award-winning portfolio of products,” says Jaynene Hapanowicz, Senior Vice President, Global Services & IT, at Dell. “Many folks have already been using Windows 10, which translates to a smoother implementation and less disruption.”

Early indicators show that Windows 10 is helping Dell address some of the challenges it had with application testing and deployment, and enhancements such as HTML5 are simplifying the company’s application test and deployment processes.

The challenge Dell IT used to have developing and synchronizing updates across a heterogeneous environment is now gone as well. With Windows 10, it’s easy to maintain configurations across the enterprise and keep Windows 10 devices current with patches and security updates.

DevOps collaboration is much better with Windows 10, and the client platform team and application development team are now in sync, deploying apps in a manner that enhances overall release quality and stability. Development resources and timelines are integrated and synchronized with operating system upgrade and maintenance cycles.

The company’s ability to standardize its technology environment in a way that reduces risk, cost, and complexity—while increasing security and enhancing the customer experience—has led to the simplification of many processes that used to be required to support its old environment. The Windows 10 servicing model is enabling Dell IT to push new capabilities and services to employees, so they always have the latest client technology.

“Windows 10 allows us the opportunity to move our client base to a single OS, eliminating the cyclical historical upgrade efforts required to upgrade applications and users from one EOL OS to next gen, while increasing our client support efficiency by reducing the volume and complexity of operating system incidents presented to our field techs and Service Desk” says Pat Quigley, Vice President, IT Operations, at Dell.

Productivity improvements

Dell IT initiated several surveys to business units and marketing to gauge the success of the Windows 10 deployment initiative. Overall satisfaction with Windows 10 is high, and employee productivity has improved.

DevOps and the IT Service Desk realized significant labor savings, particularly in the time required for provisioning, imaging, find-fix efforts, security issues, and call support and responses.

 

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