Editorial: WP7 for the Enterprise; MS leading by example.

A recent glance through Microsoft’s Technet repository found an interesting internal Case Study MS have written up on the deployment of Windows Phone internally to their employees; “How Microsoft Deployed Windows Phone to Employees“.  As of May 2011 – they number a staggering 56,000 Microsoft Windows Phone users!  Based on the recent Gartner report estimates that MS had 1.6 million WP7 devices sold worldwide in Q1, it can be calculated that up to 3.5% (not including 6-8 weeks of Q4 2010 sales) of the global user base for WP7 at one point may have been MS staff!

Only MS would know the true figure of course – but either way you look at it, this is an Enterprise roll-out on the largest scale.

WP7Business

Recent WindowsTeamBlogs have begun to shift the launch emphasis by Microsoft away from a “consumer” focus to an “end user”(1) focus, echoed by Paul Bryan, a Senior Director of Business Experience for the Windows Phone team.  End-user experience importantly becomes more inclusive by MS definitions – to equally mean a WP7 owner’s use of the the OS at both home and work.  Further expanding on their launch business credentials (Office Hub, Onenote+Skydrive, SharePoint, Exchange Sync etc.), confirmed Mango Enterprise improvements coming this year as advised by Paul include;

    • “Pinnable email folders: Pin a folder to the start screen for quick access. This could be an email folder for a specific project, from a specific group or person (like your boss), or an RSS feed you’ve set up in Outlook.
    • Conversation view in email: Emails in your inbox are organized by conversation, bringing replies to a thread into a consolidated view so it’s faster and easier to stay on top of the conversation.
    • Server search: Search your email server (e.g. Exchange Server) for older emails no longer stored on your phone, giving you ready access to all of your mail.
    • Lync: Lync Mobile brings the Lync experience to Windows Phone customers by delivering Unified Communications capabilities, including instant messaging and the ability to see the presence of your co-workers. The Lync app will be a free download from Windows Phone Marketplace and will be enabled with support from your business organization.
    • In addition to helping you stay productive, Mango also includes new capabilities for IT. With new features such as complex (alpha-numeric) password support, Information Rights Management support for protecting e-mails and Office documents, and support for access to hidden corporate Wi-Fi networks, your IT organization can stay on top of its game—providing you access to information you need while meeting corporate requirements.”

 

Screenshots from the WindowsTeamBlog Post

These features throw more weight at an OS that Microsoft needs more and more to sell for enterprise IT managers.  They simply can’t afford to have the initial launch perception of WP7 as a home or social-user OS continue.  At Teched (June 2011), Paul Bryan also confirmed – and Blogged on the MS site that;

“Organizations are interested in investments they have already made (e.g. Exchange, SharePoint, Office). Windows Phone 7 enables the IT support most organizations need without the need for additional infrastructure.
Specifically, Windows Phone 7:

  • Is built from the ground up using industry best practices in secure software development (Secure Development Lifecycle).
  • Deeply Integrates email, calendar and contacts with Exchange Server enabling rich, seamless email and calendar management to enhance productivity.
  • Integrates with SharePoint through the SharePoint Workspace client, enabling enhanced collaboration through offline document access and syncing.
  • Helps protect corporate information by securing the device through PINs and passwords. Information is further protected by not allowing access to data via PC tethering or support for removable SD cards. In addition, Windows Phone 7 supports IT managed EAS policies such as Require Password, Password Strength, Remote Wipe and Reset to Factory Settings with multiple failed unlock attempts.
  • Helps ensure data reliability and integrity through application sandboxing and managed code. Windows Phone 7 ensures communications channels between applications cannot be opened and critical system resources cannot be accessed. Most malware threats are introduced through the browser. IE Mobile helps ensure that malicious code cannot be launched from web sites, thus reducing this threat.
  • Provides certification and verification of applications and content through Windows Phone Marketplace, further enhancing security.
  • Enables secure data transmission through 128 or 256 Bit SSL Encryption.
  • Supports secure access to on-premise applications and network resources using Forefront Universal Access Gateway (UAG).
  • Is future ready with cloud / services integration. Through the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Microsoft offers hosted Exchange and SharePoint services. Windows Phone 7 will support mobile access to BPOS from Outlook Mobile and the Office Hub.”

The Technet Case study in this context is then a “textbook example” and interesting look into the process of a large-scale technology deployment into an enterprise that Microsoft would hope other large businesses will take a leaf out of.  It touches on the hardware, software, marketing, infrastructure, linkages, security and governance, support and financial and tax HR employee considerations and finally distribution/supply chain factors.However it was not just the HOW that this document briefly covers, but also the WHY.  The large internal audience at MS for Windows Phone was seen as a priceless on-the-ground marketing and promotion base – through the links of employees into MVP groups, online blogs and social sites and other industry leadership position to peers and fans alike.

“Several motivating factors were behind the Windows Phone deployment. The primary motivation was for Microsoft to demonstrate how strongly it supported its investment in the research and development of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft executives were confident that once employees were utilizing their Windows Phones, word would spread outside the company about the phone platform’s power, versatility, and ease of use.”

mscustomersatisfactionThis confidence on the part of management seems to have been born out by MS reports earlier this year of high user satisfaction levels reported by customers once they actually are using a Windows Phone 7 device (LINK 1, 2).  Whatever the lack of context or additional information specific to WP7 that Mr Greg Sullivan attributed to numbers of “93%” – on the back of its major product offerings the MS overall score is certainly rising (mostly due to Windows 7 I’m sure).  And of course, MS had the luxury of a 56K strong internal user base on which they could happily poll away to and compile satisfaction levels and feedback from!

I can certainly write with some personal experience on the Enterprise front.  Working in a Top100 ASX listed Australian business (in a non-tech related role) – last November at launch my company had not updated to having Windows Phone as a confirmed company smartphone option.  Subsequently, having configured my own Samsung Focus to work on the company network, the handset is the perfect match of business and personal use.  No more is there a need for a personal as well as a business handset.  At home, the WP7 device seamlessly connects to your home Wi-Fi, removing any company charges for App D/L’s, social interactions etc. on the individuals time – and offers “always on” access to business email, GAL and SharePoint with no issues in my experience.  Only last week however I discovered from a colleague that WP7 has now been approved (as I configured her new Mozart for her!) for my company for new smartphones.  Progress! :)

wp7logo_web

Access to hidden Wi-Fi networks will be a welcome Mango enhancement – as this has stopped any number of business or public institutions (Colleges, TAFE’s etc.) from allowing WP7 network connections.  MS comments in their TechNet Case Study on changes in uptake to LAN connections within the company with WP7 deployed:

“Users also can utilize the Windows Phone built-in wireless functionality to access the Microsoft wireless local area network (LAN). With the previous Microsoft smartphone operating system—Windows Mobile—approximately 3 percent of clients accessed the wireless network. The Windows Phone deployment, only five months old, has resulted in a nearly 10-fold increase in clients (currently 30 percent) that utilize the Microsoft wireless network.”

Some aspects of the Technet article would appear to be more heavily formatted with the corporate Marketing painter.  There is a very “Textbook Promotions 101” conclusion:

“Conclusion: Windows Phone Just Works

Thanks to thorough research, careful planning and marketing, clear communications, and cohesive cross-team collaboration, and verifiable by strong user ratings, Microsoft has created a smartphone that truly does just work, right out of the box.”

Which like WP7 V1.0 launch edition – is right….up to a point (well the point where Mango when it arrives Q4 has a touted 500+ improvements, enhancements, extra features, API’s, etc.).  And from there – the pats on the back move into the realms of incredulity somewhat, at risk to the integrity of the wider article.  For an official Microsoft Document from May 2011, this is their only reference to the updating process for Windows Phone:

“Updates to Windows Phone Decrease Potential Downtime

Windows Phone users report effortless device updates, thanks to the addition of the Zune® software client to Microsoft personal-computer images late last year. The update of the Windows Phone devices to the most-current releases has been without issue.

Users receive published updates by connecting their phones to the corporate network after they receive notification on their phones about available updates. MSIT tracks the number of downloaded updates to employees’ phones. Currently, acceptance is at approximately 50 percent.

The update process also includes a backup of a phone’s image, which results in successful restoration of client data and a phone’s operating system. Therefore, when things go wrong, getting a user back up and running occurs within minutes rather than hours or days.”

Ouch!  For the many early adopters, supporters and fans that have experienced some extended period of pain over Microsoft software updates for WP7 – to which Microsoft have officially acknowledged and apologised for publicly – this just rubs salt into the wounds.

Either Microsoft are fortunate enough to be able to bypass carrier-pushed updates (like a 56K strong beta test group!), or they have chosen to completely gloss over the many issues – hardware, firmware, software and carrier that have been significant “teething problems” for all 3 official updates as of time of writing (FEB ‘11 pre-Nodo, MAR ‘11 NoDo and APR Security cert.).  I am still undecided on whether these statements are misleading or just misinformed by the author at Microsoft.

That being said, Mango will deliver a significant boost for Enterprise / Corporate take-up of Windows Phone as a far superior overall replacement for the ageing (and dare I say derelict) Windows Mobile 6.5*.  Get your IT Management and Phone teams to leverage the Technet, MS Professional and other considerable resources – and look to moving to Windows Phone from the Mango update coming in Q4 2011 if you haven’t already.

Your employees will thank you – that’s for sure.

Sheeds. June 13th 2011.

* Some specific functionality that works with WinMobile 6.5 may not yet have a viable software option to work with Windows Phone as yet – so make sure your legacy applications and functionality can be adapted to the new platform – or performed through an alternative method.

LINK to FILE on TECHNET

MS WP7 for Business Video:

Get Microsoft Silverlight
  • http://www.sheeds.com.au/blog Sheeds

    I hope the pages renders OK for everyone. It’s the silverlight html code I ” borrowed” from MS for the video at the end that seems to be a little problematic. Works OK for me in Firefox 3.6.17, IE9, and Chrome :)

    Also need to mention this Blog post was inspired by the ALWAYS AWESOME WindowsPhone7 Developer Podcast by Ryan and Travis Lowdermilk: LINK = http://wpdevpodcast.com/
    Episode 20 = http://wpdevpodcast.com/2011/06/11/episode-020-would-you-like-xbox-with-that/

    Keep up the great work guys, big podcast fan here ! :D

  • http://www.sheeds.com.au/blog Sheeds

    I have been informed that most at MS may have received Trophy handsets, which have not had the same update issues others (notably Samsung) have experienced! Maybe someone at MS can comment ?

  • http://peterskitchen.net pedah

    Even though you have that disclaimer at the bottom about Windows Mobile, I believe these are the features that WinPho was built for, Microsoft could not afford to miss another device cycle, and/or needed to test their updating process, which was not without it’s potholes. Mango will improve phone functionality overall, if the update goes well, and if IT departments can adapt quickly enough. Enterprise commitment is much more dependent on a macro level of support, whether the IT guys get it. Education is the key, that simple video above does a lot more for the platform, than all the quirky advertising!