LEGO builds on its Mac project

Increasing Mac numbers inspired LEGO to streamline device management

The old way of doing IT at The LEGO Group was very much “we decide how you work,” said Michael Loft Mikkelsen. But things are changing at the family-owned company based in Billund, Denmark. One big change is the growing number of Mac users among the 17,000 worldwide LEGO employees. Driving the change is LEGO’s corporate mission.

“We have one overarching mission: to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. That’s our single most important goal,” said Loft Mikkelsen, infrastructure engineer at LEGO. “To create these fantastic products, we need an IT infrastructure that’s agile, scalable and robust enough to keep up with our development and growth.”

Over the last several years, LEGO has deployed about 700 Macs, primarily to employees in creative roles, such as designers and product developers.

“They are crucial in developing new products and solutions for LEGO customers. For them, it’s not an option which platform they work on,” said Loft Mikkelsen, who spoke at the Jamf Nation user conference in Minneapolis. Jamf specializes in Apple management software, and LEGO is a user of its Jamf Pro (formerly called Casper Suite) platform. “Some of them come straight out of college, some are recruited from the LEGO fan community. Most of them have been working on Macs their entire life. They’re comfortable with it. They love it. For them, it’s part of their identity.”

“The goal of the Mac project is to enable these colleagues to be as productive and inspired as possible. And we do that by providing them with the platform that fits them and their way of working – and not a platform where we decide how they should work.”

In the past, Macs were scarce at the Windows-centric enterprise. Even as the numbers grew, the process of deploying a new Mac to an employee remained slow and labor intensive. IT had to bind the Mac to its Active Directory setup, deploy a third-party VPN client, and install LEGO’s Office toolset and any necessary creative or product development tools, depending on the user’s role. “When a new Mac was ordered, it had to go through a manual re-image,” Loft Mikkelsen said. “We had single-job scripts and manually deployed profiles. It was enough to get anyone exhausted.”

“The process worked, to most degrees, but it was unsustainable,” he said. “It was very locked-down.”

LEGO realized it needed to rethink how Macs were being managed and supported. Mac users wanted access to the same resources as the PC community – timely support and a proper software catalog, for example. But LEGO lacked a true enterprise management solution for Macs, and it didn’t have enough IT pros with deep technical skillsets on the platform.

Loft Mikkelsen joined LEGO in 2015, and the company set out to streamline its Mac environment. Culturally, part of the challenge was overcoming biases.

“Like most enterprises that have Mac in their environment, the Mac was meeting resistance from the established IT organization,” Loft Mikkelsen said. “It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like these: ‘this has always been a problem on Mac,’ or ‘the Mac is just not enterprise ready.’ I think both of these used to be true, but not anymore. It’s a stigma that’s very hard to lose.”

For its technical overhaul, the company considered two strategies: piggybacking a Mac management layer onto its existing environment for managing the PC infrastructure, or implementing Jamf’s dedicated Apple device management platform.

The IT team created two full test environments to evaluate each approach. Team members then compared the capabilities and shortcomings of each in a matrix that weighed categories such as asset management, software distribution, security, reporting and supplier support. “It was crucial that this was a team decision. We needed everyone on board,” Loft Mikkelsen said.

“Our technical analysis, and the human aspect, both pointed in the same direction. For us to gain the full benefit and value, we had to choose Jamf,” he said.

Today, LEGO is nearing the end of its three-phase rollout of its new enterprise mobility management infrastructure, centered around Jamf. Loft Mikkelsen offered some advice for companies that might be considering a similar project.

For starters, engage with the Mac community. “See what works. Hear stories of what others are doing,” he said. “This made a huge difference in our process.”

Loft Mikkelsen also advocates thorough testing – and unbiased data collection. “Make data-driven decisions,” he said. “If you have a feeling that something is wrong, prove it. Nothing makes a more compelling argument than valid data.”

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