By Robin Tapp
The success of your organisation is driven by people, regardless of your scale, industry or geography. I saw this time and again in my 18 years with a major international consulting firm. Give me sufficient people with the right skills and, even more important, the right motivation and I can achieve anything. This is proper “the sky’s the limit”, “put a man on the moon” stuff. Enabling your people with the right technology not only increases their capability but can also act as a powerful motivator because it makes them feel valued. So why are so many organisations disempowering their people with frustratingly slow and unstable tools? Function is not the same as performance.
In my time working with big corporates I came to the conclusion that it is all about people. Every single individual from the Board down brings a unique set of skills, experience and capabilities which the organisation needs to harness by enabling them and motivating them. Organisations that do this well succeed and those that do it poorly fail. It really is as simple as that, all other factors are secondary. You want to raise money to invest in growth, motivate the right people who know how. You want to develop some unique IP, motivate the right people with bright ideas and the ability to bring them to life. You want to find a gap in the market, the unfulfilled customer need… Well, you get the picture. Enabling skilled people and motivating them is the key.
“OK, so what on earth has that got to do with desktop virtualisation?” I hear you ask. Let’s start by recognising that the vast majority of corporate staff use some sort of computing device, typically PC based, and have a perception that it is adequate at best and very deeply frustrating at worst.
At home I have a plethora of computing devices ranging from dedicated gaming, through powerful laptops to a tablet and a PDA. Yes, I am a bit of a gadget-person, but no, I am not alone. In fact, the growth in consumer computing and related gadgets is a phenomenon which has taken the world by storm. In many cases, my need gets met before I realised it existed and the rate of advancement is simply astonishing. Who knew they needed a gaming PC that uses binocular cameras to build a three dimensional model of your living room so that it could react to your physical movements instead of making you use a traditional controller? My expectations have become very high indeed and consumer device manufacturers seem only too pleased to keep driving them skyward.
And so I surf this escalating wave of consumer device enablement all the way into the office and then sit down in-front of my corporate PC and guess what, it feels clunky as hell! Can I connect my MacBook or iPad to the corporate network? Not likely. The corporate IT department cannot afford to keep up with the pace of consumer device proliferation nor can it afford, and this is the real pace and enablement killer, to secure that ever-expanding universe of diversity.
Meanwhile, the corporate laptop remains a security anathema. It has to travel physically outside of the controlled corporate world carrying potentially sensitive data with it, potentially connecting to unsecured networks.. It is a tiny piece of corporate IT infrastructure that has to survive exposed and alone in a big and most definitely bad world. The result is that is travels in full SAS body armour with the latest identity intelligence, defence ammunition and encryption security kit weighing it down. This is a double-wammy for staff perception. Not only is it inherently less sexy than the latest consumer devices, but because of all the security kit it carries it is also often slower.
So what is the beleaguered CIO to do in this invidious situation? Push for ever-escalating end user computing budgets to keep up with consumer devices? Give up the race, batten-down the hatches and tough-out the escalation noise of the dissatisfied mob? I put to you the virtual hosted desktops can provide an easier, more secure and frankly more enjoyable third way.
A virtual hosted desktop can sit inside your corporate firewall and the concrete walls of a tier three data centre. It is therefore inherently more secure than a laptop. Combine this with the ability to pool compute resource across many desktops and, if set up right, you can expect a substantial performance increase over a traditional PC. Combine this with almost universal device accessibility and you have an improved, cheaper security model where the end-user device can sit outside of the firewall and also a lot of very happy end users who can bring their MacBooks, iPads and Androids to work (or school) if they want to.
So where is the rub? You get nothing for nothing and so there must be a downside. It shouldn’t be cost because virtual hosted desktops, if set up right, can save you money over a traditional PC estate by reducing hardware costs, support costs and power costs (not to mention reduced down-time, flexible office space through hot-desking/working from home and business continuity benefits).
You will notice the abundance of the phrase “if set up right” in reference to the benefits of virtual hosted desktops. The reality is that this is a market rife with fairly complex technical solutions to point problems and very light in end-to-end business solutions. Virtual desktops are notoriously complex to set up and harder to optimise for end-user experience. The result is that few implementations to date have truly realised their potential. Go find yourself a specialised provider and make the complexity their problem. Better still, find two and ask them to pilot their solutions in parallel so can choose the one that best meets your needs. Rest assured that solutions are available that can bring the full-range of benefits, so don’t settle for anything less.
The bottom line is that the corporate laptop has gone from being a status symbol to being a millstone. If you want to empower and motivate your people (and get the positive business impact of this) empower them with a well set-up virtual desktop and let them bring their own devices to work or work from home. This isn’t about the technology, it is all about the people.
What do you think? Do you think we are overstating the impact of better technology on people and business?