The initial thought is that virtual desktop decisions fall to the IT group, but virtual desktops can have a larger impact. VDI should drive productivity, not only to the end users, but throughout the entire organization. Therefore VDI is not just an IT project, it’s a business project.
With any new initiative, you have to understand what issues the company is faced with, what challenges they are trying to solve. Those challenges differ depending on who you talk to in an organization. Understanding these goals is invaluable however, there are always two things companies are looking for – ways to cut costs and ways to do more with less, and to do this you must be efficient and drive productivity.
Virtual desktops are a great start, but only when they are paired with advanced reporting, monitoring and business insights will it help with these ambitious goals.
Enabling the End User
To examine a few department goals, first we focus on the actual desktop user. They want to be productive. They want to hit their goals/targets and attain any bonus potential. To enable these users, the business is expected to provide a stable environment with fast login and application launch times. Users expect easy access to their data and a consistent experience.
Today’s workforce also wants to avoid commute times and they want to be mobile, which may include accessing their corporate resources from multiple devices. Since users are not always in one place, they want something that is easy to use and does not require a VPN for secure, encrypted transmission of data.
Virtual desktops are a proven technology to support these use cases. Virtual desktops can be configured to limit access from a specific network, or the desktops can be configured to be accessible from any network. In either scenario, all of your intellectual property, customer lists, etc. are kept in a secure data center and not on the users’ end point or worse, on an external USB drive.
Lastly, users want very few escalations to their help desk. When they do call the help desk, they want effective support and issues to be resolved quickly – a user on hold is not a productive user. The goal here is to provide the help desk with real-time information and visibility into the user experience.
What the Help Desk Needs
In order for the help desk to provide the fast resolution end users and business owners want, they need transparency into the desktop environment and the ability to quickly identify and resolve issues.
There’s an example of a real-world scenario: A work at home user calls their help desk with a performance issue.
The virtual desktop solution should have an intuitive dashboard that shows the performance of the entire (global) environment. A view which allows the help desk to be able to identify, within a few clicks, a users’ specific virtual desktop. After being identified, and the resource usage (RAM and CPU) is checked, the help desk should then be able to quickly determine what applications the user is running. If they can see what URLs that user is browsing it gives insight into what the user is doing within the application and, for example, how many tabs of Chrome they have open.
Lastly, the help desk should have visibility to the users’ home bandwidth connection. As of 2016, the average North American household had seven connected devices, and that number is only going to grow. With the right insights, the help desk will be able to quickly determine the performance problem is the result of a saturated BW issue (possibly related to other users in the house streaming a variety of video content). This allows the helpdesk to quickly distinguish poor network connections from desktop or application configuration issues. Quick and accurate diagnosis prevents the business from spending time and money on things that are not at the core of the problem.
As a final step, the help desk should also be able to provide remote assistance (via remote login) for users. If you have a non-technical workforce, they might not be able to do a Ping or TraceRoute to help diagnose issues. The help desk should be able to take a screenshot of the desktop in question to see what is happening to that user at a specific moment.
The central management that Virtual Desktops enable is a game changer and especially helpful for work at home programs. If the help desk person has the tools to do these things, they are empowered to solve user’s issues which makes for productive, happy employees and better returns for the organization.
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Productivity Insights for Better Business Management
A next group to consider is the business manager. The business manager is focused on effectively managing their resources. They are focused on the day-to-day activities of their specific department.
This involves the performance of the environment as well as preparing for the needs of tomorrow. They want a view into potential issues before they turn into service impacting events. They want to enable their employees to be successful and to follow company policy and procedures without restricting their productivity. To sum up, they want to be proactive and not reactive. But do they have the tools to be successful at this?
Enabling managers to be proactive includes the ability to be notified of things like resource consumption. If a solution is using profile management you should be monitoring the available space for storing profile data. If the storage space is filling up, you can address that before it becomes 100% full, which could prevent the user from logging into their desktop. Additionally, if you have a service provider, they are responsible for having capacity in reserve so your company does not have to spend the capital resources to invest in a storage upgrade.
Managers can also monitor user login duration and report on this data point. Over time you can see trends and address any potential issues before reaching a critical point where users may start to notice. This might allow you to identify a new Group Policy Object (GPO) that has not been applied correctly and is causing a delay when users initiate a desktop login.
A virtual desktop monitoring tool should be available to give insights to how resource intensive applications are being used (and how frequently). This, in part, will help the business manager plan to ensure scalability (both in performance and economically) as more and more applications get added to the desktop. If your roadmap includes adding another resource intensive application, these tools ensure the virtual desktops will continue to be properly sized.
Such tools would also allow a comparison of application usage between users that are highly productive and users that have low productivity. After digging into this, you might find that the high productivity users are spending six+ hours a day in the ticketing application while low productivity users spend four hours in the ticketing application. The correlation is that the high productivity user is more researched when talking to customers and therefore able to more effectively resolve their issue in a timely manner. Furthermore, idle time can also be measured. Does a user’s long idle time correlate to lack of productivity? If a virtual desktop solution can provide insights like this, you can turn this data into training opportunities. More productive employees are the groundwork for an efficient department.
You don’t always think about executives caring much about VDI, but they should. Executives that pay attention know that VDI and the right desktop insights can help them grow the business and identify areas for cost savings. This goal mandates all departments are focused on business driving initiatives like increased productivity and optimized application usage, not desktop maintenance and issues.
The executive team wants business insights to make data driven decisions. If they have the right tools in place, they can make business decisions based on real data and real trends, not best guesses, anecdotal evidence and the opinions of the loudest voices.
For instance, if applications are identified as not being used, can they be decommissioned? Through desktop monitoring tools, any application that has little use can be identified. Maybe an application is only used once a quarter because users now have other ways to access the same data. In these scenarios you can save money by eliminating or right-sizing these licensing commitments.
The executive team should also get aggregated desktop utilization reports by business unit.
This information helps them ensure the solution is being used and capacity was not over-committed. This can also help ensure the right amount of employee coverage for seasonal spikes or to cover inbound traffic or phone calls in response to a marketing campaign.
Monitoring a remote users VDI bandwidth coupled with the user experience can help a company determine if a policy for a minimum bandwidth connection should be required for work at home users. The business can determine if it is appropriate to supplement internet costs for these users.
Lastly, a data point on the overall physical infrastructure performance and capacity can be useful. If the business knows the amount of RAM, CPU and storage performance requirements, they can compare how much building this environment in-house would cost.
All of these data points are leading indicators into how the user experience is, and how productive/efficient your employees are.
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The desktop service provider should not know more about your end users than you do. Look for a unified solution that can scale across many different use cases, and places a heavy emphasis on monitoring, reporting and insights when looking at virtual desktop solutions. Without proper monitoring, management and insights tools, organizations are missing out on a treasure chest of information that can help improve the company from end user productivity to cost saving optimizations.