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Connected Provisioning: Making Zero IT Touch Provisioning A Breeze

By Colin Sainsbury Global Lead for Modern Management and Provisioning, Dell Technologies Services February 24, 2021

Dell has launched Connected Provisioning, the first-to-market, modern management provisioning service, directly embedded within our logistics chain. Connected Provisioning is a standardised service that is easy to order and consume. It’s an innovative solution that addresses real-world customer problems and provides significant user experience gains. Your IT teams and users will love the simplified experience, and removing unnecessary shipping and handling reduces cost and carbon footprint.

View this On-demand Session recorded during Dell Technologies World, May 5-6, 2021.

I invite you to learn more about the unique benefits of this cloud-enabled service for both IT and end-users in this post from Services Portfolio Manager Dan Oldroyd, “Connected Provisioning: The Best Way Yet to Equip Your Workforce.

In this blog, we look more closely at how Connected Provisioning enables you to use today’s leading Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solutions from VMware or Microsoft, directly from your cloud tenant, before the device is shipped to an employee. Because devices are delivered with your security policies and applications already on them, you realize a significantly faster time-to-value, with users ready to work in a matter of minutes. They simply need to log in and go.

How Did We Get Here?

Dell has long championed the drive to reduce the cost and time to value of provisioning devices. In an earlier post, I describe the evolution of our capabilities from the days of static imaging (cloning), through dynamic hardware-agnostic imaging, to Connected Configuration, our imaging solution that integrates your Configuration Manager implementation within our logistics chain. Whilst we have been providing these solutions for some years, we have also been working with Microsoft and VMware to look at how we can help you leverage their modern management solutions to further simplify provisioning.

The hype would have you believe that user self-enablement solutions and over-the-internet software deployment removes the need for vendor provisioning. However, as I discuss here, the stark reality is that the time taken to deploy applications is a question of the size of the payload and the available bandwidth. Too big a payload with too little bandwidth can leave your team member staring at their device for hours, waiting for it to be ready for work. This was often an issue, even in reasonably well-connected offices, and it is certainly one for today’s highly distributed workforce, with multiple adults, and often home-schooling children, competing for residential bandwidth.

To that end, Dell has worked with both Microsoft and VMware to develop and integrate both Windows Autopilot for pre-provisioned deployments (Autopilot PPD, formerly White Glove) and Workspace ONE Drop Ship Provisioning (DSP) into our logistics chain enabling us to ship work-ready devices direct to your users wherever they are located.

Connected Provisioning

The next stage in this journey is Connected Provisioning, in which you use either Windows Autopilot PPD or Workspace ONE DSP and the Dell Technologies TechDirect portal to control and manage deliveries, from the point-of-order through to delivery tracking—and rely on Dell’s global configuration centres to provision devices before shipping them to your users.

IT administrators use the Connected Provisioning module embedded in TechDirect to build profiles. For each profile, they can specify:

  • Their preferred UEM tool (Intune or Workspace ONE)
  • Tenant-specific identifiers to enable devices to be automatically registered with your UEM tenant. (Typically, organizations will have one global production tenant, but the system also allows for businesses that operate in a more federated way to have multiple tenants)
  • Group Tag – used with Autopilot PPD to specify an Autopilot profile to be used by your Intune tenant to provision this batch of devices
  • Installation language and version (version 20H1, 20H2, 21H1) of Dell’s Generic Windows 10 Pro Image with chassis specific drivers but free from additional software.

Each profile can then be given a name and re-used for subsequent orders. Admins can specify a default profile and still have the option to pre-define others. An order can only be assigned to one profile, but there is no limit to the number of profiles that the system can support.

From this point on, whenever an order is placed for a device with the Connected Provisioning service SKU attached, the system will email your IT admin requesting confirmation to use the default profile—along with a quick link to assign an alternative profile, should that be desired.

If they wish to change the profile, the link will take them to TechDirect where they authenticate their account, select the order, and then have the option to apply another predefined profile, or construct a new one.

Once the profile is determined, the device identities are registered with the appropriate UEM tenant. The device receives the defined version of Dell’s Generic Image and the TechDirect progress tracker is updated to reflect that the device has been registered and is pending provisioning.

The provisioning process takes place in Dell’s network of configuration centres around the globe. These centres are embedded within the hubs that form part of our logistics chain. Devices are removed from their shipping cartons and placed within build racks. Our technicians invoke the relevant pre-provisioning process and the devices are built according to the profile determined by your IT admin in your UEM cloud tenant. Once this provisioning process has completed successfully, the device is re-packed into its shipping carton and scheduled for delivery. TechDirect is updated to reflect this status.

Once the device is received by your user, they simply unbox the device, power it up, and connect it to the internet. The next steps vary between implementations, with some IT admins limiting the need for user interaction, but in all cases, the user will log in with their existing credentials, and the device will undergo any user-specific configuration and within a matter of minutes will be in productive use.

At no point has a member of your IT team needed to physically touch the device. Neither has it been diverted to a service provider configuration facility. By eradicating these two costly processes, we have reduced both the cost and carbon footprint impacts of deploying devices whilst maintaining or improving the overall user experience.

How Do I Prepare? What Do I Need?

It is important to note that both Autopilot PPD and Workspace ONE DSP are fundamentally different than the traditional methods for provisioning. Both UEM tools are evolutions of products that were designed to manage mobile phones and tablets. As a result, there is no concept of operating system deployment in either Intune or Workspace ONE. Dell includes our Generic Image as the start point for all customers taking this service.

To make use of this service, you will need to have established your cloud tenant for either Intune or Workspace ONE. Dell has Quick Start services for both Intune and Workspace ONE to help get you started. For a checklist, have a look at 7 steps to prepare for Autopilot White Glove which, although written before Microsoft’s rebranding, covers the necessary activities at a high level. The required activities are broadly similar between the toolsets.

Once you have a working tenant, with your applications loaded into your cloud tenant, you will need to construct a profile that includes those applications that you wish to have pre-provisioned. I would then encourage you to test this thoroughly within your own environments. We all need this profile to be robust and repeatable in order to make it work at scale in a manufacturing environment. As part of validating your readiness for this service, if you have not taken advantage of one of our Quick Start services, your profile will be assessed via our Readiness Assessment to ensure that we work with a high-quality profile.

Further Enhancing the User Experience

Dell is constantly talking with customers to explore what additional services we can offer to help address today’s challenges.  We have come up with the following list of services to enhance the user experience.

  • Drop-in-box leaflet with a QR code leading to your website with instructions. Users taking delivery of their new device will encounter a new process that they are unlikely to use frequently. We can include an instructional leaflet but, these days, people feel more comfortable with multimedia help. To enable this, the printed leaflet in the shipping carton could include a QR code that can be scanned using a smartphone to lead to your website with your help videos.
  • Drop-in-box courier envelope to return the legacy device. One of the challenges of shipping new devices to users working from home, is how do you recover the legacy device? In a similar fashion to the leaflet, we can include a customer-funded courier envelope within the shipping carton to enable your users to ship the devices to a location of their choice. This could be a Dell location, where we handle data sanitisation, asset resale, and recycling activities for you.
  • OneDrive for Business to migrate data. One of the key challenges with a device refresh programme is data migration. Using an enterprise file synch and share solution, such as OneDrive for Business, means that the data is not tied to the device in the way it was in previous refreshes. If a user’s data is synchronised ahead of the refresh, they only need to synchronise their critical files back to the new device, saving time and bandwidth. Dell can assist our customers with implementing this type of solution.

Summary

Dell continues to innovate and lead the market in configuration, deployment, and provisioning services. Our relationships with customers and with key partners, such as Microsoft and VMware, help us to both understand pain points and rapidly formulate solutions. Building on our continued belief that the best place to configure and provision new devices is within our supply chain, Connected Provisioning integrates the latest innovative partner technologies to benefit our customers.

The initial launch for Connected Provisioning covers devices shipped to the United States only, but we are working on expansion. Globally, we will continue to provision devices using either Autopilot PPD or Workspace ONE DSP, but without the portal, which we anticipate rolling out to other territories later this year.

To find out more, talk to your Dell Services account team and ask them to tell you more about Connected Provisioning and our services for Autopilot PPD and Workspace ONE DSP.


View this On-demand Session recorded during Dell Technologies World, May 5-6, 2021, “Modern Provisioning: Deliver Pre-configured, Ready-to-Work Devices in About 5 Minutes“. We can help you be ready for whatever comes next.

About Colin Sainsbury


Global Lead for Modern Management and Provisioning, Dell Technologies Services

Colin joined Dell in 2010 as a Solution Architect before becoming a Solution Principal (technical presales) at Dell Technologies Services. Having shown a keen interest in modern management strategy, in 2020, he took the opportunity to move into the Services Client Product Group to help drive Dell’s efforts in this area. He provides the strategic guidance and technology expertise that organizations need to transform their end user computing environments.
The Service Client Product Group is responsible for shaping Dell’s Services Strategy regarding Modern Management and Provisioning as well as helping Dell’s customers adopt Windows 10 and optimize their deployment processes. A significant element of this work is to reduce the time to value when a user receives a device, whether that device is new and provisioned via our configuration centres or re-provisioned via our lifecycle management hubs.

Colin has 25 years of experience in the IT industry. He started out as a tier 2 helpdesk analyst for the Computing Centre at Imperial College, London. Shortly after taking this role, he was asked to deploy Microsoft Exchange 4.0 into the College as it began to move from a UNIX SendMail email system. Having gained significant experience by deploying one of the earliest Exchange environments, he moved into Exchange consultancy roles.

Three years after that initial implementation, he was working as an Exchange consultant for Compaq. Lady luck intervened once more, and Colin was asked to perform an Exchange upgrade for a branch of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). This led Colin to specializing first in MoD engagements, then branching out into the wider Central Government space dealing with several key Government departments.

This specialization naturally brought with it an understanding of the security concerns and drivers in these sensitive environments. However, since joining Dell he has used this experience across all industry sectors.

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