As an IT professional, you probably have seen numerous IT infrastructure configurations throughout your career. Some are great; others can be a nightmare to manage. The decisions you or others made early on have deep ramifications for the future of the department and what you can achieve for your organization.
So from the start, you should consider two fundamental decisions that will shape the evolution of your IT department, how it functions, and its capacity for growth. One is a decision that will likely have significant input and ramifications from the business side of the organization, and the other is more purely an IT-based decision. Read on to learn about these two critical decisions and how to make the best choice for each.
1. What Is Your Productivity Suite?
Your productivity suite (like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, etc.) is probably the most important early-stage business decision for your company. This decision has a far-reaching impact on your organization’s efficiency, collaboration, and competitiveness. It defines both how teams work and how your stack works to support them.
First, your productivity suite serves as the backbone of your digital workflow, from document creation to team collaboration. A well-matched suite can streamline operations and empower teams to work seamlessly. Conversely, an ill-fitting suite can create compatibility issues, inefficiencies, and increased support demands for IT staff. Over time, this leads to operational bottlenecks and reduced productivity.
In addition, your productivity suite influences many other elements of your stack. It can define which other tools you use based on their compatibility: for example, if you wanted to begin issuing company-owned mobile devices for certain users, you may be more likely to choose devices with an OS that your productivity suite favors rather than choose based on which best fit your overall needs.
This influence carries to other fundamental tools like your directory. Many productivity tools offer basic identity and access management (IAM) to help you get started. However, as you grow, this will almost always need to be complemented with a modern directory.
Some solutions, like Microsoft 365, highly favor their own ecosystem and nudge you to use their suite of IT solutions through pre-built integrations with their own products or purchased as part of a larger bundle. While these solutions may provide the convenience of not having to procure additional tools, they may also set you down a path that limits your freedom of choice, increases operational costs with multiple UIs, still requires tool integrations, and hits you with hidden licensing costs. Other solutions, like Google Workspace, are more open and easy to use; however, at a certain size, you’ll need to extend those capabilities to better manage users and devices. Some business situations, like M&A and departmental needs, may call for support from more than one provider.
How Do You Make the Right Choice?
The right productivity suite should meet your productivity needs and align with your current stack – and also support your current and future operational needs and tools.
For example, do you plan to grow quickly? Add or switch tools? Support a diverse set of workstations and mobile devices? Acquire another company? These factors play a role in a productivity’s suite ability to support your organization for the long haul. When weighing productivity tools, consider their flexibility: for example, do they have an open ecosystem that allows for integrations with third-party applications, or do they focus more heavily on a narrower set of vendors?
In addition, user needs and preferences may sway your decision. If your productivity suite creates friction for users or doesn’t meet their needs, it won’t be a successful investment. Many users have strong opinions around the tools they use; users will be the best ones to communicate what types of experiences a productivity tool should deliver. Consider issuing an employee survey or otherwise collecting input and feedback from employees on what they need from their productivity tools.
Finally, the tool you choose should meet your company’s security standards. Make sure you work with your security team to ensure that the tool you choose meets your security needs and that the vendor follows adequate security practices.
2. How Do You Manage Users and Devices?
User and device management solutions also have far-reaching implications — even farther than a productivity suite in terms of effects on the business. This is because user and device management are the foundation of all digital work. They determine how users and resources are organized and secured, which tools will be compatible in your stack, how easily and cost-effectively you can grow, and more.
From the user’s perspective, this decision defines their entire workspace, from which devices they can use when they start with the organization to how they can access the applications or IT resources needed to work effectively. From your IT team’s perspective, it’ll define how they organize users, devices, and their access — or in other words, the IT team’s workflow. This impacts your security practices and overall IT management experience. In essence, your user and device management solution determines the day-to-day operational experience for you, your team, and your users.
In addition, your user and device management system impacts your team’s ability to support new business requests from the teams you support. Your decision has long-term implications on how easily you can grow, in which directions you can move, and how cost-effectively you can do so. Pricing structure, for example, varies among solutions. A solution that’s cost-effective for a small business may require so many additional add-ons, third-party point solutions, and labor-intensive work to integrate disparate solutions as the business grows that it ends up much more expensive than alternatives.
In general, managing users and devices separately is usually more disjointed than managing them with one tool. This creates significant security risks. When managing users and devices separately, information can get lost in translation or fail to provide significant context; visibility can be diminished; and a less-than-perfect integration can open the door to security gaps.
By contrast, selecting a tool that unifies identity and device management offers more comprehensive visibility as well as more granular and manipulable controls, which strengthens security. In addition, a unified tool can improve workflow automations and grant users more frictionless access to their resources, resulting in an overall smoother user experience.
How Do You Make the Right Choice?
It’s important for your user and device management system to fit your needs in terms of features, capabilities, and price. There are many organization-specific factors that may come into play when you’re choosing your user and device management tools, such as the breadth of devices and operating systems, different applications, HRIS systems, and other user lifecycle activities you need to support.
Whatever your requirements are, the most important factor is that your approach to user and device management is unified — especially in today’s remote/hybrid work reality where a secure, well functioning IT department needs a tightly integrated identity and device management solution.
What to Consider in These Decisions
Flexibility, security, and scalability are highly valuable in your stack fundamentals because they allow you to grow however you want. And they allow you to trust that you’ll do so securely and cost effectively.
Some solutions tend to prescribe the way you work, prevent changes by making it hard to work with alternative devices or solutions, and bloat as you grow, causing your stack (and associated costs) to balloon out of control. Legacy solutions that you might have inherited were not built to meet the needs of modern remote and hybrid work are common examples of this. In many cases, modernizing these solutions to support today’s cloud-first infrastructure requirements is the most effective path forward.
Further, it’s imperative that your fundamental solutions are as unified as they can be. This goes for your user and device management platform as well as your stack as a whole. Just as unifying user and device management can reduce friction and security risks, ensuring that it works seamlessly with other important elements in your stack — like your productivity suite — reduces friction and risk at a wider scale. For example, unifying identity and device management can offers users a secure and truly frictionless, passwordless login experience to all their resources.
In short, a robust and unified toolset enables your users to work securely how they want, where they want, and with which device they want.
How Can You Make a Change?
If you’re not sure your productivity, identity, or device solution are the right fit for your organization, it’s possible to make a change. Even if there are costs associated with pivoting, they’ll likely pay for themselves later: adopting a solution that supports scalability, security, and productivity can power more revenue and higher cost-efficiency. And adopting a toolset that works as one unified unit offers more management and productivity power that translate to both savings and revenue. Finally, the right toolset can deliver a better experience for users, which powers productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction.
Most of the challenges with switching is the perception that you are trading one set of issues for another, whether that is the risk of being locked in by another vendor or simply not having an intermediate solution that can help you transition to where you want to be. Fortunately JumpCloud is an open directory platform that’s designed to work the way you want to. It is an OS agnostic device management solution AND a complete identity management solution that works natively across both M365 and Google Workspace, so users can count on secure, frictionless access to all their resources from anywhere and any secure device.
Because JumpCloud is designed to be open and flexible, you can tailor it to your current environment and trust in your company’s ability to make changes freely down the road. It unifies user and device management and integrates with productivity suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 to provide a seamless end-to-end experience for the user and a straightforward management experience to the admin.
JumpCloud’s flexibility allows it to work with many organizations with a wide range of setups and needs. Check out some of our case studies to learn how different companies have used JumpCloud to unify their identity and device management, improve their productivity, lower costs, and more.