Need For Mac-specific IT Skills Keeps Macs A Minority In Business

Need For Mac-specific IT Skills Keeps Macs A Minority In Business

Is there a glass ceiling for Macs in enterprise companies?

A new Forrester report on Apple in the enterprise shows that nearly half of all companies (46%) issue Macs to at least some of their employees. The report also notes that Macs make up a thin slice of the overall computing population in most of those companies – an average of just 7%.

While the report notes that Apple’s overall sales of Macs to businesses increased by more than a third (34.9%), it seems that Macs remain a distinct minority in most businesses. Given the business and enterprise dominance of the iPad and iPhone, the much slower growth of Macs in business can seem surprising by comparison. This issue has been debated time and again over the years and the more common reasons offered tend to be IT professionals having a preferences for Windows, corporate cultures favoring uniformity, and Apple’s refusal to act like most enterprise vendors.

All those are valid points, but one issue that rarely gets raised is that supporting a handful of Macs is a very different experiencing than deploying and managing a larger number of them. It takes a different set of skills on the part of IT professionals and, in most cases, it requires investing in a different set of tools.

This threshold of differing IT needs isn’t unique to Apple or to the Mac platform. As a small business grows from an office with a handful of employees and computers into a mid-size firms with dozens of employees and computers, there’s a big shift in what it takes to support those users and computers.

Initially, adding new computers by buying them off the shelf, manually going through the Windows or OS X setup process, and installing applications by hand is fine. After a certain point, however, that becomes very time consuming. Similarly having a single computer with file sharing enabled or having a single hard drive attached to a wireless router can be all a company needs while its small. Eventually, however, a more robust file and document sharing solution system with easy to manage permissions will be needed. Ultimately, a company will have to consider hiring a technology consultant or even a full time technician as it continues to grow.

When a business has small number of Macs (or any piece of technology), it can often support and manage them on an ad-hoc basis. In larger businesses, a small Mac population is almost like the small business that I just described from an IT staffing or resource perspective. As that Mac population gets larger, a company needs to build out specific infrastructure to support and manage larger scale Mac deployments as well as to make a greater effort at integrating the larger number of Macs into the enterprise IT systems to ensure uniform access and experience across both PCs and Macs.

Things that need to be addressed as a Mac population increases include:

  • Mass deployment tools for rolling out new Macs, OS X releases, apps, and other software updates
  • Client management options to secure Macs and pre-configure OS X and installed applications
  • Advanced integration with enterprise systems – some of this is built into OS X but may not be sufficient for some organizations
  • Help desk training and procedures for resolving Mac-specific issues
  • Technician training and skill sharing to ensure that Mac support isn’t being provided by just one IT staffer or a small group

That can be a pretty tall order and it requires researching and purchasing Mac-specific enterprise tools as well as the investment to acquire the needed skills.

Does that mean that Macs will never become a major part of the computing landscape in business? Not really. Mac use in small to mid-size businesses is a booming market – both because of Apple’s marketing effort and because small businesses are picking up the needed Mac management solutions and skills as needed as they grow. It does mean that expanding Mac populations in larger enterprises will take a more concerted push, however.

  • ichiroa

    A highly skilled professional should have the ability to learn and understand all technology. Not just Windows, Mac, Linux..etc. It makes us more valuable :)

  • m_hardwick

    There are no jobs, so why would anyone learn? I am the most skilled Mac person in my organisation and not once are/have my Mac skills called upon.

  • prusikov

    This issue really makes me wonder how do such companies as Apple itself, Facebook or Google manages that stuff? These huge companies all run Macs. What kinds of solutions do they use, that helps them not to glance at windows-type corporate IT architecture? Anyone’s got any knowledge on how do these companies operate?

  • SkolVikes88

    No Mac jobs? Please m_hardwick. I’ve been a Mac-only guy for years working a job that pays 35% more than my Windows counterparts. Is it you, your skills, or something else? And for the answers to the above questions, there are indeed ways – excellent ways to Manage ALL Apple products in the enterprise. Casper Suite being the most prevalent of them all. http://www.jamfsoftware.com
    I am NOT affiliated with JAMF. But take a look. It’s in many businesses and schools.

  • puterguy

    I tend to somewhat agree with m_hardwick. I know more about Apple products than everybody else in my IT dept. combined, yet they always assign the person that has been there the longest to work on the few iPads, iPhones, Macs, etc. they have. One incident in particular, he worked on the problem for three days and couldn’t get anywhere with it. I finally decided to jump in and fix it, which took me less than five minutes. Yet, since I am the “new guy”, I am treated like I know nothing. Time for me to be moving on to where there is some common sense in existence.

    SkolVikes88, I wish I could find an Apple-only job. Are there any websites for such jobs available?

  • MrPeabody

    @prusikov
    Now that’s an excellent question… hmmm…

    I’m not so sure that FB and Google run “lots” of Macs, but you’d think Apple might. Maybe Apple doesn’t as much as we might think. Maybe they only use Macs in their development areas and something else in their corporate operations.

    One thing is for sure in all of these Apple-in-enterprise speculations: Apple-in-enterprise is a frigin mystery, and a very frusttrating one for some of us.

    The few stabs that Apple has made directly into the enterprise marketplace have been second-to-none, excellent, and not anywhere near the most expensive options at the time of their release. But alas, Apple seems perfectly content with aiming at the consumer market where the real money will always be.

    The problem is that the Mac/iOS architecture is so well done that it can’t help but be more productive in whatever environment it finds itself. Still, we have to remember that Apple has made a conscious choice to ignore any serious entry into the corporate marketplace. Are they going to take issue with businesses buying and using their products, or developers developing a few products aimed at operating certain kinds of businesses? Of course not. But that’s completely different from Apple making a conscious choice to develop their product in such a way that is clearly intended to attract companies to their products and the products of their in-house and third-party developers. Bottom line, Apple is very lasè fare (howerver you spell that), about the enterprise market place. That’s an oft demonstrated fact.

    The last time I posted something like this on another Mac oriented blog it was gone by the end of the day, so if it becomes food for further thought you should probably copy and paste it somewhere – but somewhere where the sun DOES shine! ;>)

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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