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Unified endpoint management systems harness upsurge in devices

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Unified endpoint management tools enrich the user experience

A well-conceived and well-executed UEM strategy that prioritizes UX can improve cross-platform capabilities, system access and ultimately worker productivity.

Once upon a time, using a computer for business purposes was considered a privilege. Computers back then had only basic functions and came with a big tower case and an ugly monitor for running old-school DOS or Windows programs. Users of those computers made the best of what they had to work with, possibly recalling the words of their elementary school teacher: You get what you get, and don't pitch a fit.

With computing now permeating practically every aspect of business and society, today's users have much higher expectations. Even the youngest of desktop, laptop and mobile users expect the latest and greatest hardware that can run software of their choosing and display it all on a beautiful screen with a fast internet connection whenever and wherever they want it.

IT administrators therefore need to balance those expectations with their own goals of maintaining security and oversight across all endpoint platforms.

UEM spells relief

Unified endpoint management (UEM) tools address these complexities. Whether they're traditional workstations running macOS or Windows or mobile devices running iOS or Android, UEM can help take the pain out of administration and oversight while maintaining a positive user experience across diverse endpoint environments.

At a high level, UEM is designed to improve visibility, control and automation in areas that could otherwise be difficult to manage and result in spoiling the user experience. These areas include the following:

  • physical asset management;
  • software updates for the operating system, third-party software and homegrown applications;
  • system hardening and configuration management;
  • application validation and containerization;
  • policy enforcement around specific device platforms, user roles and geographic locations;
  • integration with network and security management systems; and
  • reporting and auditing.
IT administrators need to balance user expectations with maintaining security and oversight across all endpoint platforms.

One of the challenges that IT admins encounter is balancing the user experience from one platform to another. In the context of these management and security controls, will end users know what to expect? Likely not, if you're using different tools to manage the unique platforms.

Whether you're brand new to UEM or looking to tweak your approach and move to the next level, the user experience needs to be taken into account, and that includes productivity, cross-platform capabilities and ease of system access.

Balancing system security with user convenience

While system security and management is considered a top priority, that must be weighed against the practical need to get things done. In other words, it's important to balance oversight with usability and convenience. Consider these questions when evaluating your own situation and unified endpoint management tools:

  • Will users access their systems and applications in the same way, regardless of the platform they're on?
  • Can we rightfully expect users to adhere to acceptable usage and related policies if it all looks different on every system?
  • Instead of training users to think and act differently, can we apply technology to do that for them?
  • Will management be able to lower their expectations of what users are expected to do if consistent unified endpoint management tools guide their behaviors?
  • If we implement a new UEM environment or tweak an existing one, what impact will it have on the user experience?
  • How might UEM affect the experience of common applications such as web browsing, email, instant messaging, and document sharing and collaboration?
  • In what ways can UEM keep users from being forced to make security decisions?
  • In what ways can UEM get users more involved in the administration and oversight processes, including incident response when things go awry?

Walk in your users' shoes

Endpoint management must be treated as an extension of your existing network. You also need to put yourself in your users' shoes to experience their systems as you have presented them. So it's important to get the right people involved in IT and security decision-making to avoid creating a burdensome mobile device, laptop or desktop user experience.

Sit down with your team that includes non-IT and security staff and develop a set of goals not only for endpoint governance, but usability as well. Determine which standards and policies need to be established for mobile and traditional workstations. Develop and maintain a system that works for all parties involved and not something that's convenient and expedient for IT's sake.

Warren Buffett once said, "There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult." Unified endpoint management tools are supposed to make things better, and they will as long as there's proper planning and management. Otherwise, the end-user computing experience might become unnecessarily complex and create more problems than it solves. That's not where you need to be.

This was last published in March 2019

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