Apple recently made some “monster announcements” at their recent Apple Event, including the launch of the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Pro and Watch OS 2. Consumers are already anticipating many of the new devices and features that were unveiled. The long queues will no doubt form outside your local Apple store when these devices ship. With all the innovative technology Apple continues to create, I got to thinking about Apple in the enterprise.
There was a time when Apple devices were a rarity in a corporate environment. But today, the iPhone has become the defacto corporate smartphone, replacing Blackberry (although Google’s Android for Work initiative could give Apple a run in the enterprise). And it’s not weird to see Macs on employee desks or be in a meeting where the number of Macs outnumber the PCs.
Much of Apple’s growth in the enterprise is due to the popularity of its devices with consumers. If influential executive users within organizations had not pushed to bring their personal Apple devices to work, it’s unlikely that IT would have voluntarily chosen to support Apple products, especially if the organization had an existing infrastructure and IT skill set based on Microsoft technology.
In spite of the IT headache, some companies are not only allowing workers to bring personal Apple devices to work, but also allowing them to choose Apple Macs or iPads rather than a traditional PC as their preferred computing platform. A recent survey from Tech Pro Research echoes this finding with well over a quarter of companies now offering their workers the option to choose an Apple device if they want.
As Apple devices continue to make inroads in the enterprise, how can traditionally Windows-dominated IT organizations make Apple work in the enterprise?
- Accept that Apple is part of the enterprise
It’s no secret that enterprises have not openly welcomed Apple. Don’t forget that all those iPhones and iPads came into companies despite IT objections. While you don’t need to replace every PC with a Mac, it’s time to realize that we no longer live in a Windows-only world. So rather than block those Apple devices, find a way to enable and support them.
- Leverage your existing infrastructure
Macs and Windows machines can peacefully co-exist. Believe it or not, it’s possible to manage Macs and Mac users from enterprise management solutions that were originally designed for Microsoft-based infrastructure. For most businesses this means leveraging Active Directory for identity and access policies across Apple and PC users. Leveraging a single directory means a user can get a single set of credentials (SSO) to unlock Apple devices and corporate apps. And IT can get reduced cost and complexity of provisioning and de-provisioning users and managing access rights across all the devices and apps used by an employee. As organizations increasingly adopt SaaS apps, SSO becomes critical from both a user experience and security perspective.
- Take advantage of the security and management capabilities in OS X and iOS
Despite the perception that Apple isn’t enterprise-friendly, the truth is Apple is enabling its devices for the enterprise. Witness Apple’s partnerships with IBM and Cisco. Apple also deserves credit for making Macs, iPhones and iPads more IT-friendly. Not only has Apple introduced the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) and Device Enrollment Program (DEP) to streamline large scale deployments, but they’ve also provided a common framework to manage OS X and iOS. IT just needs to take advantage of the built-in security and management policies like enabling FileVault 2 encryption for Macs, configuring secure network connections, enforcing restrictions and setting password policies.
- Manage apps, not just devices
To truly enable Apple devices, IT needs to do more than simply manage the device. Don’t get me wrong. Device management is important, but the real value comes from the apps and data that users access to get their jobs done. Why not help users be productive by giving them the applications they need from day one on a Mac, iPhone or iPad? IT can silently install required apps in the background and provide a user-friendly catalog of recommended, pre-approved apps they can download at their convenience. At the same time, IT can also easily remove corporate applications when a user leaves the organization.
- Enable self service
Mac, iPad and iPhone users tend to be tech savvy and are often comfortable supporting themselves. In fact, that’s how many Apple devices got their start in the enterprise. Enabling self service capabilities for password resets or device enrollment not only decreases helpdesk tickets, but also makes users feel more empowered and happy.
Apple devices will continue their march into the enterprise. What will be interesting to watch is how organizations deal with this trend — either treating Apple devices as an unwelcome challenge to their existing infrastructure or using available tools and their existing infrastructure to treat Apple devices as an opportunity for boosting worker productivity.