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Windows 10 Adapts to the Millennial-Dominated Workplace

Like it or not, IT pros must now cater to the whims and tastes of the millennial workforce to keep them productive and satisfied with their jobs. Giving employees of this digital generation, who expect more in terms of capability and less in terms of restrictions, is counter to the way IT organizations have traditionally run and requires a whole new mindset.

These sweeping changes mean IT must give their employees the leeway they need to remain productive, while maintaining security and controls of enterprise information. IT needs to apply enough control to ensure productivity and security, but not so much as to scare away this new generation, according to Michael Niehaus director of product marketing for Microsoft's Windows Commercial group, speaking earlier this week in the opening keynote address at the TechMentor conference, taking place at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond. Wash. (TechMentor is produced by Redmond magazine parent company 1105 Media).

The number of millennials in the workforce is quickly outpacing the combination of Gen Xers and the Baby Boomer generation, and is expected to account for more than half by 2020, according to various forecasts. According to surveys, they're more likely than previous generations to leave an organization if they're not satisfied. This has created a contrast between classic and modern IT, as Niehaus calls it, but it's not as much a question of one model against the other. "I really see this as embracing both at the same time; using both of them when appropriate," Niehaus told attendees. "There is a place for multiple devices and a place for proactive versus reactive support. We need to take both into account."

Niehaus said migrating to Windows 10, which is on the rise this year, is the best approach to supporting both models. During his one-hour keynote titled "Modernizing Windows 10 Deployment and Servicing," Niehaus outlined the new cadence and steps IT professionals should take to keep their Windows shops up to date. Moving to Windows 10 not only means deploying a new operating system but it introduces a shift to more rapid updates and servicing. Niehaus recognizes that this in itself can be quite disruptive from the status quo.

"While technology clearly changes on a rapid regular basis, when it comes to profound changes, there haven't been as many lately," he said. "It feels like we've been stagnant for last 15 years or so. The pace of change hasn't really affected IT as much. The PC environment probably looks same today as it did 10 or 15 years ago." Such stagnation is no longer going to be the norm, he said.

Employees of this digital generation expect more in terms of capability and less in terms of IT exerting control over them. "They're used to having all sorts of devices. They don't have to be taught," he said. "They don't understand why IT is so heavy handed in control of PCs. They expect something different."

With the need to strike that proper balance of giving employees more flexibility (while maintaining an appropriate level of control), Niehaus displayed the recently announced Microsoft 365 service, which includes Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 Pro Plus, and the Enterprise Mobility + Security service. The latter, EMS, includes Azure Active Directory for authentication, Intune device management and data loss protection features. The new Microsoft 365 bundle, still in preview, aims to help organizations move to the cloud, Niehaus said. "There are lots of cloud services feeding into this system, with Windows being updated more frequently -- updates twice year instead of twice per decade," he said.

Windows updates essentially become a cloud-based service. The new shift to Windows as a Service means users will get the latest features onto these devices. "The goal is to make this as simple as possible," says Niehaus. "Windows as a Service is an iterative process. We want to be able to move to servicing approach. We also want an easy path to Windows 10."

Niehaus acknowledges there are scenarios where traditional deployment with system images will still be required, but hope to minimize that, especially as Windows servicing progresses. "Our hope is you never need to do that again," he said. "We'll keep you up to date using Windows as a Service."  A day later, Aug. 9, Niehaus published a blog post following his presentation, explaining all of the Windows-as-a-Service changes. The post referred to documentation posted in April and a five-minute Microsoft Mechanics video posted last month.

Microsoft intends to have the Microsoft 365 service arrive ready to use. "Ideally we take this further and ship to employee. Then, straight out of box, when they get it, with just a few simple steps, they can set it up without IT touching it."

Windows Autopilot, which Microsoft announced in late June, is also a key piece of that strategy. "We can do this from the cloud completely," Niehaus said. "The idea with the cloud-driven approach is you can take a device and register it in the cloud so when that device is turned on, it can, more or less, configure itself. That is the golden path. We want to eliminate all touching and imaging of the devices. We want to make it easy for users to do it themselves."

The basic steps for using Windows Autopilot, Niehaus said, are to register device to indicate it belongs to an organization. You can then assign a profile which includes system settings. Then you ship the device to user. "They turn it on and off they go," he says. "That's when magic happens."

After a detailed demonstration of the configuration process for the Microsoft 365 service, Niehaus shifted back to discussing the new Windows delivery and deployment cadence.  "Once we have Windows 10, we never want you to go through an upgrade project again. We want you to stay current on that." To maintain that cadence, there will be new Windows 10 releases twice a year, in March and September. "Let's just call them semi-annual channel releases."

On the System Center Configuration Manager side, Microsoft will issue three release updates: in March, July and November. "The first and last roughly correlate to Win 10 updates," he said. "They need that intermediate middle of the year release for Configuration Manager."

And that is the primary message from Microsoft: to prepare for the new update cadence. "We used to talk about every three years. Now it's every six months to get latest productivity and security features," Niehaus said. "We need to stay ahead of the bad guys. We will always have new security capabilities. It's a constantly moving target. And [improved security] is the number one reason we've seen organizations move to Windows 10."

A number of sessions at the next TechMentor, scheduled for Nov. 13-17 as part of the Live! 360 conference in Orlando, Fla., will address Windows 10 migration.

Posted by Lafe Low on 08/10/2017 at 8:31 AM


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