Friday, April 22, 2022

Insights you can use: Microsoft’s internal upgrade to Windows 11

Microsoft's upgrade to Windows 11 is largely considered the smoothest we've ever had. The Microsoft Digital Employee Experience team was able to upgrade 190,000 employee devices in just five weeks. We learned a lot so, in this post, I'm sharing our learnings with you to help with your deployment journey.

Our success was built around several factors: far fewer app compatibility challenges than in the past, not needing to build out a plethora of disk images, and delivery processes and tools already that were greatly improved during the rollout of Windows 10. We divided our upgrade into three stages: plan, prepare, and deploy.

Start with a good plan

First, we had to figure out which devices we should target for the upgrade. Windows 11 has specific hardware requirements, and a percentage of our devices were not upgraded. The employees with these devices will continue to run Windows 10 in parallel and get a Windows 11 device at their next device refresh. We used Update Compliance and Microsoft Endpoint Manager's Endpoint analytics feature to evaluate our device population. In total, 190,00 devices qualified for the upgrade and their upgrade was 99 percent successful.

Identifying which devices were upgradable allowed us to create a clear timeline, which enabled our communications team to plan for how to land the upgrade with our employees. We used a ring-based approach to manage the upgrade, which allowed us to gradually release Windows 11 across the company.

Prepare readiness content

Because the upgrade was smooth, we were able to focus our communications on building excitement for the upgrade. Our goal was to make sure our readiness content was easily digestible for everyone, regardless of their role. We used Yammer, FAQs, Microsoft SharePoint, email, Microsoft Teams, our internal homepage, and digital signage to reach employees. We drove interest by focusing on the new look and features of Windows 11, how fast the upgrade would be, and that scheduling it was flexible.

We allowed our employees eager to upgrade to use the PC Health Check app to test if their device qualified to use. Our support teams didn't get many upgrade tickets, but we prepared them ahead of time by giving them early access to Windows 11.

Test and measure

We used Microsoft Power BI to measure our success and share our learnings as we moved through the upgrade, which allowed us to improve our processes along the way. We tracked device population, devices by country and region, by eligibility, and by adoption. Our tracking allowed us to identify and communicate with those who didn't qualify for an update. Importantly, we tested and made sure Windows 11 met our stringent security requirements.

Deploying Windows 11

We used Windows Update for Business deployment service to automate our upgrade, which simplified our efforts. It helped us manage exclusions and opt outs, and, if needed, made it easy to roll a device back to Windows 10. Importantly, Windows Update for Business deployment service provides a single deployment strategy.

Our success hinged on setting up the right policies ahead of time, including how many alerts an employee would receive before their device was upgraded. Windows Update for Business deployment service reduced the number of policies we needed to manage, speeding up deployment without compromising our security.

Microsoft’s internal upgrade to Windows 11 hinged on effective end-to-end communicationMicrosoft’s internal upgrade to Windows 11 hinged on effective end-to-end communication


Partnering with OEMs

We used Windows Autopilot to work with our OEM partners to make sure all new devices come preloaded with Windows 11—a new device only needs to be turned on for Windows Autopilot to kick in and configure everything for the employee.

Succeeding with Windows 11

We count our upgrade to Windows 11 as a strong success story. We had no increase in support tickets, we had broad adoption across the company, and it was our fastest deployment in company history. We hope that sharing our story helps you tackle your Windows 11 upgrade. To go deeper, read the full report: Unpacking Microsoft's speedy upgrade to Windows 11.

Want more information about our internal upgrade? Check out Deploying Windows 11 at Microsoft!


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