Why IT Pros should use the Windows Insider Program

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The Windows Insider program is intended to let consumers and IT pros alike get access to pre-release builds of Microsoft Windows. Insiders can get builds at different pace based on the ring they are subscribed to Insiders can subscribe the Fast Ring, the Slow Ring or the Release Review Ring. Obviously the more rapid the build release cadence in you the ring the higher the likelihood of stability issues and bugs. There are currently millions of Windows Insiders and they are helping to uncover issues before the product is released to the general public. This has allowed Microsoft to increase the quality and the speed of windows 10 releases. But what’ in it for you, the IT Pro?

I’ve been working in IT for over 25 years and there are definitely trends in some of the frustration that I’ve heard from IT pros. Lately some of the issues I’ve heard from SysAdmins include:

  1. I can’t support something that I’m not familiar with
  2. I never get to work on anything new
  3. End users are running things that we haven’t approved or tested

Image courtesy of WorldArtsMe

The Windows Insider program can help IT pros with all of these issues. Let’s deal with Issues 1 and 2 first

There’s no denying that the consumerization of IT has created an environment where you may have to support a device or operating system that an end user has purchased that you may never have used before. This is particularly true if you support BYOD environments or web based services (such as eCommerce). If you run an online business and your potential customers are not able to use your service because it doesn’t work with their device no matter how much to protest that they are running a device or browser that you don’t support, you are likely going to lose that potential customer. Since we can’t control what devices they buy, perhaps we can at least incorporate testing of Insider builds of Windows 10 so that you can be proactive in supporting the builds that will be coming out in the near future. Remember that the feature in the insider builds will most likely find their way into an off the shelf device from BestBuy in the near future. Why not volunteer to use an Insider build as your primary device so that you can proactively identify potential incompatibilities in your IT infrastructure that might cause support issues. What manager doesn’t like to hear his staff is trying to be proactive? If you volunteer do you think you realistically think you will ever hear “Nah, let’s just wait and see what breaks and then make up some excuse like we didn’t know that Microsoft was releasing that new feature. That will make our IT department look like the victim and Microsoft the bad guy for releasing it without telling us. And the end user is just the unwilling accomplice. But maybe they will be gun-shy next time they see that shiny new device at BestBuy.”

So as the new Windows Insider lead for your IT team, you get to be one of the first people in the world to try out new features – so you are working on something new. You also become familiar with the upcoming builds before the general public so you can identify potential support issues to your management and create a strategy for dealing with them.

Now let’s deal with issue number 3 – End users are running things we haven’t approved.

This can be difficult to tackle if you don’t work in a locked down environment that only allows corporately owned standardized devices to be used. If you do then you probably don’t have this issue and if you do you have bigger issues around process, governance and compliance. The Windows Insider program can’t help you with those (Yet J). So let’s talk about environments users have the freedom to choose the devices and operating systems they would like to run. You can’t force them to choose devices that you approve. If they run into an issue with your service on their new device or device that has just received a new build, no matter how much you try to blame them for making a poor choice, you still look bad as the IT Pro. What if as part of your insider build testing, you flag known issues that you can’t fix immediately and communicate them proactively to your end users. Consider a browser based compatibility issue – perhaps test for builds and provide pop-up messages indicating that the version of their browser is known to be incompatible with a particular service. It’s much easier to have the discussion about support scope when you are already aware of an issue and have communicated it proactively. Perhaps create a list of devices and builds that you have tested and recommend that users chose from that list for the best experience. If you provide guidance proactively and they still chose to ignore it then they risk a poor user experience and less predictable support. Ultimately it’s their choice but most people will make better decisions when they have more information on which to base the decision. Until you proactively educate them as to why one device is preferred over another, they may be using decision criteria such as brand, price and form factor rather supportability. Now your users can make informed decisions about devices and start reducing the number of unsupported/approved devices being used.

This is just a start. As part of the Surface Smiths Podcast I spent four days at Microsoft Ignite speaking with IT Pros who were Windows Insiders and they had many other compelling reasons to be part of the Windows Insider program. We’ll be covering them in upcoming Surface Smiths episodes.

What are you waiting for? Sign up to be a Windows Insider Now!

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