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How Microsoft Deployed Windows Phone to Employees


Published: May 2011

The following content may no longer reflect Microsoft’s current position or infrastructure. This content should be viewed as reference documentation only, to inform IT business decisions within your own company or organization.

Cross-team collaboration, planning, and focused marketing were the keys to deploying and supporting Windows Phones successfully to permanent employees around the world. To date, the deployment has been remarkably smooth, support-call volume has dropped, and employees are actively using their new phones, which enable them to work productively from the office or on the go.


Intended Audience Products & Technologies

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Business decision makers, Information Technology (IT) managers, marketing managers, and support personnel

  • Windows Phone
  • Microsoft Outlook Mobile
  • Microsoft SharePoint Workspace Mobile
  • Microsoft Office Mobile
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2010
  • Microsoft OneNote 2010
  • Windows Mobile
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Microsoft Exchange Online
  • Microsoft SharePoint Online
  • Microsoft Lync Online
  • Microsoft OneNote Mobile
  • Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway
  • Outlook Web Access
  • Microsoft Lync Mobile
  • Zune
  • Windows Phone Marketplace


The fall of 2010 brought more than a change of seasons to 81,000 Microsoft employees around the globe. All full-time and part-time employees became eligible to purchase a new Windows® Phone, and then expense it back to Microsoft. The deployment has been remarkably efficient and smooth, as the new Windows Phone users learned quickly how to maximize their phones' capabilities, and use applications that enable them to work in the office or remotely. Online documentation and training tools provided users with significant reference material that enabled them to configure and use their phones right out of the box, which has resulted in decreased call volume to the Helpdesk.

Several motivating factors were behind the Windows Phone deployment. The primary motivation was for Microsoft to demonstrate how strongly it supported its investment in the research and development of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft executives were confident that once employees were utilizing their Windows Phones, word would spread outside the company about the phone platform's power, versatility, and ease of use.

Coordinating the Windows Phone Deployment

A massive Windows Phone deployment to Microsoft employees meant considering many factors, including:

  • Designing and developing an infrastructure that Microsoft Information Technology (MSIT) could support, while simultaneously making the most of the key capabilities of the Windows Phone.

  • Constructing a cohesive marketing message that would generate excitement among employees, while staying true to the phone's functionality and support options.

  • Distributing phones to employees, while considering the physical and financial requirements and constraints of a global enterprise.

  • Determining what role MSIT ultimately would play in supporting the phone.

  • Generating business value to Microsoft without exceeding financial limits.

Capitalizing on the Windows Phone Capabilities

Windows Phone includes Microsoft® Outlook® Mobile, Microsoft SharePoint® Workspace Mobile, and Microsoft Office Mobile. Windows Phone integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010—the version that Microsoft deploys currently—and supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync® for synchronizing email, calendar, and contact information with Exchange Server. Currently, approximately 56,000 Microsoft employee Windows Phones synchronize daily with Exchange Server. However, when factoring in developer builds, which are unreleased phones that are unlocked or purchased for engineering, that number likely is much higher.

The Windows Phone integrates with Microsoft SharePoint® Server 2010, which Microsoft employees use extensively. SharePoint Server 2010 includes Microsoft OneNote®, which enables users to take notes on their Windows Phone.

Windows Phone makes all of this functionality available to users via an Office Hub, which is a central location on their phones from which they can access the various Office tools. Users can access, synchronize, view, and respond to email messages and calendar requests directly from their Windows Phone.

Users also can utilize the Windows Phone built-in wireless functionality to access the Microsoft wireless local area network (LAN). With the previous Microsoft smartphone operating system—Windows Mobile—approximately 3 percent of clients accessed the wireless network. The Windows Phone deployment, only five months old, has resulted in a nearly 10-fold increase in clients (currently 30 percent) that utilize the Microsoft wireless network.

Careful Planning Results in High User Satisfaction

Detailed planning on behalf of the Windows Phone team, MSIT, and several other departments resulted in a deployment in which employees have had little difficulty learning to utilize their new phones. User surveys indicate high satisfaction—so much so, that many employees are eschewing their other smartphones in favor of the new Windows Phone.

Much of the user satisfaction is a result of how closely MSIT coordinated with multiple teams, including the Exchange Server, networking, and support teams. This teamwork created an environment, and provided tools, that made the Windows Phone easy for users to configure and use, including setting up wireless network access, and establishing and synchronizing email accounts.

Enabling SharePoint 2010 on the Windows Phone

Microsoft enables Windows Phone users to access the Microsoft corporate network only when they are on a Microsoft campus, and to access SharePoint only from within its firewall. Therefore, users must connect to the Microsoft wireless network to download and synchronize files and documents on SharePoint servers, by using SharePoint Workspace Mobile.

Currently, Microsoft users are dogfooding—or beta testing—Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 is a subscription service that provides a suite of tools that enables users to work from anywhere on their portable computers and smartphones by using an Internet browser to access SharePoint and email via Microsoft Outlook Web Access.

Office 365 combines the familiar Microsoft Office desktop applications with the Microsoft communication and collaboration services, including Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync™ Online. Windows Phone works with Office 365 for hosted email and document sharing, and enables users to manage multiple calendars and email inboxes simultaneously. Additionally, Office 365 enables users to create and synchronize notes with Microsoft OneNote Mobile; edit Office documents; and access, edit, and repost documents by using SharePoint Online.

An organization can provide SharePoint access inside or outside its firewall, and can choose from multiple methods. These options affect how an organization would configure its SharePoint deployment. If an organization plans to provide SharePoint services outside of its firewall, users must establish a virtual private network (VPN) connection to its internal SharePoint sites by using Microsoft Forefront® Unified Access Gateway.

MSIT's strategic direction—based on the current industry environment of application publication—is to virtualize access to line-of-business (LOB) applications and SharePoint by using Office 365.

The Windows Phone platform, which includes the Office Mobile and SharePoint Mobile applications, allows employees to work securely from anywhere. This increases employee and organizational productivity, and employee satisfaction.

For more information, see the "Microsoft SharePoint Workspace Mobile on Windows Phone 7" blog at http://blogs.technet.com/b/windows_phone_for_it_pros/archive/2011/03/12/microsoft-sharepoint-workspace-mobile-on-windows-phone-7.aspx.

Managing Email and Policies by Using Exchange ActiveSync

Exchange ActiveSync is the primary method by which Microsoft offers secure email services and manages policies on the Windows Phone. Exchange ActiveSync version 14.0 is native to Windows Phone, and it includes security-related properties that IT departments can use to manage phone security.

Exchange ActiveSync is a synchronization protocol that keeps a user's Exchange mailbox synchronized with their Windows Phone. Organizations can control Windows Phone security by planning and managing Exchange ActiveSync policies in much the same way that they plan and manage Group Policies.

MSIT reviewed the available Exchange ActiveSync settings before deploying the Windows Phone, and then set those policies in Exchange ActiveSync. The primary policy that MSIT established is that users are required to set a device lock for their Windows Phone by creating a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). If the phones are lost or stolen, they cannot be unlocked without it. Users also must implement a three-minute timeout so that their phones lock automatically when not in use. After five failed PIN-entry attempts, the phone wipes all stored data automatically, and then reverts to factory settings. Microsoft also enables users to wipe their phones remotely by accessing Outlook Web Access.

For more information, see "Windows Phone 7 Guides for IT Professionals" at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=207799.

Windows Phone complies fully with the Exchange ActiveSync Logo Program. This means that each Windows Phone enforces the Exchange ActiveSync logo-mandated policies. Additionally, the combination of requiring users to utilize a PIN, the phone-lock timeouts, and the limits on failed password-entry attempts ensures that organizational data is not easily accessible should users lose their phones. For more information, see "Exchange ActiveSync Logo Program" at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/exchange/gg187968.aspx.

Creating Excitement and Knowledge about Windows Phone

Microsoft employees who implement and utilize new technology become a de facto sales force when they talk about the product outside of the office. Because of this, it was imperative to generate positive reactions to all aspects of the Windows Phone.

MSIT and the Windows Phone Marketing team created excitement for the Windows Phone deployment by using a multifaceted approach that coalesced and streamlined the Microsoft message about Windows Phone, and anticipated what users would need to know to learn quickly how to maximize their new phones' capabilities. The two departments collaborated closely to ensure that the message users would receive regarding the phone's capabilities was consistent with what MSIT was prepared to support.

First, the Microsoft IT intranet Windows Phone website was created. This website included tips and tricks on configuring and using Windows Phone, as well as best practices, and where users could go for more information and technical support.

MSIT also conducted a number of employee-oriented productivity sessions that coincided with the global Windows Phone launch events. Held at Microsoft campuses around the world, these sessions highlighted and demonstrated the core features and functionality of Windows Phone, such as how to configure email and wireless connections. The session materials and recordings then were made available online. Additional sessions highlighted key applications, advanced features, and tips and tricks for maximizing the Windows Phone functionality.

Finally, a hard-copy booklet was created. Approximately the size of a Windows Phone, the 2.5-inch by 4-inch booklet provided guidance for setting up the devices. Employees received copies of the booklet prior to receiving their phones, which gave them time to preview the product's capabilities, become familiar with the phone's features, and begin preparations for setting up their Exchange mailboxes and connection to the corporate wireless network.

A coordinated marketing approach that generated interest about the Windows Phone deployment, and ensuring that employees had the resources necessary to learn quickly how to use their new phones, resulted in a seamless deployment and high user satisfaction.

Deploying Phones to Employees

How best—financially and physically—to get phones into the hands of employees was a major consideration during development of the phone-deployment plan. Because Microsoft has employees all over the world, two separate models were implemented.

Using Two Deployment Models for One Deployment Process

In Europe and Asia, Microsoft worked closely with local phone vendors to single-source the phones and cellular service simultaneously. Outside of the United States, mobile operators typically do not subsidize phones, so people usually pay full price for a phone, and then pay for calls and texts as they use them. In these geographic areas, MSIT collaborated with the local carriers to provide the Windows Phones directly to the employees.

In the United States, cellular carriers typically subsidize phones. People buy phones at a reduced rate in exchange for committing to a service contract with a cellular carrier. However, respecting employees' cellular contracts and avoiding making employees pay taxes on their new phones presented a unique challenge for the U.S. deployment.

Reducing the Tax Impact to U.S. Employees

MSIT has an ongoing relationship with the four major U.S. cellular carriers—AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon—that predates the Windows Phone deployment. As a benefit to Microsoft employees, Microsoft contracts with the four service providers include extending preferred contract-pricing discounts to Microsoft employees and their families.

Prior to the deployment, MSIT would meet monthly with the four cellular carriers to discuss any issues that Microsoft users were experiencing. These regular meetings created a collaborative environment in which Microsoft and the cellular carriers could determine how best to deploy the Windows Phones to employees. MSIT continues to meet with the cellular carriers on a regular basis to discuss any issues that Microsoft users are having.

Microsoft could have made an agreement with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) simply to deliver phones directly to employees. However, the need for service contracts with the cellular carriers likely would have made that difficult from an administrative standpoint. Even more importantly, the process of giving phones directly to employees could be considered a taxable benefit to employees, and employees may have been liable for income taxes on the phones, which retail for approximately $500 in the U.S.

Microsoft decided to have employees purchase the phones and service contracts, and then expense them back to their departments. Phone and service contract purchases were tracked using the Foundation Account Number (FAN) that the service provider issues employees for discounted service, hardware, peripherals, and rebates.

Supporting the Windows Phone 7 Deployment

Determining how best to support the Windows Phone 7 deployment required an in-depth analysis of how to blend hardware and software support from two different entities: Microsoft, which provides the software, and the service provider, which provides hardware and components. Ensuring that employees knew who to call for what issues was a top priority, as was the ability to connect employees with the right support personnel.

Microsoft follows a tiered-support methodology. Tier 1 are those technicians that employees speak to when they call the Helpdesk or when they visit a Microsoft TechLink. Those technicians escalate issues to Tier 2 personnel, when necessary. Additionally, there are Tier 3 technicians who are experts with specific technologies and applications.

For cellular phones, the first tier typically would be the service provider. However, MSIT knew that Microsoft employees likely would call the Helpdesk first, so it was imperative that internal Helpdesk technicians knew how to escalate help requests properly. Hardware issues were to escalate to the manufacturer, and software issues typically stay internal.

Educating Users Results in Lower Helpdesk Call Volume

MSIT is currently working to reduce call volume to the Helpdesk. With that in mind, MSIT developed a list of the scenarios that users most likely would experience with their new Windows Phone. The IT Marketing and Communications team then prepared several Work Smart Guides that provided detailed information for those scenarios, as well as tip and tricks so users could configure their phones easily and perform initial troubleshooting for issues, if necessary.

The result has been a drop in call volume to the Helpdesk, partly due to the phone design, but also due to the MSIT planning and education efforts prior to the deployment.

What Is Next for the Windows Phone at Microsoft?

Employees were eligible to begin receiving their Windows Phones on October 19, 2010. The initial deployment ends on June 15, 2011. An additional 8,800 permanent employees will be eligible to receive Windows Phones in a new deployment that begins in fiscal year 2012, which starts July 1, 2011.

As the deployment continues, MSIT is partnering closely with the Windows Phone development team to ensure that user feedback is reflected in future phone development, and is used to provide fixes and updates to current users. Additionally, Microsoft continues to investigate how best to deploy features that users are requesting.

Updates to Windows Phone Decrease Potential Downtime

Windows Phone users report effortless device updates, thanks to the addition of the Zune® software client to Microsoft personal-computer images late last year. The update of the Windows Phone devices to the most-current releases has been without issue.

Users receive published updates by connecting their phones to the corporate network after they receive notification on their phones about available updates. MSIT tracks the number of downloaded updates to employees' phones. Currently, acceptance is at approximately 50 percent.

The update process also includes a backup of a phone's image, which results in successful restoration of client data and a phone's operating system. Therefore, when things go wrong, getting a user back up and running occurs within minutes rather than hours or days.

Dogfooding of Office 365 and Lync 2010 is Underway

Currently, Windows Phone users are dogfooding Office 365, the subscription service that provides the Office Mobile and SharePoint Mobile suite of tools. Additionally, a targeted beta-testing phase of Microsoft Lync Mobile is underway, with mobile professionals in Microsoft's field organizations participating.

Lync Mobile provides instant messaging and presence indicators for contacts on the Windows Phone platform. A scaled adoption is set for fiscal year 2012.

Developing and Deploying LOB Applications

Approximately 56,000 Microsoft employees currently use a Windows Phone, and Microsoft is considering how best to make the phone the vehicle by which users can utilize the LOB applications that they need.

Within the smartphone industry, most experts have concerns about using smartphones as LOB data-processing tools. However, those experts also know that developers increasingly will target the smartphone platforms for developing LOB applications. Thus, the onus is on developers to write clean, secure code.

The Windows Phone OS 7.0 does support encryption of application data, but Microsoft currently restricts LOB applications from accessing certain data types. Guidance and a review process are available currently for Microsoft LOB developers. When the next update of Windows Phone becomes available (during fiscal year 2012), Microsoft will evaluate the available security features, and then issue updated guidance to its internal LOB developers. In the coming year, MSIT expects more than 50 LOB applications to be available to Microsoft employees.

For the initial deployment, MSIT created reference material for developers that includes best practices for the Windows Phone secure development lifecycle (SDL), as well as improvements to the organization's internal publication process for phone applications. The development of LOB phone applications is an emerging risk, so MSIT opted to require SDL code reviews for all applications prior to publication. This ensures that MSIT understands the issues that developers are facing, and then can publish guidance for those. For more information, see "Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle" at http://www.microsoft.com/security/sdl/.

MSIT also employs various process gates to prevent publication of applications that have not undergone an SDL review. Additionally, MSIT has published sample code for domain authentication, and it continues to build a library that includes best-in-class code samples.

Microsoft is introducing a new developer program with Windows Phone that enables employees who want to develop Windows Phone applications to register for the program, download the Windows Phone developer tools, and then develop applications.

Starting in fiscal year 2012, developers will be able to publish LOB applications to a targeted set of Windows Phone users without having to make the applications searchable in the Windows Phone Marketplace catalogue. This enables developers to publish applications that target Microsoft employees only. It is important to note that developers must require appropriate authentication and other protections for the Microsoft LOB applications that they publish. Additionally, MSIT plans to write a Windows Phone application that enables employees to install specific applications easily.

Deploying Rights-Management Features

The next update to Windows Phone, which likely will occur during fiscal year 2012, will include rights-management features for email and Microsoft Office documents. Currently, MSIT is planning to deploy and support this feature, which will enable users to receive rights-managed emails, read them, and then respond securely, as well as read rights-protected Office documents.

Conclusion: Windows Phone Just Works

Thanks to thorough research, careful planning and marketing, clear communications, and cohesive cross-team collaboration, and verifiable by strong user ratings, Microsoft has created a smartphone that truly does just work, right out of the box.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada information Centre at (800) 563-9048. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information on the World Wide Web, go to:



© 2011 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, Exchange Server, Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, Microsoft Forefront, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Office, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft SharePoint, Windows, and Zune are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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