Modern Workplace in Three “Easy” Steps

You run an enterprise organization but the technology feels like it is still left over from the stone age.  We’re still taking about VPN with endpoints, your employees still use file shares, and your CEO can’t work from a Mac.  Why are we still sitting in this situation in 2022 when we just went through two years of working remote.  Can it really be that hard to cut the cord?  Unfortunately, yes, but with the right sponsorship you can stop the bleeding and move to a truly commoditized modern workplace model.  Let’s talk about how and why you’d do such a challenging but rewarding thing.

Why do this?

  • Security.  Ever here the statement “IT would be really easy if not for those pesky end users?”  Well, security would be really easy if not for them too.  The situation of everyone being connected to a single contiguous network that is “safe” seems to be constantly showing its failures.  Moving to a Modern Workplace ecosystem takes on the qualities of Zero Trust, with a goal of removing the “network” and replacing it with conditional access.
  • Commoditization.  Why do we still treat applications and devices like special flowers?  We all use commodity devices in our personal lives and we certainly can use them in work as well.   When we get a mobile device we go to <insert respective store here> and pick out a device.  We connect the device to our organization and start working.  The productivity device doesn’t need to be different, just controlled and managed. 
  • Productivity.  The modern workplace enables accelerated collaboration and base productivity that has become an assumption in modern work.  The bigger question is not “do you have basic cloud collaboration tools” but instead, how are you building on that with Low Code/No Code acceleration, workflow, and business processes.

Activity 1: Applications Accessible Via the Cloud

Your goal should be that every application prioritized should be accessible via the cloud and made available to users without needing to connect to Corp-Net.  The applications that are SaaS are of course already cloud accessible, but those that are not are made accessible via vehicles like AVD.  The goal is that target applications should be made accessible in a way that does not depend on being on the contiguous network, with a goal of mitigating the very reason the user connected in the first place (to use applications). 

Activity 2: Content Accessible Via the Cloud

The zillions of files you have on the corporate file servers… ah… the basement of IT.  In smaller environments, we’ve just lifted and shifted it into SharePoint and simplified the whole story.  In a larger environment you might take just the content from the most recent year and a half and move that into SharePoint / Teams and then move the remainder to Azure Files.  The goal should be that 99% of the content a user needs regularly should be available without VPN, because when you turn off access via the VPN they should be ready to roll. 

In some environments there are significant legacy application files on the file servers.  These do NOT need to be solved right away to get your end users to modern workplace, but dealing with them can allow you to shut down the file servers for good, so they can be included in your project plan.

Activity 3: Cloud Managed

The devices should NOT require access to CorpNet to be managed, supported, patched, or secured.  In fact, the faster you do this the better.  In most environments we find a large percentage of devices which are lacking these qualities because they very infrequently connect to CorpNet and thus do not receive the security updates, patches, etc.  Every device should move to being cloud managed and supported.  The end goal would represent an ability to support your devices anywhere at any time (provided they connect to the internet).

How to Avoid Making this Harder Than it Needs

There are a few key learnings that can avoid making this harder than it needs to be:

  • Stop with the “best of breed” strategy.  I’ve frankly found a strong Microsoft E5 strategy is superior to the best of breed tech strategy that makes everything more complicated
  • Don’t over complicate the file server migration.  Focus on the collaborative content so you can disconnect the users from the file servers.  The personal content move to OneDrive. 
  • Set a cut-off date on legacy deployments.  New devices after this date MUST use Modern Desktop even if there is a gap that represents some feature or capability “person X” likes.  Most organizations struggle with the IT person who can’t get past their feature not working in favor of implementing a major transitional strategy

Want to get this accelerated?  Let’s talk.

Nathan Lasnoski

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