How Amgen Made Modern Device Management Work
- November 16, 2020
In recent years, IT teams have grappled with a Catch-22 when managing the array of devices employees use to do their jobs. On the one hand, modern workers increasingly demand that workplace technology mirror the familiar, user-friendly digital experiences they’re used to at home, leading many companies to adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. On the other hand, it’s an enormous challenge for IT to provide a consistent, simple, and secure user experience while managing thousands of personal laptops, phones, and tablets of all kinds.
The concept of modern device management (MDM) was created to solve this problem. MDM provides a single, cloud-first platform that allows IT to manage any device remotely and maintain a high level of security while empowering employees to be more productive. Many organizations were on their way to a modern management approach even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the strategy is now proving to be more beneficial than ever as millions of employees worldwide are forced to work from home.
Admittedly, MDM isn’t something a large company can adopt overnight. But as one NTT DATA client has learned, the benefits are worth the journey.
Laying the groundwork
Amgen, one of the world’s largest biotech pharmaceutical companies, bought in early to modern management promise and is now truly realizing the vision. With 22,000 global employees and roughly 35,000 endpoints to be managed, Amgen’s IT team found itself spending too much time on provisioning and service desk tasks that were ripe for automation. The team started working toward the idea of modern management two years ago, but it took the COVID crisis for business leaders to fully recognize the urgency.
“COVID suddenly put a huge emphasis on the remote workforce,” said Chad Arvay, principal architect for end-user device management at Amgen. “With everyone working from home, our old system would have made it very difficult to onboard new hires or support break-fixes. Now, we can provision, repair, or upgrade any device remotely without having to touch it physically.”
Like many major initiatives, the first step toward MDM was the hardest but the most important.
“It starts with just getting the platform and controls in place,” said Chad. For Amgen, the platform is a combination of technologies from VMware, Tachyon, and Lenovo. “Once you have that first iteration, you start building momentum to enhance and evolve the platform’s capabilities. It gets to be like riding a bike.”
Over time, the development team has moved away from waterfall project management in favor of Agile and DevOps practices and has purposefully chipped away at the list of technology roadblocks that once buried IT in service requests and stifled employee productivity. For example, the MDM platform now enables automated device back-up and recovery, and downtime for bi-annual Windows servicing has been dramatically reduced. Soon, a service desk chatbot will help Amgen employees handle many routine device issues with no human intervention.
Big picture benefits
For the IT organization itself, transitioning to a modern device management platform creates obvious advantages. A single pane of glass through which to monitor and control every endpoint makes life much easier for IT practitioners, freeing up resources to focus on more strategic initiatives. Chad estimates that, by preventing some issues and servicing others through automation, Amgen will reduce its service desk calls by 30 percent or more by next year.
MDM can also add rigor to security. With more devices than ever accessing the network from all over the world, IT must get its arms around the BYOD free-for-all.
“Modern management presented an opportunity for IT ops to partner with security and create a unified approach,” said Chad.
Amgen’s new platform makes it easy to keep devices up-to-date with the latest patches, reducing the risk of security breaches. And, utilizing VMware Identity Manager (VIDM), they’ve been able to extend their zero-trust security posture and make it seamless for users.
Business leaders outside of IT have equal reason to be excited about MDM. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a faster, frictionless technology experience for every employee in the company. Simply put, the less employees have to deal with malfunctioning devices or network access issues, the better they’ll be at their jobs.
“Prior to MDM, anywhere from 16 – 22 percent of all devices had some sort of service ticket every month,” said Chad. “In our MDM pilot of 1,000 users, we brought that down to 8 percent — just by using a unified platform and modern techniques to implement settings and configurations.”
That’s a big win for IT, but also for the business overall. A more harmonious technology experience equates to more satisfied employees who are less likely to defect to competitors.
Moreover, MDM gives Amgen employees — and the company as a whole — more flexibility and agility to adjust to whatever work arrangements the pandemic demands next.
The people side of change
While the technical challenges of achieving MDM were his primary focus, Chad said managing the human element of change was equally important. Gaining executive buy-in took time and required IT to present a very clear business case to various stakeholder groups.
When it came time to purchase new technologies, bringing others on board was an essential step.
“Building the platform has to be a collaborative process,” Chad said. “It can’t just be the end-user technology team picking and choosing everything; those are bigger enterprise architecture decisions."
As new capabilities came online, the next challenge was to manage expectations.
“You can’t expect to boil the ocean all at once. Keep the long-term goal in mind, but you have to break the initiative into manageable projects,” said Chad. “It’s important to capture the low-hanging fruit first and demonstrate some quick wins to keep building support for the vision.”
Finally, for the MDM transformation to take hold, the Amgen IT team had to do some transforming of its own. Adopting Agile and DevOps practices across a large organization represent a significant culture change, and the Amgen team welcomed help from its organizational change management and communications groups.
Amgen is continuing to build out its MDM capabilities, incorporating data analytics and AI elements to reveal powerful insights and create more business value.
It hasn’t been easy, but they’ve proven that it works. Companies that follow in their footsteps have a lot to gain in terms of reduced costs, greater security, and heightened productivity. Above all else, modern device management enables an enhanced digital experience to make anytime, anywhere work just as fruitful as being in the office. In light of current events, that’s a goal every employee and business leader can get behind.