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Windows-centric IBM changes its tune on Mac deployments

Ann Bednarz | Oct. 19, 2015
Four months into new program, IBM dispels cost assumptions about Macs, raves about ease of support

ibm jamf pic
Credit: JAMF Software

IBM is doing something it has never done before: allowing employees to use Macs at work. So far it’s a success. Four months into its new program, IBM finds Mac support requirements are lower than those of a traditional PC environment, customer satisfaction is higher, and the pricier upfront cost of buying a Mac is more than offset over time.

For a longtime Windows-centric organization, it’s a big change.

“There had always been quite a lot of built-up demand by people who wanted to use Macs at IBM, and certainly in IT we wanted to be able to offer Macs to people,” said Fletcher Previn, vice president of Workplace-as-a-Service at IBM. “But outside of a very small group of designers or people who write software for the Mac, we really didn’t allow people to get one from IBM. You could BYO one, but it was kind of at your own risk.”

IBM is now meeting that demand at a rapid clip. It’s deploying Macs at a rate of 1,900 devices per week. So far, the four-month-old Mac@IBM program has put roughly 130,000 Macs and iOS devices in the hands of IBM employees.

Even more impressive, IBM is managing all those devices with a scant support staff of 24 people – which equates to a ratio of one help desk person for every 5,400 devices. How’s that possible? Less demand for assistance.

“Five percent of the Mac users ever call the help desk; 40% of our PC users call the help desk,” Previn said. “Because of the way we’re deploying [Macs], there are just simply fewer problems.”

Previn spoke about IBM’s Mac undertaking at JAMF Software’s user conference, which was held this week in Minneapolis. JAMF is the maker of the Casper suite, an enterprise management platform for Mac OS X computers and iOS mobile devices. IBM is using Casper suite for its internal Mac deployment; Casper is also part of IBM’s managed IT services offering, announced in August, to help large enterprise customers deploy Macs within their IT infrastructure.

Previn’s session was attended by more than 1,000 Apple IT administrators at the JAMF Nation User Conference (JNUC). Here are some key takeaways from his presentation.

Employee preference at IBM is shifting to OS X and iOS

IT manages 618,000 laptops and nearly 150,000 mobile devices for IBM’s workforce, which includes roughly 400,000 full-time employees and 130,000 contractors, operating in more than 170 countries.

The company officially launched its employee-choice program on June 1. So far, on a worldwide basis, about 35% of new users are opting for Macs. The percentages vary based on users’ ages, years of service and geography, Previn said. In some places, adoption rates are as high at 88%. If you were to remove all artificial barriers, “somewhere around 7 out of 10 will take a Mac,” he said.


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