Ntiva Live: Apple for Business

Modern IT and Employee Choice Programs: What They Are and How They Work

Employee Choice Programs - Episode Overview

In this episode, Ben discusses the latest Apple news along with taking an in-depth look at employee choice programs, and why your business should embrace modern IT to give your workers the freedom they deserve!

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Episode Transcript


Modern IT and Employee Choice Programs: What They Are and How They Work

Hi, everyone. Today is Tuesday, July 27th, 2021. Live streaming from Chicago, I'm Ben Greiner, Director of Apple Technology at Ntiva, and today we will be discussing employee choice programs, along with some other things. What is it? Why build one? What are the benefits to your organization and your employees?

I want to talk about it from the standpoint of not just building an employee choice program, but I think some of our clients have what Apple would consider an employee choice program. They just don't realize it and maybe they could take even more advantage of that. And I would appreciate, because I don't have a guest today, I would appreciate any and all interactions so it feels like I'm not just talking to myself.


Apple News: Making Sense of OS Updates

So before we get started, I want to make some announcements. I'm going to try to do, going forward, when we don't have a guest, even when we do, do some recent Apple news in the beginning, get to the topic, and then close out with some recent K-based articles that we posted. All of this is about building awareness, communication, getting feedback, and doing the best we can to help both our clients and our future clients.

I think you all can see my screen now. If you can't, please let me know. And we're going to go into Safari and I want to talk about the recent updates. Apple released macOS Big Sur 11.5 last week. And then this week, just yesterday, they released a patch, 11.5.1.

And just to overview what these numbers mean, there's a great summary from Ars Technica that talked about how Apple software releases tend to follow a common pattern. Top level numbers like iOS 13, or in this case, 11, that'd be the top number, 11, are annual releases. So Big Sur is an annual release. We were not recommending that in the beginning, but we are now.

If you're not yet running Big Sur, I do recommend that you evaluate whether it will work on your computer and in your environment. And, of course, we can help you with that. So please don't just blindly run into any upgrade without some planning and intention, and please reach out to us if you need any help with that. But that's the annual release, and then they introduce a bunch of significant new features or changes throughout the year. And that's typically one decimal point. So 11.5 came out with some new features. Here they are.

But the third point, would it be third or second, then at least any update with a number after one decimal point. No. When you see another number after another decimal point, as is the case with 11.5.1, you're usually looking at an update that targets one or two bugs or security vulnerabilities but does not add any new features.

So we try as best we can to evaluate these as quickly as possible when they come out. In fact, I had just updated to 11.5 over the weekend, and then 11.5.1 came out. What that meant for me is additional downtime, additional restarting, because these updates do require a restart. However, because this is a security update. It also is considered critical, and I would encourage everyone to apply that update.

If you are a client of Ntiva in our management system, then we will do the best we can to nudge your team members to run that update. And when I say nudge, there's actually an application we use that prompts team members to restart their computer to apply this update.

Obviously, if we force that out without a prompt someone could be giving a presentation like I am and in the middle of the presentation their computer could restart. We don't want that to happen. So if an update does not require a restart, we apply it no questions asked. If an update does require a restart, then we put up a window periodically that gets more and more aggressive and to the point where you cannot get rid of that window until you restart your computer. So if anyone has questions about that, it's a case by case situation, reach out to us. We can talk through it.

I wanted everyone to know about that and I wanted everyone to know about MagSafe Battery Pack, which Apple released. And if you do need a battery pack, this one's pretty cool. It's a battery pack for your iPhone mobile device that has the MagSafe technology so it attaches like a magnet to the back of your phone. And Apple is coming out with more and more MagSafe accessories.

And, in fact, one that maybe got overlooked recently, and I would have been into this if I was traveling, but I have not traveled in a while, but when I get back to traveling, I'm probably going to want to get this MagSafe Duo Charger here because it's nice and small. It folds up into this little square and then it unfolds so that you can charge your phone and your Apple Watch when you're traveling.

The last thing I wanted to mention that's super awesome, at least for me, is I was exploring spatial audio. And if you follow me on LinkedIn, I did do a post on this. If you go to Apple Music on your phone or your Mac and you do a search for spatial audio, you'll see a bunch of playlists that all have spatial audio. And if you have a compatible headphones, especially the AirPod Pros, and you listen to this introducing spatial audio, you'll really hear the difference between standard stereo and spatial audio. It's really amazing.

I totally recommend that you check it out. You will not want to go back to standard stereo once you hear spatial audio. So that's the recent news.


Employee Choice Programs

Let's talk about employee choice programs. So, first of all, what is an employee choice program? Simply put, it is giving employees a choice in the technology that they use. And you may have heard me talk about this in the past, and clearly I'm biased, Director of Apple Technology. I love Apple technology. I love supporting it, love promoting it, but, historically, a lot of IT companies, a lot of IT teams have not had the love that they need to support Apple devices, and therefore they've kept them out.

You've definitely heard me talk about this if you watch anything that I've recorded, and that is that old school IT, in my view, is about controlling, locking things down, and there was a time when that made sense, when we all went into the office and as long as you could control things, everything would work.

So modern IT, I was talking about modern IT and the idea that we no longer have one building to secure. Thanks to cloud computing, we have a bunch of end points in hybrid environments. They could be anywhere in the world. Corporate data is no longer stagnant thanks to bring your own device (BYOD) technology models. Modern IT needs to take a different approach, and one of those modern way of thinking about technology is to give your employees a choice.

So an employee choice program is really about giving your employees the choice between Windows PC and Apple Mac. It's really about letting them choose the technology that they want to use at work. And as Apple says, "When you give people the power to work the way they want with the tools they love, whether it's a Mac, iPhone, iPad, they are inspired to do the best work of their lives." It may be overstating it, but I think we get the idea.

So why would you want to build one of these in your organization? The biggest reasons are really to promote your business as being innovative and to hire and retain talent through employee experience.

I mean, it's as simple as that. Empowering employees. If I had a choice, and I've talked to plenty of people who agree with this, if I had a choice between two companies, all things being equal, and one's going to let me choose the technology that I use on a daily basis. And another is going to dictate that they're going to give me something, maybe a Dell computer, I'm always going to choose the option of choice.

I want everyone here to keep that in mind, and if you're a business manager and you have the ability to provide choice to your employees, I recommend you do that. And if you're an employee who would like to have choice, I recommend that you bring that to the attention of your managers. And certainly, if you work with us, get us involved so we can help build the case for that.


Apple M1: Can You Run the Software You Need?

So let's go back to the Safari and close this window, close this window. This is about the recent security update, close that window. And here, I wanted to talk about something that Apple just released this morning, as far as I can tell. 11 Reasons Mac Means Business. I'm not going to read through all this. You can do it later, but you may have even gotten this in your email. I got it in my email. Also, read about it in Apple News, but apple.com/business/mac. The M1 chip. You've heard me talk about the M1 chip. It is definitely the future and we have lots of clients running the M1 chip and they're very happy with it.

We have also had a few clients who have adopted the M1 chip but they're running an application that is still not fully M1 optimized, and they've had some frustrations. So isapplesiliconready.com is still a great resource. If you're running an application that you use a lot, and I run Office 365, that's not the best description. Let's do Microsoft.

Here's the Microsoft apps. And you can see most of the apps are optimized for M1. That's fantastic. We've talked about this before. But Microsoft Teams is not. That being said, it is running well in Rosetta 2, at least that's the report that we're getting. So I have not heard of anyone on an M1 Mac who has had any issues running the Microsoft 365 suite. And if you run the Office suite, you pretty much run Microsoft Teams.

That doesn't mean that you're not going to run into any issues, and this is why I just say still proceed with some caution. Get an M1 in your environment. Test it out. Be prepared that maybe the apps you're using still need to be updated or upgraded. Adobe is another one that we work with a lot of clients on, and Adobe recently released some M1 optimized applications. I don't remember, I guess it would have been these right here, have been updated. Last updated in July. Premiere Pro, July 20th.

But they do have a few. One of them being Adobe Acrobat that, although it's not optimized, it does say it runs in Rosetta. And it looks like if you're running Adobe Dimensions, which I'm not even sure what that is, you could not run an M1. You could not run that on an M1. Not today. So M1 is the future. I recommend it, but proceed cautiously.

Apple's on a two year plan to migrate all their computers to M1 and they're I think at least a year into that plan so far. So I just want to run through a couple of these reasons, which I also want to tell, I can see where Apple is going. They wanted 11 reasons. It goes to 11. That's funny. But reason two, see reason number one. I'm sure there's another reason they could throw in there. Battery life we know is excellent on the M1s, and to be fair, it was pretty good on the Intels as well. Mac works with IT. I can verify that.


What is Zero Touch IT?

IT, the tools that we have from Apple are better than we've ever had. Zero Touch is where we're trying to get all of our clients. Zero Touch services delivery meaning you can give a device to your employee out of the box that's managed by the organization. Very cool. Macs cost less in the long run. I still hear that, "Well, we can't afford Macs. We can't afford Macs." This study, granted, commissioned by Apple, and just updated, this is the new study updated for 2021, the Forrester Total Economic Impact Study, argues that you will save money in the long run if you run an Apple Mac versus a Windows PC. And they go into a lot of detail around that. I'm not going to get into it.

Of course, I believe this, maybe blindly so. But I don't think so, because when I talk to other teams and when I talk about deployment, how easy it is with Zero Touch versus a Windows PC, when I talk about how easy it is to make changes and secure the Apple platform, the Apple platform is arguably more secure than the Windows platform, but it's not the end all be all.

You need a total security defense in-depth program to protect yourself. And the biggest threat we see today are, really, people clicking on links. And just to make it clear, it doesn't matter whether you're on a Mac or PC, if you click on a link and hand over the credentials, that's a security risk that even Apple can't protect you from.


How Your Business Can Afford Macs

So employee training is big. But one of the things that we're seeing more and more is when people are done with their computers, whether it's end of life or the employment agreement has ended, and now they've let somebody go and they have a spare computer, we're seeing clients turn those computers in through either the Apple Trade In Program. And here's the Apple Trade In Program, or through our local regional partner, which is Second Life Mac, secondlifemac.com. Both of these are great ways to trade in your computer and get several hundred dollars back.

So when you're looking at the total cost of ownership of a computer, it's not fair to say Macs costs more, because maybe the initial outlay of that money costs more, but the lifespan of the product can often cost less. And that's what this article is arguing. And I'm sure there are people out there who would argue that PCs are still better. And in some cases, you have employees who need PCs. Their business relies on it, Windows PCs. And so not everyone needs a Mac, but they should be given a choice if there's a business use case for it.

So let me get back to this. I just want to run through these very quickly. Innovative companies run on Mac. I think that's a given. And if you want to be an innovative company, if you want to hire good people, retain good people, I think it's a no-brainer. Security built in, we talked about that. It is built in, but don't think that moving to Mac is going to solve all your security problems. And then, lots of apps run on a Mac.

And one more thing about the price of a Mac, I just want to mention because I talk to a lot of Windows teams where they complain about the price of Mac, and then I see them, or at least I used to when I would leave my Zoom office, I would see them drive off in their very nice car. And I would think, "Well, you're willing to spend a lot of money on a car because you love it while you're not willing to spend a little bit more money on a Mac because you love it." And that's simply because they don't understand the platform. That's my own view, and I'm sure if we had someone else from the Window's side of Ntiva here, we'd argue, and maybe we should have one of those sessions. But not today, this is my live stream. And then reason number 10, Mac and iPhone. So many people have iPhones. They naturally and intuitively can make the transition to a Mac very easily, and then it's a pleasure to work on, and I think that's certainly true.

So I wanted to share this page because it's the new page and there's also lots of great resources here at the bottom where you can learn more. But in all cases, reach out to us and we can help you build this program and get it ready. And I don't know if anyone here listening right now has a program, but I do know some of our clients allow their employees to have a choice. And I think they could do an even better job and promote it.


The Details and Benefits of Employee Choice

Apple talks about this in their Employee Choice Guide for IT. And there's another webpage they have dedicated here under apple.com/business/choice where they talk in more detail about the Apple Employee Choice Program. And here's the guide again. They talk about all the great reasons, and you're allowing your employees to run Apple devices, I would promote that because I think that's a huge employee benefit that is unique today. It is rapidly changing going forward and if you're not doing it then you're going to be behind the times soon. That's my understanding and belief.

So I just want to focus on the benefits to your organization and your employees. Not to beat a dead horse here, but certainly we talked about improving employee engagement, retention, and productivity by offering employee choice. We've talked about reducing risk with improved security. I do believe running Apple devices will help reduce your risk based on the threat model of a Windows PC versus the threat model of a Mac or even an iPhone. But to be clear, you need security awareness training no matter what device. And then the device life cycle savings, which we talked about or touched on. Overall device cost, not just the procurement cost. But the overall cost.

And one of the things Apple's also very good at are these flexible financing models. Anyone who doesn't have the capital to buy Macs straight up could lease them. And then with the buyback program, you can constantly have up-to-date devices. And that's one of the things I hear. What tends to happen is, I walk into an environment where they're mostly Windows and they have a few Macs.

The Macs have been ignored and they're having problems or security concerns. That's why we get brought in. I ask, "What is your policy for replacing computers?" Why do I ask that? Because typically they have like six year old Macs and they have three year old PCs. So I would say three to four years is pretty standard in the business world for replacing your workstations. Apple always give you three years with AppleCare of support. If you get an extra year out of it, great. If you're a creative professional, you probably want to stick with three years because the creatives are constantly pushing the envelope and the edge of technology, and they need the power, they need the new innovation.

But if you can get an extra year out of it for your non-creative professionals, great. But you need to have a timeline by which you say, "We are only going to run technology that is three to four years old," as an example, "and then we're going to replace those computers. If it's time for a replacement, we're going to give the employee a choice." And I'm not saying you give them a choice of, "Hey, just go to the Apple Store and buy something." No, you say, "These are the models that we've verified that we support and we allow you to have."

Maybe it's a 13 inch for the non-creatives. Maybe it's a 16 inch for the creatives, notebooks. And then something equivalent on the Dell or Windows PC side. I keep using Dell as an example, but it could be any number of brands. So the point is, you build a program by which you give them choice, but yes, there are some limitations.

Another example is, within Ntiva, we run a support desk that supports a lot of Windows machines. It would be a little counter-intuitive to allow our Windows service desk to run a Mac. Even though, technically, they could probably do so, it's probably better that they're running the same operating system they are primarily supporting. So you may define departments that have the choice. You may have certain departments that as a requirement of the job you have to run this particular model, whether it's Mac or Windows.

So keep all that in mind, but with Zero Touch for deployment, reduce downtime. I think overall, the stats show you do have reduced downtime with Apple devices. That being said, I just told you I had to restart my Mac twice in one week to get it updated. So there are some rough patches with any operating system. And then longer life and trade in value. I'm not even sure Windows PCs could last as long as Macs. And that's why the trade in value so much higher on them and that's why you're going to see that kickback at the end of the life cycle.


And that's our live stream for today. So please give me feedback on what you'd like to hear, what you'd like to talk about. And we'll see you in two weeks. I know we do have a guest, I think in four weeks. We're having a guest from Extensus to talk about universal type server, talk about our solution for hosting that cloud, maybe touch on their portfolio products. We have a long history of working with Extensus. I'm looking forward to that. And I'll be back here in two weeks to talk about Apple Miscellaneous. Thank you for joining me. Have a great week. Talk to you later. Bye.

About the Ntiva Apple for Business Livestream

Ntiva’s Ben Greiner hosts the Ntiva Apple for Business livestream every other Tuesday from 12:00 to 12:30pm CT. These live events, presented by the Ntiva team of Apple experts, are sharply focused, easily digestible, and cover topics including the latest Apple/macOS/iOS technology updates, cybersecurity, data privacy, MDM and BYOD policies, and more! We take questions from the audience and share what's working—and not working—for us and others in the industry.