Internet Explorer 11 continues Microsoft's move to a user-centric environment. As IT professionals, we will have to learn how to guess what users want.
Our organization, while probably not alone, uses a single browser (Internet Explorer) for standardization. Most users do not care about their browser as long as it meets certain criteria. The largest requirement is the customization of home pages, toolbars, and general layout.
From the IT side of things, we like to pre-configure a few options related to security and site/zone assignments. Achieving these two separate goals of customization and security will take some creative planning. It can be accomplished with the use of three technologies: Group Policy Administrative Templates, Group Policy Preferences, and the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK).
What needs to be managed?
The question above is one of the hardest to answer when viewed from a user-centric perspective. Our natural inclination is to lock down everything! Locking down everything means fewer things for users to mess up, right? Wrong.
Locking down everything will only lead to you creating exceptions, re-editing Group Policy Objects, and undoing your original work. This will only increase the complexity of your environment, leading to longer troubleshooting times. Unnecessary restrictions will also stifle innovation by your users. Some of the best user interface tweaks and default settings in our environment came from our employees outside of IT. These improvements would have never been used if every setting were locked down.
In our environment, we lock down the Site-to-Zone assignments by using Group Policy Administrative Templates. By doing this, we can prepopulate the Trusted Sites and Internal Sites lists without a user ever removing a critical site or adding an untrusted site. With the exception of security-related settings, we keep the bar high for what must be locked down for the user.
What can be made easier?
Don't take my statements above the wrong way -- users do want guidance. They want their lives to be made easier by you. You can do this by preconfiguring options for them. Think of these as default settings tailored directly to your organization.
A big example of this is the home page. By using IE Preferences in Group Policy, you can configure a default home page. Users can then update, change, or add to your default home page. If a user regularly visits multiple websites daily, he can set these pages as secondary home pages. He would not have this flexibility if Group Policy Administrative Templates were used. When setting the preference up, you will have to use a Create action instead of an Update or Replace action.
Another way you can make your users' lives easier is by redirecting the Online Support link within the Internet Explorer Help menu to your own IT helpdesk. This setting normally points to http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx. You can use IEAK when deploying/updating Internet Explorer to customize the default setting for single-click access to your corporate helpdesk.
Moving to a user-centric environment will take work. Every application requires rethinking what is locked down and why. As the default portal to external resources, the browser requires these changes first. Take a look at what you need to control, what can be delegated for user configuration, and how you can make the whole experience easier for your users. This type of thinking will make your IT department more unified with your organization. As a benefit, you will be one step ahead of the user-centric movement.