The long and winding road to Mac adoption: Insights from a Mac management expert
Successes at IBM and Cisco have given a blueprint for large-scale Mac adoption, but it doesn’t happen overnight
This post contains content for We Got Your Mac podcast, presented by SHI.
Henry Patel, Chief Strategy Officer at Jamf, joins us this week to discuss some of the challenges of adopting the Mac in the enterprise, the impact on employee performance, and the experience of tech giants like IBM and Cisco rolling out the Mac platform at scale.
The Apple halo effect
The Mac provides a unique value proposition, not only in terms of build quality but also the deep integration of Apple’s other devices and services. Tools such as AirDrop, Handoff, and Continuity ensure a seamless experience when working across multiple Apple devices.
These tools have become increasingly important in consumers’ daily lives, but they can also have a major impact on the enterprise. Not only can they introduce work efficiency gains, but many users are already familiar with them so there’s no learning curve. However, the use of these features also raises some questions for IT teams.
“There’s the personal productivity side, and then there’s the enterprise compliance…because AirDrop does create some areas of concern around compliance and data protection,” Henry says. “But there are many tools out there…where you can deploy these Apple capabilities, but also try to find ways to protect the data and IP that you have.”
Apple has taken steps to improve corporate data security on personal devices, giving IT teams more flexibility in allowing employees to use the devices they already own. This creates several advantages including cost savings, increased employee satisfaction, and reduced helpdesk calls.
“If you’ve watched what Apple’s done with BYOD functionality, I think that’s an area that is going to enhance what the enterprise needs,” Henry says. “On the Mac, it’s typically institutionally owned. But on these other devices, there are capabilities that Apple’s thinking ahead and saying, ‘How do we still provide this data protection layer between a personal device and an institutional application that the user needs to utilize?'”
Requirements for proper Mac management
Managing the Mac can be a struggle for Windows administrators because the two require different expertise. It’s not that the Mac can’t do what a Windows PC can do. In fact, many of the same compliance and security measures that Windows admins are required to employ can be implemented on Mac. IBM’s experience when scaling up its Mac adoption illustrates it requires the right mindset and, more importantly, the right talent.
“(IBM) realized that they needed to bring in the right talent, and the right talent wasn’t just in that administrative portion of it. It’s not just the technical implementation; it was also the back end, technical support,” Henry says. “They built an Apple-specific helpdesk. They brought in people who knew Apple, who knew the Mac, who knew iPhones. Because that expertise, you can’t teach overnight; that takes time.”
Zero touch and zero trust
One significant barrier to embracing Mac in the enterprise has been security, especially when it comes to getting devices into the hands of the end user. Management providers like Jamf help make the process easier using zero touch provisioning. Zero touch is an over-the-air method where a user can receive a new shrink-wrapped device that automatically downloads a configuration payload from the company’s management system when it’s first powered on and connected to a network. But that’s where the security considerations begin.
Without additional security layers, the device itself is what the network trusts; if someone can log into the device, they have access to the company’s network and, potentially, sensitive data. Enter zero trust. A zero trust model of access management can eliminate this risk, as the user must verify his or her identity before gaining access to devices and networks, usually with some form of multi-factor authentication.
Bringing this functionality to the Mac platform has been a major area of focus for Jamf for the last two years. The challenge is implementing it, “where you don’t lose the essence of the Mac.”
Introducing employee choice at IBM and Cisco
Henry references data made available by Fletcher Previn, SVP and CIO at Cisco. In his prior role at IBM, he overhauled the employee choice program in partnership with Jamf in 2015. By 2019, IBM was managing 290,000 Apple devices.
But it wasn’t a one-off. He did it again at Cisco and saw incredible results, which he shared in a presentation at the Jamf Nation User Conference. According to Previn, 60% of Cisco’s employees now use Mac. And it isn’t just the employees enjoying the benefits of working on Mac. Cisco’s IT department requires 33% fewer admins to manage their Mac fleet, and the sales and software engineering teams have seen performance increases across the board. The data is clear.
Another driving force behind these transformations was the desire to attract and keep the most qualified talent.
As Henry puts it, “The crowd that comes out of college, they want to have choices, right? They have different beliefs than maybe when we started in our careers. There’s a different generation that really looks at, hey, I want to be happy, I want to be productive. I want to do fun things, and I want to have choice.”
Making the decision
For decision-makers who are on the fence about Mac adoption, Henry has some important advice. First, as we covered in episode 3, he recommends researching the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Apple devices to determine the potential value that can be realized.
Next, stakeholder alignment is key. Map out the relevant stakeholders within the organization by establishing who might be affected. For example, an HR team may be interested in Mac adoption to help attract and retain talent. Finance may need to be convinced of the benefits of the residual value of Mac versus its acquisition cost. It’s important to include support teams to ensure you have the right talent, and to calculate the potential cost savings that Mac adoption can provide.
It can also be beneficial to tap into your peer network to see who has already taken the leap and learn about the successes and challenges they’ve experienced.
Lastly, it’s important to keep expectations in check.
“Don’t assume it’s going to be overnight,” Henry says. “There’s a little bit of homework to do.”