In the heat and excitement of business mergers, it's a safe bet that integrating a medley of types of user endpoints and related devices is not top of mind for all executives. However, HR staff and IT administrators, who are on the front lines of managing the merger of people and technology, will tell you this integration is a key factor in a smooth transition. Starting with onboarding employees – and the added fun of remote working – it quickly becomes apparent that a newly merged organization faces a messy stew of mismatched platform architectures and endpoint operating systems. Since IT can't hit the pause button, organizations must find a means of securely integrating their end-user computing environment with these new endpoint entries – and do so with minimal disruption.
IT teams and HR are, more than likely, facing another year of healthy M&A activity. No one has a crystal ball, but reports show M&A business continued in 2020 despite the pandemic, and with a vaccine on the horizon, deals are expected to roll along in the next year. Barrons reported a Dealogic announcement of transactions totaling $1.1 trillion as of November 10, compared with $1.6 trillion for the same period in 2019. It also noted private equity has $1.6 trillion in cash and will be on an acquisitive search in 2021.
Avoiding post-merger paralysis
Achieving rapid integration of different endpoint devices and operating systems takes a combination of an accurate inventory of assets from both parties, a clear picture of what technology platforms each is using, and implementing an endpoint management and control solution that can achieve standardization across the merged enterprise in the desired timeframe. Putting in place a few best practices can save countless hours of staff time and provide the newly merged workforce with a productive work environment. Here are some to consider:
Know your assets: Standardization starts with knowledge. IT needs a thorough inventory of platforms, critical applications, and devices the merged entities are using. It likely will include a mix of disparate endpoint hardware from different vendors, each of which has its own flavor of OS (including Windows 7, Windows 10, Windows Embedded, multiple Linux distributions, or MacOS).
With more devices in play in the remote environment, IT also needs to obtain a clear assessment of employees' expectations. No doubt, those working from home will prefer to make as few changes as possible in terms of the devices they use. They may even prefer to use a personal (non-business asset) device. Having knowledge of what applications and secure access need to be delivered on those devices is essential to a smoothly functioning merger.
Adopt a user mindset: The most powerful integration will come from viewing all changes through the lens of the employee/user. At the endpoint, employees from Company A or Company B will expect easy, quick access to all the familiar tools they need to be productive. That requires looking at an endpoint operating system and management software that will deliver a consistent user profile regardless of where the employee is working that day and what device they’re using.
Power up your operating system (OS): Organizations across industry sectors are coming to realize the answer is not to be found in keeping Windows at the edge and refreshing legacy hardware, but in placing Windows where it belongs – in the data center or cloud – and using a software-driven endpoint management solution to deploy the latest user experience technology quickly and economically across the merged enterprise. Critical to this is making sure the merged organization is using the very latest virtualization client software from Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware, as well as the latest unified communications tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, or GoToMeeting.
An OS that supports this modernization will be able to provide easy, secure access to virtualized applications, desktops, and cloud workspaces. It all ties back to taking the point-of-view of the user and executing a virtualized environment that can support remote working and a cloud-centric compute environment.
Be platform agnostic: Historically, most companies evolved to having one, or maybe two, platforms in place to manage and control their people's endpoint device usage. With the recent surge in year-over-year M&A activity, however, it is not unusual for an organization to end up with three, four, or even more platforms focused on managing user endpoint devices from multiple hardware and software providers. The result is a cumbersome and costly mix of disparate endpoint hardware and operating systems, as well as multiple, isolated endpoint management platforms that cannot be integrated.
Therefore, companies deploying a platform-independent vehicle for unifying endpoint management and control will be far ahead of the game when having to integrate applications and devices from another entity. Rapid integration of different endpoint devices and operating systems can be possible if the endpoint solution is able to support the merged organization’s ecosystem of partner technologies quickly and easily.
Taking the messiness out of mergers
Integrating technology from often somewhat disparate entities can occur without extreme disruption. By beginning with a solid knowledge base of all assets involved and putting into place an inherently secure endpoint operating system, organizations will benefit from easy endpoint management and control. This will also support a modern virtualized environment, deliver a superb user experience, and offer hardware platform independence so that IT and HR can proceed with a merger knowing they have a solid, standardized, well-functioning foundation that can economically support future advancements in the delivery of cloud workspaces.
Dan O’Farrell is senior director, product marketing at IGEL.