Delivering the Flexible Enterprise - Event Summary
The Mint Hotel, Manchester, 6 July 2011
Pressures remain on IT budgets and will do so for the foreseeable future it is time for organisations to think more strategically about the role and impact of technology to deliver true business transformation with improvements to the bottom line – the current steady state is more with the same, the stark reality in much more with much less moving forward… and this is driving all organisations across all sectors to deliver IT services very differently.
Many organisations have ‘dabbled’ with smart office and flexible working initiatives but few have yet achieved serious business benefits. There have been many false starts and initiatives showing little return on the often considerable investments in technology and at worst some alienation of staff and management. Success is clearly not just about getting the right technology solutions but having a clear business focussed strategy, and implementing new processes that have the full support of management and staff through effectively managing cultural change.
Flexible working – a win, win, win..
The first part of the session focussed on people, process and cultural aspects of flexibility…
Businesses worldwide are seeing increasing benefits from empowering remote or mobile workers. The ubiquity of mobile technologies have enabled businesses to create fully connected people who have access to the right information at the right time from anywhere… and this includes access to the corporate resources – applications, documents, email, hardware and other devices as required.
The modern enterprise doesn’t restrict the work day to 9 to 5… the mobile enterprise operates an always on environment – responding as required to customers needs – an altogether more dynamic approach.
The number of mobile workers is growing dramatically – and most of the analysts have rounded on the prediction of 35% of the global workforce being mobile by 2013 – approximately 1.2 billion people. An IDC report, published at the end of last year evidenced a shift from 919.4 million in 2008 (29% of the global workforce) to 1.19 billion by 2013 (34.9% of the workforce).
Flexible working represents a win, win, win – for enterprise productivity, for your people and for the environment. At a time when improving productivity is a key concern for every business and not least for the new Government; we strive as a nation to improve economic growth. A key enabler to a more effective and efficient economy is flexible working. As well as the potential cost savings flexible working can bring to organisations, the evidence shows it can reduce economic inactivity.
Flexible working is not just about flexibility in the locations of work but also about flexibility in timing and the balancing of what needs to be done and where it can be done from. Already 5.4 million workers in the UK have some sort of flexibility built into their work life.
Flexible working offers a range of benefits for the business, the obvious cost savings on building and accommodation costs, infrastructure costs, travel and expenses – however, cost savings are one part of the equation …. Perhaps the real benefits are in productivity gains. Workforce agility enables a business to be more flexible in its approach; allowing it to react to good and bad market conditions more efficiently.
The reputational benefits are more difficult to measure but are no less important.. An organisation that embraces flexibility gains recognition and a reputation as a good employer, which makes it more attractive and easier to retain good people, it also enables the organisation to reach beyond its core hinterland to recruit the right skills. Additionally, absence through sickness is reduced and all of these positive factors mean that the overall cost for recruitment should reduce.
For many, flexible working is simply the ability to pick and choose the hours they work. The concept has evolved into something much greater than this and has, to some degree, merged with the concept of remote working. Flexible working today is about giving workers and their employers the opportunity to carry out their day-to-day role outside of the traditional 9 to 5 office culture.
The benefits of flexible or remote working are there for all to see. By enabling employees to work in a way that best suits them, be it remotely or simply part-time, we’re encouraging a healthy work-life balance. This has a knock on effect of making employees more productive as they feel more engaged and supported by the business. Ultimately this ‘output’ should be the key performance indicator by which we judge employees. You need to put metrics in place on output. If we simply look at the input, like the number of hours spent in an office, we all too often overlook the productivity of an organisation.
Another key benefit of flexible working is the positive impact it has on a business’ bottom line. The current economic climate has led many firms to assess the way in which they manage their day-to-day operations. A study that BT showed that almost half (45%) of businesses in the UK have changed the way they operate for the better as a direct result of the recession.
Businesses need to play the lead role. Some larger enterprises have been quick to respond in the realisation that many measures which make them less harmful to the environment also save them money. However it is now time for all organisations, enterprise and SMBs alike, to step up to the plate and realise that there is also a business case for implementing energy efficiency measures.
What is alarming in all of this, is the continued lack of awareness among organisations of how much energy they actually use, and what they can do about it. This is a senior and collective responsibility, not one that should be taken by individuals in each department. It is not the responsibility of the IT Manager, the facilities manager or financial controller. What was once seen as a ‘soft’ subject should now be a boardroom decision.
The second part of this session will focus on assessing the strategic technology requirements…
The truth is, that it's not really about technology, its about people... Technology is just a means to an end, a way of achieving a specific result, not a result in itself. In most cases there is no right solution and as many IT Directors, IT Managers and helpdesk staff will testify, deciding on the technology first can often be a recipe for disaster.
So if the rest of the company have already figured out that different users often have different skill-sets, different business requirements, different responsibilities and different working patterns, why start with a single ‘chosen’ technology path and try to shoehorn it across the business?
Amongst all of this complexity, the only thing we can be sure of is that everybody expects instant access to company information at any time, from any device, from anywhere. So how do you build an infrastructure that scales from powerful desktops with fast network connections and huge screens, right down to low power mobile devices with limited connectivity, battery life and smaller screens?
Most businesses are wrestling with this issue… Too many at the top end of the user food chain have tried VMware and Citrix for VDI or a unified stack of one suppliers offering and have become disillusioned not least because of the levels of investment required and the complexity, or because the solutions thus far failed to deliver the range of functionality required by businesses for VDI to be deemed a success. While their approach may work for storage and server virtualisation the desktop presents very different challenges which should be addressed in a different way.
Desktop virtualisation is not about building the ‘highest spec desktops’, capable of working with every USB, serial or parallel device known to man, it is about finding the lowest common denominator or ‘base-build’ and applying it where appropriate in the organisation, then making incremental improvements in frequently repeating ‘ITIL or even Agile-like’ iterations.
Starting out with a project of 100% coverage of the “highest specification desktops” would cost you £1,500 per PC if you build each virtual desktop out of high-end server components, high-end storage arrays and high-end networking components and the premium versions of vendors virtualisation products.
Why would an organisation spend £1,500 on a 1:1 high-end VDI solution (one user per OS install) that supports plug-and-play USB headsets, when a headset with a traditional headphone socket could use a standard “Terminal Services” solution that could support a user ratio of 150:1 or more (one hundred and fifty users per OS install). Or why not just stick with a conventional £500 PC?
Virtualising and centralising
The reality for most organisations is a desktop and application transformation that simply lifts the computing environment away from the device. Virtualising and centralising needs to be at the heart of any IT strategy, allowing the organisation to deliver software and desktops as a service.
Why would an organisation want to virtualise the desktop? There are many different reasons, and here’s a snapshot of the most common business benefits realised:
- Improving the desktop experience
- Improving application compatibility
- Improving data security and governance
- Improving service scalability and reliability
- Managing software and hardware upgrades
- Managing ever decreasing budgets
- Reducing complexity
- Reducing Capital Expenditure
- Reducing Operational Expenditure
- Reducing the amount of time spent managing desktops
- Enabling an improved flexible working solution
- Enabling an improved disaster recovery solution
- Enabling Green IT and responsible low-carbon computing
The old saying goes, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. We have all become de-sensitised to the “next best thing” and the “deal of the century”, but VDI does offer some genuinely compelling benefits.
The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, is on the radar of most CIO’s and IT Director’s and has to be one of the hottest topics around at the moment. Most of the NCC evidence including the pulse point of the room at the NCC’s recent conferences and events… the reality is that 20% of corporate enterprises have virtualised their desktop environment, and most of the rest have this in their strategic shift for the next 18 months to 2 years.
Its clear that with a remaining tough economic climate and cost savings paramount, the technology mature enough, VDI adoption seems a case of when NOT if…
And finally, the full slide deck for the session can be accessed at: www.ncc.co.uk/flexibleenterprise2