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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

3. Drive self-sufficiency and simplification in the environment. Simplifying the support portal, creating productivity apps for people, and allowing people to self-solve problems were priorities.

“If you did those things correctly, you could then afford to staff a different kind of helpdesk with people who are qualified and actually know how to solve the problem,” Previn said.

Success comes in a shrink-wrapped box

IBM’s IT staff uses Apple’s Device Enrollment Program and Casper Suite to be able to ship employees a shrink-wrapped Mac that’s ready to go. “We’re buying the same Mac that you’d wander into any Apple store and buy yourself,” Previn said.

A sticky note on the box directing users to a URL “would be the sum total of the instructions that you would need to get your Mac up and running,” Previn said. “That’s very different than the process that has existed in the past.”

The enrollment process handles the installation of Lotus Notes, adds the VPN client and Wi-Fi certificates, sets the password policy, turns on disk encryption, and installs Java, for example.

All applications are delivered via self-service. Special requests, which used to require a convoluted approval process for users and managers, now happens via the same self-service pane. “If you need Microsoft Office, for example, you just click install. We still handle the license tracking and all those things on the back end, but [we don’t] expose user to that.”

A work in progress

There were some rough edges, and IBM continues to refine the program with regular enhancements. For example, one iteration improved the enrollment process to include a progress bar as well as screens that dynamically re-size to the proportions of the equipment the employee is using.

The help desk continues to inform the engineering team of areas that could be improved, Previn said. “The help desk is sort of the early listening radar for problems coming into the environment that then move their way back over into the engineering team for problem resolutions. That’s really been a very effective cycle as opposed to just getting the same help desk tickets over and over again.”

Future plans

Looking ahead, IBM plans move from a traditional help desk setup to more of a Genius Bar-like setting at key IBM offices where users will be able to schedule appointments or take advantage of walk-up services.

IBM also plans to reinvest some of its savings into some advanced help desk technologies, such as holding a user’s place in line using call back, and Watson for voice recognition.


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