There are many great blog posts, articles, whitepapers, videos and podcasts, that cover the plethora of angles involved with customizing the desktop “user experience” for users of Microsoft Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. While they are often well-written and detailed, they often miss one fundamental question of “can” and “should”. This is what this blog post is about. It’s been a year since I used “plethora” in a sentence, so I’m celebrating with this blog post.
The Windows 10 Start Menu
Challenge: Customer/User/whiner insists they “need” to customize the Start Menu and/or Taskbar, to put application and web shortcuts directly in their faces. They cannot find and pin their own shortcuts. It is just completely impossible.
Solution: No. Tell them to pin their own damned shortcuts. You’ve got more important things to do.
User Profile Data
Challenge: Customer/User/Glue-sniffer wants to back-up and restore user profile data whenever a device is re-imaged, or replaced.
Solution: No they don’t. Cloud drives for everyone. Teach them how to back up their own stuff. If they sign your paycheck, then give them some help, anyone else: teach them.
Challenge: Like, OMG, your technicians are totally dependent on naming devices after the assigned users. Otherwise, it is “impossible” to identify their precious cat-hair covered laptop when they call for help.
Solution: Automatically name using serial numbers, and go find something more productive to do with your time.
Drivers and Imaging woes
Challenge: You spend countless hours finding, downloading, pruning, preparing, basting, seasoning, rubbing, basting, and package drivers for new models.
Solutions: (plural)  Use some automation tools like Driver Automation Tool (free plug), and  lean on your lazy-ass vendor reps to bring you the latest stuff.  Use AutoPilot, if possible, and stop reinventing the OS wheel everytime a new already-imaged device comes in the door.
Challenge: You knew this was going to show up somewhere on my list, right? So, technicians are constantly dealing with multiple versions, and configurations, of the wonderful JRE for the 1990’s applications that users insist are critical to the organization.
Solutions: JRE sucks. Using JRE sucks. People talking about JRE sucks. People talking about using JRE sucks. Everything with JRE in it sucks. I hate JRE. Die die die!
Challenge: You have 24 models to support, and new ones coming in all the time. Users have local administrator rights, and install an insane variety of products and versions. You don’t even know what you own.
Solution: One person with purchase authority and a (very) short list of supported models. Done. Move on. (Admin rights is next)
Local Admin Rights
Challenge: Users insist they need local admin rights, or they can’t do anything at work besides sit around complaining about not having local admin rights.
Solution: Give them some virtual machines and let them play. But the base OS is off-limits. It might help to state this officially as, “The base OS is off-limits, bitch.”
Challenge: Users keep forgetting their passwords. You have to maintain a scheduled process with a script, which sends email reminders to users about passwords about to expire.
Solution: Implement password self-reset. Turn off the scheduled 1990’s job. Then, go back to surfing Twitter and Facebook.
Challenge: You find it more difficult to keep up with packaging new versions of software to maintain your environment.
Solution: Stop repackaging everything just because you’ve always repackaged everything. Sometimes a basic install is just fine. If it’s a pain in the ass installer, pick up the phone and rip a new hole in the vendor’s ass, to provide a better install experience, or you’ll “find a new piece of shit product to replace your piece of shit!!” Excessive caffeine prior to making that call, will often help.
Option 2 – Use the carrot approach: Explain to the vendor that by making their product easier to deploy and maintain, it will not only save your company time and money, but you may even give them a glowing endorsement of their cancer-curing world-peace-creating product. (you’d be surprised how often that actually works, btw.)
In-House App Dev
Challenge: You have a team of “developers” (glue-sniffing monkeys beating on keyboards) who make applications and dump them on your team to deploy. Only they’re not fully “packaged” for silent deployment.
Solution: Gluten-free Baseball bats.
Challenge: Users keep clicking on links in strange emails promising penis extensions, wads of free cash, and photos of naked entertainers. Virus infections are on the rise.
Solution: Implement something like ATA/ATP to mitigate the unwanted spam. Educate users on how to spot, and avoid, obvious links like “Gooogle.co”, “Click here to extend your penis, even if you don’t have one!” or “You won’t believe what Betty White’s vagina looks like now!” Not to mention, comparing the text links vs. the popups with the actual URL.
Basically, your job as an IT professional, is to work towards having as little work to do as possible. Automate everything. Shift the user-decision-making to the users. Be like the gas station attendant, who surfs Facebook all day whilst customers pump their own gas and buy lottery tickets from the vending machine.
If you can’t tell by now, I have strong belief in teaching users to deal with problems that they should be dealing with, and let IT worry about the complicated stuff. Backing up .mp3 and .docx files, is not complicated enough to assign highly-paid engineer to spend hours/days/weeks babysitting.
And, if you “sell it” properly to the users, it’s a win-win, because they see it as being trained and enabled. Most people like to feel enabled. So enable f*** out of them, and go focus on cool automation stuff. Every single time I’ve seen this put in motion correctly, it has paid off for everyone involved. Users are happier (and more capable), IT has less stupid crap on their plate, and more work gets done. Happy – happy – happy – happy – payday!