Archive | April 2018

Is this the year of published apps?

Until this year, every year since 2008 has been ‘the year of VDI’. The one where virtual desktop growth would increase exponentially and everything else would be the exception. I did my first virtual desktop project in 2010 (not for Computacenter I hasten to add). I’ll tell you now it was not a great success. Actually, that’s not fair, it did work, there were just some caveats. We explained to the users not to look at web pages with lots of pictures, or view videos (obviously) and to expect some typing delays during busy periods – that sort of thing. I’m sure you can imagine the conversations we had. My efforts to explain how clever it all was were wasted.

That was a while ago. The technology caught up and virtual desktop user experience improved to be at least on a par with their physical counterpart. So why has VDI remained at 10% of the desktop estate for the majority of organisations? Why does no-one talk about the year of VDI anymore and what is the future?

The problem with VDI remains its complexity. Complexity to design, deliver and support. Where mobility and flexibility are important the easiest and most cost-effective solution has been to give users laptops. This left 10% of users for whom virtual desktops made a real difference. These individuals usually worked in areas where focus of return on investment was about enabling ways of working that traditional desktops couldn’t, such as securing access to data from third parties and contractors; where task workers with limited application sets are required (call centres); or to provide the ability to return to a known good state quickly and easily (developers and testers).

Now it’s beginning to feel like VDI numbers are declining or at best have stabilised. The rise of Apple and Google in the enterprise and applications increasingly moving to SaaS (browser-based solutions) means we are no longer so reliant on a Windows operating system. Content management and contextual security has also removed some of the security concerns that previously made the case for VDI.

I’m not suggesting Windows is dead! Yes, device proliferation is a thing, but we will still need to access Windows apps that people lack the desire, or possibly the knowledge, to modernise. What we need is some way of delivering just the application through a client that runs on any OS. We can do that. We’ve been able to do that since 2001 with MetaFrame, earlier if you count WinFrame, so as is often the way, IT solutions previously discounted as ‘old-hat’ has come round again as the solution to all our problems. Things have moved on a bit though.

  • Frame gives you the ability to access Windows apps just using a browser
  • VMware utilise Windows RDSH through Workspace One to provide a fully integrated solution that can be deployed on premises or public cloud
  • Citrix XenApp (the replacement to MetaFrame) can be consumed from the Azure marketplace, any public IaaS platform or on premises

The benefit to the user is the best native experience on the device they have chosen with the ability to access their business applications in a virtually seamless, albeit online-only, manner. The benefit to the organisation is the ability to offer choice while maintaining a simple and secure way of delivering Windows applications. At least it is for the foreseeable future.

I once heard someone say that XenDesktop was a great advertisement for XenApp. When you had a requirement for server-based computing nine times out of ten XenApp was the best answer. The year of VDI never came but server-based computing will be around for a while yet so maybe this year will be the year of the published app. Not that anyone’s going to be stupid enough to prophesy that!

The Stages of Digital Workplace Transformation

It has been some time since the last blog post, such is the frenetic pace of activity through early 2018 helping our customers with their workplace transformations.  This is a topic I’ve spoken of many times, often from a visionary or conceptual level, but I thought maybe now was the time to change the tone of the conversation to focus on HOW you embark on the Digital Workplace journey.

From my engagements with many of our customers throughout the UK and Europe, and recognising that a true Digital Workplace programme comprises a Portfolio of projects and initiatives, I’d summarise the process into the following key pillars

DWP_Programmes

Transform the Foundations

Whilst founded in aspiration towards a radically different state, most conversations related to Workplace Transformation invariably start with, or gravitate to, initiatives that I refer to as “Foundational”.  Whether these are remediation of current issues, or basic enablers for a future solution,  the key to building an effective Digital Workplace is in “getting the basics” right.  These activities often have disproportionate impact in that context, , as often these are the specific issues that are frustrating and inhibiting your users the most.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Pervasive Campus WiFi
  • Core Platform Upgrades (e.g. SharePoint)
  • Facilities Enhancements/Rationalisations

Modernise the Workplace

A lot of the focus of Digital Workplace programmes exhibits itself here.  These may be the introduction of flagship programmes to deliver a dramatic change to the user and technology environment.  These key projects provide significant modernisation of technologies and a more integrated set of capabilities within a solution that propose to significantly simplify the user experience.  Often the initiatives have a significant drivat this stage are driven as much by compelling events as anything, which creates a significant drive to implement them quickly.  However it is important to recognise that this cannot be done in isolation, and must be accompanied by adjacent initiatives to secure their success.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Cloud Productivity and Collaboration – e.g. Office 365 or G-Suite
  • Desktop Modernisation – e.g. Windows 10
  • Adoption of End User Cloud services – i.e. SaaS LoB Applications

Digitise the Experience

The final area of the transformation agenda is in initiatives that drive towards a digitalisation of engagement points and interfaces.  When we consider the examples of companies we would herald as “Digital Businesses” it is the elegance and simplicity of the points of engagement and interaction that we revere.

Within the context of Digital Workplace this is often the most difficult stage to achieve.  This is perhaps because it depends upon user behavioural and cultural change to ensure the uptake and effectiveness of what can be significantly challenging and complex initiatives.  However the promise these initiatives deliver, in terms of user experience benefit, reduction in time to serve through efficiency and automation are significant and they naturally form part of the portfolio.

Key examples of projects at this level are:

  • Digitising Service Desk Engagement via Multi Channel
  • Experience Analytics and Automation
  • Chatbots / Digital Concierge

 

A Digital Workplace vision and programme will naturally encompass a range of initiatives from each of the three categories, covering the technology layer.  It is key to understand the market hype vs maturity in order to evaluate and time your activities accordingly.

But to reiterate, a true programme will not just consider the technology, it will also be comprised of initiatives addressing culture and user behaviour, organisational and operating models and a range of other factors. To achieve success it’s imperative to consider the portfolio approach and understand how each specific activity relates to, is enabled by, or is dependent upon the others in order to ensure its effectiveness and success.

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