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How the Employee Choice model for mobile devices can be easily managed with the right partners [Apple]

Client Computing | Posted on July 12, 2011 by Joseph Byer

The traditional model of “one computer fits all” within an organization is shifting. Even the effort of selecting a desktop or laptop standard per user role or department does not offer the flexibility that today’s tech-savvy worker is demanding from their employer. Started with mobile devices (smartphones and tabl… ok, let’s be honest: iPads) the phenomenon has trickled into the core client computing systems, manly laptops.

What’s the incentive for businesses to encourage this behaviour? Organizations that have adopted this model find more happy and productive workers when you allow them to choose the platform they want to work on. It’s also a strong recruitment tool to get the best and brightest talent onboard. The era of “This is your beige box, this is your black phone” from one company is being challenged with “Would you prefer a Mac or Windows computer? iPhone or Blackberry?” by their competition. And today’s Datacenter infrastructure definitely has the guts to run run virtual desktops and applications in these scenarios – just ask our own Jonathan White.

However beneficial this policy may be to recruit and retain talent, IT Managers and CIOs are frustrated with the lack of security on a “rogue” device entering their infrastructure. Counting on a personal computer’s uptime when the manufacturer is not the company’s standard can also be a pain;either the Help Desk has to manage a multitude of dissimilar devices, or leave it up to the employee to purchase the appropriate service plan. How do you enforce policy for security and maintenance?

The best strategy that provides flexibility for the employees and peace of mind is the Employee Choice model. This allows businesses to set the standards for multiple options, allowing the worker to choose A, B or C, all secure and manageable for IT. Beyond the issue of security, procurement in the hands of company itself continues to leverage the purchasing power of a large organization, rather than whatever deal the new recruit can find at Jimmy’s Electronics that week. Further still, technology sourcing in the hands of a trusted IT Solutions provider such as Softchoice can provide pre-delivery custom configuration and imaging. Thus the new laptop is still hand-picked by the employee, and primed for business by the company it needs to serve.

So this is the direction you want to take your business, to enable business productivity rather than control your employees’ computing choice – what are your next steps? How much or how little choice do you offer? How do you narrow down those choices?

As more companies move towards the Employee Choice model, more are preparing for that choice to be a Mac or MacBook. Consider this: over 50% of students graduating post-secondary and coming into the workforce have used a Mac. Even more people are now familiar with iOS on iPhones and iPads, with the ease-of-use and exceptional user experience that was born on OS X. If you want to offer your employees that choice, the wisest option to include is a Mac. Look at Citrix – they offered their employees choice of computer, and now nearly 50% of those chosen are Macs.

Mac makes sense for IT departments. State of the art coding in OS X means ease-of-use and less trouble-shooting; state of the art design on the hardware means top performance and long-lasting durability. (Yours truly has a G4 Powerbook Titanium from 2002 that is still kicking!) If there are any issues with the Mac, users have the power to engage directly with AppleCare Support which consistently gets top-notch ratings for their service. Putting the user in control of their laptop support means less burden on Help Desk resources.

With a streamlined and consistent product line-up from Apple, there are no driver issues when product is refreshed. Often there is a clear path where one model of laptop leaves off and the next generation picks up, all supported by the same version of OS X. If the standard models don’t suit your employee needs, creating a custom system and making THAT your standard is easy with Softchoice.

Speaking of OS X, Snow Leopard 10.6 made it easier than ever to integrate with Windows Active Directory, Exchange, Network File Shares (SMB) and network printers. Macs operating efficiently in a predominantly Microsoft environment is no longer an issue. Also there’s no fragmentation of the OS – no “Home” version that won’t join your domain. If any employee purchased Macs DO find their way into your environment, you know that OS X is consistent throughout.

From the overall business perspective, once again Mac makes sense. The TCO compared to Windows-based PCs is equal or less for Macs over the lifespan of the computer, based on initial costs, support and extended warranties. But that doesn’t take into account the “soft costs” of owning a device – things you can’t put into numbers but know are saving you money. For example: the average company worker on a Mac will be using that Mac more for personal use after hours – iTunes, iPhoto and other entertainment use. Whether or not that use translates into work email getting checked more often is something that is hard to quantify, but smart businesses know this does happen. Gestures on Apple’s latest Trackpad are also saving lots of time scrolling and flipping through pages, features that I can speak to experience knowing that by the end of the year they’ve saved me hours of work.

The great news is you don’t have to go into the world of Apple for business alone – Softchoice is here to help. We can help you select your standard and, as mentioned, customize it if need be.

From there, our handy customer portal at Softchoice.com can highlight the proper model, AppleCare and accessories for quick procurement. In fact, the portal is so neatly laid out and with user-level access controls any company could give a generic login for users to select their model and order with their own credit card, bypassing procurement and further approvals. The devices can be managed as assets along with warranties and other IT equipment purchased at Softchoice, complete reports called up at anytime to analyze IT spend and refresh cycles.

In a sense, the Employee Choice model is a hybrid between the traditional model of a single company-supplied standard and the infiltration of BYOD that IT is struggling with. The best of both worlds, and that world is even better when you include Apple and Softchoice.

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