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28 June 2021: After a leak of an early pre-release version of Windows, Microsoft formally announced Windows 11 and have followed up with a series of posts, most aimed at promoting the new user experience of the operating system. A quick look on YouTube will find dozens of reviews and tests of the pre-release version of Windows 11, and from early tests, it appears as if there is little performance impact for the OS. Reviews of Microsoft’s documentation suggest that there is no significant change to how Windows 11 can be deployed. The bulk of the changes appear to be related to how Microsoft’s Office 365 products are put front and centre within the desktop experience. Teams, in particular, takes centre stage. As with the release of Windows 10, Windows 11 will start by building new expectations among consumers, which will in turn drive staff to demand the new environment from their ICT groups. In this sense, the key issues for ICT look to be identical to those faced in 2015.

Why it’s Important

While Microsoft executives famously touted that Windows 10 would be the last Windows, a clear reference to enterprises’ frustrations with continued hardware/software refresh treadmill and the expense of upgrading fleets of desktops en-mass, the statement was never officially enshrined in the product lifecycle. This means that enterprises, at least for the foreseeable future, will need to plan for generational shifts in desktop upgrades, complete with the demands of change management and the potential bulk hardware refreshes.  

The common driver for most organisations looking to refresh their desktop environment (device management, security, application deployment and change management), is to ‘flatten the investment’ needed to keep users up to date. From a device asset management perspective, the goal is to move away from four-to-five year bulk buys and move to a rolling schedule of device refreshes. For software deployment, it's a move to a self-service model. And for the OS, it's a move to a gradually updated, evolving platform.  

All the above have become critical enablers of hybrid working and by extension business continuity. 

Microsoft’s Cloud-based approach to deploying devices and software with Autopilot is highly attractive as it supports the new digital workspace model. How best to migrate to Autopilot from the legacy ‘tiered’ desktop management approach is by far the most common question IBRS is asked in relation to digital workspaces.

Microsoft has noted that Windows 11 can be managed using all current tools and processes that are used to manage Windows 10. This means Windows 11 can be managed using the Cloud-based Autopilot approach and the ‘standardised desktop’ approach via SCCM (System Centre Configuration Manager). Third-party tools such as Ivanti are also expected to work without problem. Therefore, based on available information, there appears to be little additional benefit to Windows 11 over Windows 10 when it comes to deployment and management.

This is not to say that Windows 11 will not have other benefits to enterprises, but the (current) benefits appear to be more related to putting Office 365 services forward.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Desktop / end user computing teams
  • ICT asset management teams
  • CFO / ICT financial planning teams

What’s Next?

Enterprise desktop teams do not need to rush into Windows 11 planning. Device and software compatibility is expected to be high (despite some initial negative assumptions on YouTube). Instead, organisations should continue to focus their efforts on migrating from the standardised desktop management model to the ‘digital workspaces’ model which focuses on offering self-service capabilities and zero-trust security. In addition, adopting an iterative and ongoing approach to Office 365 change management is needed. Moving to the digital workspaces model will not only reap significant operational benefits over the older standardised desktop approach, but will also ensure a smoother transition to Windows 11 before the 2025 end of support deadline.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Digital Workspaces Master Advisory Presentation
  2. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  3. How will you deal with Microsoft’s Pester Power strategy for Windows 10?
  4. The journey of Office 365: A guiding framework Part 3: Post-implementation