Why a Merger is the Perfect Time to Onboard Windows Autopilot for Your Workstations

Why a Merger is the Perfect Time to Onboard Windows Autopilot for Your Workstations

Deploying and maintaining Windows workstations has historically been a time- and resource-intensive process. Even after the emergence of tools like System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM, now known as Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager) and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), which reduce some of the burden on IT teams, manual, hands-on processes continued to be necessary, but unavoidable. Deploying a single new workstation can involve hours of work creating custom images and setting up privacy settings, drivers, and applications. Rolling out a new OS to hundreds if not thousands of existing devices can easily take more than a year, with IT pros having to upgrade each device one by one.

With the release of Windows Autopilot in 2017, Microsoft promised to simplify these challenges. Autopilot makes a giant leap forward towards a truly zero-touch deployment and management process by enabling IT teams to truly automate OS deployment. At a time when remote work is changing the nature of the workplace, it’s an ideal solution for easing the burden of managing Windows devices throughout their entire lifecycle. And if you’re planning a merger-related IT project, it’s the perfect time to onboard Autopilot.

WHAT IS WINDOWS AUTOPILOT?

Windows Autopilot is a set of cloud-based technologies that simplify the set-up and configuration of Windows 10 devices. It eliminates the need for IT teams to manually deploy custom OS images, install drivers, or manage infrastructure. Autopilot streamlines the deployment process into a few simple steps:

  • When you purchase a new device, the vendor pre-registers it with Autopilot.
  • Your IT administrator then customizes the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE) via the Autopilot service portal.
  • When the employee receives the device, they connect to the network and log in, and the customized settings are automatically installed.

For end users, the experience is plug-and-play, similar to purchasing a new consumer-level smartphone or laptop. And for IT departments, eliminating redundant, manual processes frees up time (and money) for other activities. There’s no need for re-engineering OS images, since you can configure your settings once and assign them to a profile in Intune, Microsoft’s device management cloud service. Once settings have been established for a profile, they can be automatically applied to all devices under that profile.

Beyond initial deployment, Autopilot also supports ongoing device management. Traditionally when you need to update a policy, devices must be connected to the corporate network, which poses major challenges when employees are working remotely. Autopilot addresses this problem because the device can be registered in the cloud to Azure Active Directory (AAD). With the device registered with AAD, you can create configuration profiles to manage policies and push them to devices using Intune.

Planning a Merger-Related IT Project? Now’s the Ideal Time to Implement Autopilot.

While it may seem counterintuitive, a merger or carve-out is an ideal opportunity to implement Autopilot. The IT projects for any M&A transaction can be full of potential pitfalls that lead to spiraling costs and increase the risk of business interruption. Merging disparate IT architectures and determining which systems and processes to keep requires careful coordination, and separating them during a divestiture can be just as challenging. Getting the timing right is tricky but critical, which can lead to the technology integration exceeding its planned budget and schedule. No wonder M&A requires more project management expertise than your run-of-the-mill IT project.

So, why would you want to complicate an already complex IT migration by adding yet another technology wrinkle—that is, by onboarding Windows Autopilot at the same time?

With two-thirds of employees in white-collar roles working remotely at least part-time, deploying workstations, Office 365, and AAD is more challenging than ever. This is difficult enough under ordinary circumstances, but during an M&A-related IT project it can create major hurdles for the buyer’s IT team to solve. For example, in larger mergers the seller often doesn’t allow the access required for Active Directory migration of workstation objects. To make things worse, with much of the workforce distributed remotely, manually migrating devices to the target environment is extremely difficult and can further delay the migration.

3 Ways Autopilot Enables You to Overcome the Hurdles of Managing a Remote Merger

Because Autopilot supports end-to-end remote deployment and management, IT teams can work around the access limitations that are common in M&A-related transactions. Here are three ways that Autopilot eases the technology migration process.

1. Speed up workstation deployment to the merged entity

Autopilot and Intune allow you to remotely reset and re-enroll devices so that they can be migrated to the tenant. This does require you to back up the files on each device, but some of that process can be automated by using Administrative Template. You will also need to import the hardware hash into the new tenant so that it is registered to your Autopilot instance and can be connected to AAD in the target environment.

2. Reimage workstations, regardless of where the user is located

Once a device is connected to AAD, you can use Intune to push the right apps, policies, and setup experience for users. The user simply logs in, the OOBE begins, and the proper settings automatically load to their device. There’s no need to load custom images on each individual workstation.

3. Accelerate refreshes to the existing workstations, now and in future

If you need to replace an existing workstation, Autopilot makes it easy. If a newly acquired device is faulty, or if you need to replace an employee’s workstation down the line, you can have the vendor ship a new pre-registered device directly to the user and eliminate the need for IT to touch it at all. 

The Process Is Simple, But You Still May Need Support

Remote work is here to stay, and Autopilot is a powerful tool for streamlining the initial deployment and ongoing management of workstations, no matter where employees are located. On top of that, your IT team has enough on its plate, especially when you add M&A to the mix. Onboarding an unfamiliar technology in the middle of a merger—without the benefit of an expert advisor that is thoroughly familiar with it—can be a make-or-break moment for the merger or carve-out. Working with an experienced project team that understands the complexities of M&A IT projects and has deep experience in successfully rolling out technologies like Windows Autopilot can allow you to take advantage of the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls.

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