Today's workplace is a complex environment, with employees using more devices than ever in order to access the applications and data they need to do their jobs. At the same time, the workplace is no longer restricted to the confines of the office, with home and flexible working now commonplace.
This can make managing your IT estate more complex than ever. With both corporate and personally-owned devices to consider and a variety of platforms to deal with, it's important you're able to apply the right policies to the right devices in order to ensure the right balance between productivity, usability and security. And the answer to this will often be modern management.
What is modern management?
Modern management is a term used by Microsoft to describe its recommended method to manage Windows 10 devices and users. There's no set definition, as it covers a range of technologies and services, but it encourages businesses to take advantage of mobile and cloud-based tools in order to make the control of devices as easy as possible throughout the item's lifecycle.
By now, Windows 10 should be the standard for many businesses, especially since ongoing support for the previous Windows 7 operating system has ended. However, many firms that are still relatively new to this platform may still have an old-fashioned mindset that is based primarily around on-premise, directly managed tools, which are likely to be inefficient in today's flexible, fast-moving environment.
These may include tools such as Active Directory, Group Policy and Configuration Manager. But while these solutions will still be useful for some businesses - and Microsoft has no plans to end support for these tools - migrating to cloud-based services can offer more flexibility and agility.
The key elements of modern management
At the heart of the modern management approach lie a few critical services that help automate and streamline processes such as updating and patching the operating system, ensuring fast authentication of users, and simplifying the management of remote and mobile devices.
For instance, Azure Active Directory (AD) is a cloud-based identity and access management service that enables users to sign-in and access applications easily, wherever they are and on whatever device they are using.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Autopilot can greatly speed up the rollout of new devices, as it enables 'zero-touch' deployment of new Windows 10 machines. This works by allowing IT teams to preconfigure new PCs based on preset configurations and policies that are held in the cloud. This means that devices can be sent directly to the user, who need only connect it to a network and sign-in, and all the setup work will be done automatically.
The third key element of a modern management approach is a mobile device management (MDM) tool such as Microsoft's Intune. While MDMs may be a familiar solution to businesses that already have to manage an array of different iOS or Android devices, modern management allows you to apply the same principles of centralized control to your Windows 10 estate.
4 steps to implement modern management
Modern management shouldn't be thought of as a technology solution, but more of a change in mindset that encourages the use of the latest innovations throughout the device management process, from initial deployment through to future upgrades and migrations.
Microsoft defines four key stages at which modem management tools and techniques are particularly useful, which you should be aware of if you're planning to adopt this approach:
1. Deployment and provisioning
As mentioned above, tools like Microsoft Autopilot can be hugely beneficial for the deployment phase, as they enable businesses to use 'dynamic provisioning'. This lets users take a new PC out of the box and have it automatically set up as a fully configured device as an alternative to traditional OS deployment tools.
This phase can also be a good introduction to some of the principles of modern management if you're still using outdated solutions. Modern management tools allow you to migrate existing devices running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 quickly and reliably, while still preserving all the existing apps, data, and settings.
2. Identity and authentication
Security will naturally be a major concern for any business in today's more mobile, flexible environment, and modern management helps ensure applications and files are protected with tools like Azure AD.
This lets you manage both corporate and personally-owned devices and allows users to access cloud-based apps like Office 365 wherever they are. It also ensures devices like PCs and tablets that must be domain-joining in order to access sensitive resources can be easily managed, with administrators able to enact settings like single sign-on and conditional access.
3. Settings and configuration
There are many different factors that go into configuration processes, such as the level of management and access required, the type of device, the data managed and any industry compliance requirements, which can make for a highly complex environment when using traditional management tools.
However, turning to offerings, such as Intune, allow you to easily create tailored policies that can be applied automatically to the relevant devices, creating a consistent set of configurations across PCs, tablets, and phones while maintaining centralized control of your estate.
4. Updating and servicing
Cloud-based Windows-as-a-Service solutions also make the process of updating, patching and upgrading your machines as simple as possible. This means the IT department will no longer need to perform complex imaging processes with each new Windows release, as devices receive the latest feature and quality updates through simple, often automatic, processes.
Making the process as smooth as possible
Remember that migrating to modern management doesn't have to be a sudden jump. You can tackle it in small steps, for example, by applying it to new devices while maintaining existing solutions for older equipment, and gradually moving people over as devices get replaced.
It also pays to assess the different use cases within your business to identify and prioritize those that are most likely to benefit from modern management. For example, BYOD devices are often natural candidates for cloud-based management, while users working with more highly regulated data may be more suited to remain with an on-premises Active Directory domain for authentication.