If you're looking for guidance on how to plan for new capabilities in Windows—and how to tie the benefits of staying up-to-date to real value for your end users and your business—this is the post for you.
Today I'm going to walk you through existing resources available from Microsoft to help you plan for new and improved capabilities in the Windows operating system. I'll discuss best practices around notifying users, support teams, and business leaders depending on your deployment scenario—and offer tips on how to take advantage of the newest innovations.
As part of the Windows 10 update process, IT pros focus their planning and preparation efforts towards validating critical line-of-business (LoB) applications, updating supporting infrastructure, and, in some instances, updating deployment tools and third-party endpoint solutions. Focusing on these critical tasks can make it challenging to keep track of new capabilities or features in the OS.
Our vision for Windows as a service is to support IT pros to be more efficient with their approach to updates and enhance their end user’s experience. By staying current, customers can benefit from an agile deployment process, which allows IT pros to understand product improvements in each release more quickly and thoroughly. By adapting to the quicker cadence, IT pros can be more involved in the feature development process as they get access and testing capabilities of new features as soon as they are released. The impact on the end user’s experience becomes incremental, reducing the need for extensive employee retraining or IT resource effort.
For upcoming Windows 10 feature updates, our recommended process for identifying, validating, and amplifying new capabilities includes the following tasks:
When a Windows 10 feature update is made available, several blogs and articles are released the same day to showcase new features and capabilities.
We suggest reviewing each of these articles to see what capabilities can be applied within your organization:
You should also examine the features and functionality that Microsoft removed in Windows 10, as well as the features that are no longer being developed to determine if there is any immediate or future impact on endpoints.
Once new capabilities are understood, the next step is to categorize these features across productivity, accessibility, and security, and separate them into two areas – the benefit to end users and the benefit to the enterprise.
Figure 1. List of highlighted capabilities with Windows updates
New capabilities in Windows 10 feature updates enhance the end user experience by improving performance, using existing device features to provide new or better experiences, providing new OS features, or unlocking new functionality when managed by supporting infrastructures such as Configuration Manager or Microsoft Intune.
Platform productivity gains are typically made by leveraging the device’s full capabilities and taking advantage of multitasking improvements. As device hardware is refreshed, new working methods can be discovered through different form factors or input types such as touch or inking. Over the span of Throughout several Windows 10 feature updates, improvements were made in the following areas to support those goals:
Some existing features that may also be useful to your environment include:
Everyone should be empowered to use their devices to create and consume content and collaborate with their teams. At Microsoft, we are committed to making sure those who can be supported by our accessibility improvements know what exists for them and know what developments are coming next. The release of quality and feature updates helps Microsoft provide improvements in accessibility to end users. Here are examples of what is included in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update:
Windows feature updates provide enhanced security and capabilities to simplify administration or reduce administrative effort. When looking at what is new in Windows 10, version 2004, approximately 70% of the improvements provide IT pros with options to use in their environment. Consider looking for capabilities recently unlocked by updates or investments in supporting infrastructure, and improvements that address gaps filled by third-party software to reduce cost or effort. If one or more Windows 10 feature updates have been skipped, review the improvements of those feature updates in addition to the latest feature updates.
The following sections highlight key security features enabled by Windows 10, versions 1809 to 2004 across that are selectively available in Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and in E5 licensing constructs that can provide additional benefit to your organization.
Once features and capabilities have been categorized, they can be presented to users during the Pilot Deployment phase of a feature update deployment. IT pros should include a mix of users who typically test devices and applications, as well as power users who are interested in supporting the new tools or features that will benefit the organization. This group’s feedback will help IT pros validate new features and capabilities and provide feedback on what additional context or ways of working can be included to show value in having the update deployed. This information can be included in broader communications discussed in the section below.
Once capabilities in the platform have been assessed and validated during pilot deployment, attention shifts to how to communicate these changes to users broadly. Factors that influence a company’s communication depend on the feature update deployment strategy and the time it takes to deploy the feature update to all devices. Typically, customers deploy feature updates using one of the following deployment strategies:
For each deployment strategy, the communication approach can change based on the organizational culture and time taken to deploy the feature update. For example, for customers that deploy feature updates in less than a month to their entire organization, a single communication leveraging collaboration tools such as Teams, Yammer, or email can be the most effective way of informing users. For customers who deploy feature updates over a 6-, 12-, or 18-month period, communicating once to all users will be less effective due to the length of time between the communication being sent and the device’s update. The communication methods below are discussed in terms of their effectiveness for the different deployment strategies and deployment duration:
For organizations interested in reviewing and shaping improvements of Windows 10 feature updates ahead of release, the Windows Insider Program for Business program gives you the opportunity to review and validate pre-release features and validate critical application. To provide this functionality for end users, consider using an opt-in program that enables users to receive early access to new products within the organization. Our Microsoft Elite program allows users to opt-in to the program to provide our Engineering teams with feedback to make our products and services better.
We want your organization to have the best possible experience with Windows 10. This post aims to help make this easier by providing a process that you can use to find and convey the value of Windows 10 feature updates to your business leadership and users.
I recommend that you consider using this process for each feature update planning cycle so that you can assess relevant features and engage more users at as faster cadence, which is even more possible when switching to cloud-based update management technologies. It is also useful to communicate with end users to continually gather feedback on what capabilities are working effectively for their environment and what needs improvements.
Let us know if you find this article helpful below, and what other best practices your organization uses to communicate value with your users.
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