I spoke with Jamf CIO Linh Lam on a recent UK visit to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. The 2020 Bay Area CIO of the Year Finalist joined Jamf in 2021 – and thinks Apple will be the top enterprise endpoint by 2030 as its current momentum accelerates.
The changing landscape of enterprise IT
“The way the demand is growing and the expectations of younger generations joining the workforce, Apple devices will be the number one endpoint by 2030,” she told me.
That’s not an outlier analysis. Spurred by Apple’s move to adopt its own rapidly improving silicon, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa recently predicted Apple will seize 10.7% of the PC market in 2026 as Windows share slips. In the enterprise, where Apple adoption has been particularly rapid, BYOD, the impact of mobility, and the renaissance of flexible and hybrid working are accelerating the trend.
Managing this fast-changing technology and cultural landscape has forced CIOs to focus on fresh challenges. For example, when during the pandemic employees brought work home with them, they brought their technology home, too.
“It blended with their home technology,” said Lam. But it wasn’t just the worker’s tech, or their domestic tech. “I have two children at home doing third and first grade for nearly two years together and they bought their own tech home as well,” Lam said.
While providing the tech was the first challenge, CIOs soon saw the security threat implicit in distributed endpoints outside of traditional permiter controls. “So, as all of these devices are connecting into our network, how do we make sure that they are not introducing more risks?” Lam said.
Security – balancing protection with productivity
CIOs must strike a good balance between elegant user experiences and security, but in doing so must also understand that: “If employees feel like it’s overly cumbersome or bogs them down or, or even worse, if they start to feel like, ‘Wow, this seems a little bit Big Brother, are they accessing my personal data on my device?’ What happens then is employees stop using your solution, you lose productivity and security.”
You also end up with workers using unauthorized solutions to get things done.
There are lots of security tools out there, different tools that do different things. The challenge comes when you try to bring them together.
“Some of them have varying levels of support for different OSes, so to push out policies, you need to push them out across different tools to make that one end user experience work, and it might be very inconsistent.”
Lam argues that creating seamless experiences to empower employees without undermining the user experience or device performance is essential. “That’s where you’re going to succeed on that employee experience place,” she said.
“Technology should enable them to do their jobs, not make their work harder for them,” she said.
Eric von Hippel, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, calls this “user innovation,” and believes there is big value to be unleashed when businesses work with employees to identify and resolve the challenges workers have, rather than forcing solutions they don’t need upon them.
“We’re all engineers at the end of the day in the field of IT. We’re building things,” says Lam. “That’s what gets us excited. But it’s even more exciting to see it being used. So, if you’re rolling out solutions, or putting security tools on devices that make them harder to use, or make your employee’s or student’s lives harder, they’re not going to use them or will find a way to get around them. That would be the worst-case scenario, because if they start doing that, then you lose visibility and control and security around those connections.”
Remote work is a huge opportunity
Ultimately, employee experiences are critical.
Lam is based in California, and notes that one positive outcome from the pandemic has been a willingness to embrace remote work. She might otherwise never have been hired at Jamf, for example.
“Our employees can work from anywhere. employees do have choices now, right. So, if you make it so hard for them, when you become known as the company that, ‘Oh, man, all their devices are locked down — you can barely get your work done, you know, on the devices.’ People have choices and they may look elsewhere.
[Also read: How Apple improved enterprise deployments at WWDC]
“I feel that, you know, it’s just that muscle of reminding yourself, that experience also needs to be there because — well, look at what’s happening — the Great Resignation, for example.”
The ability to work remotely makes it possible to build teams from a diversity of backgrounds. Employee diversity is another key tenet being rapidly embraced across enterprises, not just in line with corporate social responsibility, but also because diversity brings teams additional insight and knowledge that can help businesses succeed, even in a down period. McKinsey says there is a relationship between diversity and business success, in that the more diverse teams are more likely to experience financial outperformance.
The complexity will be rationalized
“I came from a world in which I had to support Windows devices and Macs,” said Lam. “My breakdown was around 40% Macs and the rest Windows. I was doing zero touch deployment with Autopilot and Intune for the Windows devices. There was no chance I was going to accomplish that for the Macs, and we leveraged Jamf for it. And I will tell you the experience of doing it for the Mac devices on Jamf was near flawless from like inception to deployment to getting it out. It was a little bit of a bear on the other side, right?
“As soon as a new OS shipped, everything broke because users would update and then call my help desk because apps stopped working and this happened each time an update shipped. But telling people not to update when the software ships is a terrible experience.”
Jamf, of course, provides same-day support for Apple software updates, and Lam and her team use the same technology to maintain their devices. “I know that all of our devices and their apps will continue to work seamlessly when updates ship.”
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