Macs In the Enterprise: A Cisco Case Study

January 19, 2023 / Ben Bajarin

Snapshot of Cisco

  • 140,000 supported workers
  • 500+ offices
  • 99 countries
  • 56,000 mobile devices (85% iOS)
  • 68,000 active Windows PCs
  • 56,000 active Macs

Last fall, I wrote about the growth potential for Apple’s Macs in the enterprise. I mentioned some research Cisco shared about their Mac choice program and the benefits they have seen as an organization by offering Mac as a choice and supporting Macs on equal footing as Windows.

Cisco’s stated goal with the Mac@Cisco program is “reimagining the Mac experience to support, engage, and empower employees to do their best work.” Cisco has a distinct emphasis on employee experience, driven by their CIO Fletcher Previn who has been quoted saying “The state of IT is a daily reflection of what the company thinks and feels about its employees.” This emphasis to provide employees with the right tools for how they want to get their job done coupled with the focus Francine Katsoudas, Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Office has put on creating a workplace that puts their people first has contributed to landing Cisco as the top-rated workplace and number one on Fortune’s top 100 places to work for two years in a row.

I had a chance to speak more in-depth with those in charge of the Mac@Cisco program and I’d like to share what I learned.

Offering True Choice

A common term among PC OEMs, when outlining their device roadmap was “port of choice.” This was the vernacular to describe what mix of ports would be included in a laptop or desktop in order to give IT admin’s the most flexibility when deciding which devices to deploy in their organization to meet their employee’s needs.  I’d like to steal that term but stay true to its intent by using the phrase platform of choice. In the same way that IT departments knew they had different users, who needed different port/connectivity options and offered hardware that allowed for port of choice, modern IT organizations need to also offer platform of choice. That was the old IT paradigm where decision-makers and OEMs focused on personas based on location and job role. Fast forward to today and it is clear to me that modern IT must take that model and shift it to platforms. Doing so will only have positive implications for their organizations and their employees.

It is no secret that most organizations do not fully embrace Macs for their employees. There are always ways employees can get Macs, but those who choose Mac rarely get the full support of their organization’s IT/Support department. Often it means getting cut off from managed upgrades, support tickets, and often lack of access to applications. Despite extremely high desire from employees to use Macs (66% according to a study we did last year), most IT organizations keep the Mac users in their organization at arm’s length.

Offering true platform of choice matters when it comes to employee experience and employee satisfaction with their workplace, tools, and IT departments. This is exactly what Cisco found when they studied internal employees. A Cisco report on IT satisfaction of employees found satisfaction to be significantly lower when employees were not offered their platform of choice in a laptop.  This speaks to the simple reality that Windows has been the only option for too long for most employees and employees should be offered the chance to use their platform of choice for their day job. Modern enterprises will have no choice but to confront this reality and provide platform of choice to their employees. If they don’t they are hampering their employee’s ability to use the tool they prefer to get their job done and they risk losing employees to go work for organizations who better provide the tools they prefer to use.

Now that Cisco offers a full Mac program, the number of employees who state they don’t use their preferred OS has dropped dramatically. And while not every employee or department is choosing a Mac, Cisco finds that 59% of new hires are choosing a Mac and 65% of employees eligible for a refresh of their laptop are choosing a Mac. Cisco also found that when employees with a Windows laptop were up for a refresh, 24% chose to switch from a Windows PC to a Mac. These stats stand out to me as clear evidence there is pent-up demand for Macs in the workplace.

Gold Standard Support is the Key

While third-party tools from Jamf, Kandji and Jumpcloud make it much easier for IT organizations to embrace Macs, the issue of help desk support remains a key piece of the puzzle.  As I mentioned, most large and small organizations have Macs in their workplace. But those Macs are often managed in a much more limited capacity and often cut off from help desk support, applications, and OS upgrades.

Cisco created a dedicated Mac Admin team and a dedicated Mac@Cisco helpdesk. From an employee experience standpoint, this strategy is working. Cisco has been tracking key performance indicators relative to the Mac@Cisco helpdesk and found extremely high satisfaction among employees using Macs who needed support. A key goal was to decrease the amount of time it took to respond to a support ticket and their efforts have paid off with an average of fewer than 90 seconds to respond to a support inquiry.

In an employee experience study, which we conducted last year, we studied employee satisfaction with their IT organization and technical support. Support response time was an area where we found higher levels of dissatisfaction among employees. Cisco’s strategy to reimagine the support experience for the Mac@Cisco program undoubtedly played a role in the success of this program.

Cisco is executing several key points, I outlined that need to be done in order to successfully deploy Macs, build a dedicated Mac admin team and create a streamlined Helpdesk focused on Macs. The excuses used against supporting Macs at scale in the enterprise have nearly all been debunked. The Mac has become an essential workplace tool and there is no escaping that reality. More organizations would be wise to follow Cisco’s example of deploying a well-thought-out and mature Mac choice program as it would be to the benefit of their employees and their corporate culture.

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