Create an Evergreen IT environment that enacts positive change.
Based on conversations with our clients, prospects, and partners, we estimate that 90% of enterprise IT teams are interested in Evergreen IT, but maybe only 20% of them fully grasp the concept enough to know how to practically implement it.
Like most things in the technology industry, we tend to give flashy names and discussions to things that need some straight talk about what they are, what they can do for you, and how to implement them. To further complicate things, there is not a lot of good information or research out there.
As a baseline perspective, Evergreen IT is a way to automate the packaging, testing, deployment, and support of desktop apps. It is obvious that automation is generally better and faster than labor-intensive processes that require highly skilled resources. What is not so obvious is that many app providers like Microsoft are moving to shorter time frames for releases and patches. So, you must accommodate your environment with a more incremental approach to deploying updates to your desktop apps.
It becomes a continuous process of automatically making, testing, and deploying updates. It is no longer a project to migrate to a new version, but an ongoing process of incremental updates. Because this is such an important milestone in the evolution of IT management and a huge key to success for Digital Transformation, we want to create a resource for the rest of us.
In this and future articles, we will provide answers to the following questions:
Part 1 (this post):
- What exactly is Evergreen IT?
- What are the benefits and challenges?
Part 2 (future post):
- Why is Evergreen IT important to the way you manage IT in 2021 and beyond?
- What does “typical” Evergreen IT look like?
Part 3 (future post):
- What does a typical Evergreen IT management process look like?
- What does it take to be successful?
So, let’s dive right in.
What Is Evergreen IT?
In a now-archived blog, Microsoft defined Evergreen IT in 2015 as “running services comprised of components that are always up to date”. Evergreen IT focuses on not only the services at the user level, but all the infrastructure components as well, whether on-site or outsourced. Many companies believe this means reducing the resources and energy they need to stay up-to-date, as well as the flexible services that their users are demanding. Additionally, this moves some of the responsibility to end-users to test and sign off on updates to apps needed to run their business.
Evergreen IT is the perpetual migration of end-user software, hardware, and associated services such as mailboxes, telephony, file storage, and the infrastructure supporting the technology. The cornerstone of this is automation that is less demanding of highly technical resources.
With that said, it also requires a change to the way IT does business. It requires a more structured process, administration, and organization that “keeps the trains running on time” instead of the herculean efforts of a big-bang rollout. The good news for IT executives is that this results in a more predictable and manageable part of the IT business that is easier to budget for and requires less attention, allowing IT to focus on advancing the business vs. keeping the lights on.
Access IT Automation defines Evergreen IT as follows:
“Evergreen IT is a modern IT management approach that emphasizes making small, iterative updates to an organization’s IT landscape (including desktop hardware, operating systems, products, applications, and server infrastructure) on an ongoing basis rather than undertaking isolated big bang migrations.
It shifts the focus from ‘Keeping The Lights On’ to driving Digital Transformation — making an organization more agile, competitive, and secure as the IT estate is always up-to-date and compliant. To be successful, Evergreen IT requires tighter lifecycle management, executive buy-in, continuous budget, and a rethinking of internal processes, people, and technology.”
Evergreen IT Benefits
Now that we have looked at what Evergreen IT is, the rationale for moving there, and what typical Evergreen looks like, let’s talk about the benefits you can achieve.
- Reduced IT operating expenses. By automating expensive labor-intensive processes, costs are eliminated, reduced, or avoided.
- Stability is improved. Automation of these processes reduces the opportunity for human error, and incremental updates are inherently less impactful and easier to recover from in the event of a failure.
- Minimized risk of business disruption. This is the adage of “aim small, miss small”. A continuous process of smaller updates dramatically reduces the risks that come with a “big bang” upgrade to windows or related apps.
- Budgeting becomes very predictable. Estimating costs for smaller projects or ongoing expenses is much more accurate than budgeting for large projects. You know exactly how much you will need to spend next month or in 6 months.
- Lower maintenance efforts and costs. For example, Gartner estimates 79% cost reduction when upgrading well-managed environments compared to unmanaged environments!
- Significant decreases in cyber security risks. This results in fewer vulnerabilities due to better hygiene of the desktop estate. When everything is up to date, the risk goes down.
- Reduced licensing and hardware costs due to tighter management. Continued monitoring means you can more accurately pay for what you are using and avoid penalties.
- Less Shadow IT and application sprawl as Evergreen IT makes IT the central monitor and gatekeeper of what is going on in the desktop universe. Now rogue applications are quickly and regularly identified.
- Better end-user experience. By involving them in the testing and sign-off of new releases, they feel more in control of their workspace.
- Faster access to new features, a better user experience, and fewer interruptions lead to higher productivity and revenue.
Evergreen IT Challenges
With a new approach and a new environment come new challenges. While the benefits far outweigh the challenges, a discussion of the risks is critical. Those include:
- Dedicated resources and budget despite what others say. This becomes more of an ongoing expense vs. periodic projects, so it is a change in the way organizations and budgets are built.
- Evergreen IT doesn’t just happen — it requires an initial project with an appropriate focus on organizational change, process improvement, and all the change-management issues critical to any transformation.
- You will have to undergo an initial setup process, e.g., inventory, normalize, rationalize, and categorize your application and hardware estate.
- You will need an agile mindset just as software development organizations have gone through in the past 10 years.
To accomplish Evergreen IT, application management starts to look more like infrastructure management with continuous and central monitoring that can tell you that these are the laptops to be replaced, the apps to be repackaged, the users to be upgraded, etc. The same old spreadsheet management will not cut it and will undermine the entire effort.
Over the next few posts, we will explore why Evergreen IT is crucial to your organization, what a typical Evergreen IT use case looks like, and what it takes to do Evergreen IT successfully.