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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

“Rather than focus on the people who are telling you the reasons that they can’t use a Mac, what we tried to do was focus on the people who want to go on that journey and get velocity with them as opposed to getting completely drained by the people who don’t want to do it in the first place.”

JAMF Software CEO Dean Hager introduces IBM's Fletcher Previn

“By dealing with these things as they come up, we’ve been able to get much better traction than spending 18 months coming up with reasons not to move forward.”

Hiring is critical

Investing in new talent is key to making the support model work, Previn said.

“Rather than take people who were already supporting PCs and dub them Mac support, it was really important to hire people who loved the Mac as much as the people who were going to be using them,” Previn said. IBM has hired (and continues to hire) a mix of ex-Apple Genius Bar people, new college graduates, and IT people who have professional experience with Macs.

The approach IBM wanted for its help desk is: “I don’t care if it’s IBM-owned or personally owned, a supported app or a not-supported app – the problems come to our door. We will take as long as is necessary to get you productive,” Previn said. “So it’s a very different model, I think, from a traditional helpdesk. And that’s what we tried to bring back to IBM.”

A site visit to Apple made a big difference

An opportunity to visit Apple – in what Previn described as a friendly, one-IT-department-to-another offering – helped IBM’s IT team members visualize what they wanted for their own deployment.

“Apple is a lot more similar to IBM than you might think. They have 100,000 employees, they’re a tier-one credit card processor, they handle a lot of customer data and transactional data, they have retail stores all over the world with people wandering off the street and connecting to Wi-Fi. So they have normal enterprise problems,” Previn said. “But, they were managing a large number of people and devices with a significantly smaller set of resources than you would expect to see in a traditional PC environment. That was really interesting to us – how were they doing that?”

IBM came away from that visit with three best practices for its own deployment:

1. Get people the right devices. “In this case Macs and iOS devices,” Previn said.

2. Manage those assets in a modern way. “Not the 1999, Windows XP, Altiris agent, locked-down model, but manage your laptop in a way that’s a lot more familiar or consistent with the way that a mobile device is managed today.” That meant features such as cloud-based provisioning, zero-touch enrollment, app stores, and easy backup and restoration of data.


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