Expanding Your View of the Enterprise Desktop to Drive Better Performance

Today’s workforce is now productive in places and during times it previously was not. No longer deskbound, employees are conducting important business from the train, the coffee shop line and their hotel room. This shift in how we work has increasingly necessitated a shift in how we view enterprise computing. The “desktop” as we know it is still here, but it now has siblings in the form of smartphones and tablets. And they can all coexist in one happy family if your organisation plans its desktop strategy with a holistic approach. We talk to Peter Stein, General Manager of Licensing at Datacom, about how organisations can expand their view of the enterprise desktop to drive better productivity and performance across the organisation.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk in the media in Australia and beyond about the “end of the desktop” to make way for a tablet/laptop/smartphone-filled workforce. Is the desktop ending or just taking a new shape?

A: By no means is the desktop dead. It won’t be as prevalent, but it does still have a spot in today’s workforce. For office-bound workers, it is still a very effective tool to complete routine work in a standard work environment. The functionality allows a user to effectively create and complete tasks. One of the points that I see as still key to this style of work is the number of people who use other devices but then come into the office environment to dock their other device to something that allows them access to a larger screen and a full keyboard and mouse.

Now to look at the benefits of new devices, individuals get to couple their work styles with devices that match their needs. As we become a more connected world, we can manage our work-life balance by connecting when it makes sense. To maximise this connectivity, tools are being built with similar features for multiple devices. The more common the interface, the easier it is for the user to maximise the tool on that device.

Q: What does the future look like to you in terms of device use and workplace arrangements (remote work, BYOD, hot desking, etc.)?

A: The appy world is our new reality. Businesses are building-customer facing and internal apps to allow business flexibility. Users from the CEO-level and down are demanding access to tools through multiple devices, and the vendors are moving their software to the cloud and consumption models. From a pure IT perspective, this is creating a security paradigm for the IT team. As purchase and admin control for consumption-based apps sit in teams that are not focused on security, the business needs to still have tools in place to understand what is being used where and the implications of the data available on these apps.

The future will show multiple form factors either as BYOD or company-provisioned hardware that will run a company-managed Endpoint Management Solution that can provide complete device lifecycle management. Datacom’s Managed End Point solution, for instance, not only allows for management and troubleshooting of IT functions, but also ensures that endpoints remain compliant with internal and external standards.

Q: Why has there been resistance from some organisations to relinquish their hold on the traditional desktop and incorporate a wider range of devices?

A: I would not call it resistance. Initially, organisations are looking to maximise their investment, and in their current refresh cycle, they are building out plans on how to make use of the new world of connected devices. Organisations have to carefully look at how they are going to manage this not only from a support perspective but also in terms of data security and user IP. There is a dynamic shift from a managed device and applications that have been vetted by IT to a more open framework, which creates challenges ranging from support to ownership.

Q: What’s the benefit to organisations in re-envisioning desktop strategy?

A: I went to a traditional games arcade with my 5-year-old son and he saw Pac-Man. He immediately went to the screen and started trying to direct the game with his fingers rather than using the controls available. Today’s new design will mean that not only will we be able to be more mobile, but things we have not yet envisioned will become common place in the coming years. To date, the games market has broken frontiers on touch, and the enterprise is only now beginning to build touch-based applications to improve performance and productivity.

Q: What are some of the first things organisations need to consider when rethinking their desktop strategy to incorporate a wider range of devices and work situations?

A: The move to devices should not be seen as a large leap. It is incorporating touch into the organisation. The main consideration is for any legacy applications and how they will resolve touch. If these devices are company-provisioned, the normal vetting of the devices will occur through IT. Where the device is BYOD, the organisation needs to decide if they are going to deliver the app natively or through a virtual environment.

Help Out this Earth Hour by Virtualising Your Desktop

By Lauren Fritsky

By 2014, Australian businesses will spend US$3.1 billion on sustainability efforts. The figure undoubtedly shows the environment is an emerging concern for companies across the country. While there are many ways to tackle energy-efficiency improvements at your business – going paperless, cutting down on electricity and choosing environmentally-conscious vendors –, one way to save the environment and simplify IT needs at the same time isvirtualisation. And with Earth Hourapproaching on March 31, there’s no better time than now to take your virtualisation plan to the next level.

If you’re one of the many companies that has already virtualised its servers, you’ve most likely realised the energy-saving benefits, which include using fewer high-powered servers and stopping energy waste by unplugging underused hardware. But going a step further through deploying desktop virtualisation can maximise your energy and cost savings by:

  • Replacing old PCs with low-energy thin clients that consume up to 75 per cent less power
  • Aggregating resources in the cloud to reduce power consumption
  • Relying on fewer pieces of hardware and, therefore, less energy to power them
  • Wasting less energy during idle periods by migrating the desktop VM between the end user’s physical machine and a VM server

As an ARN Green IT Award winner in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Datacom can deliver virtualisation for your enterprise-grade businesses while keeping the environment in mind. Our consultants will also assist you in other components of desktop management.

How to Get the Most Out of Microsoft Volume Licensing

By Lauren Fritsky

It’s no secret that Microsoft volume licensing can create significant cost efficiencies for businesses and enterprise-level organisations in Australia.

But optimised Microsoft volume licensing isn’t automatic – it’s the result of careful analysis and the incorporation of strategies designed to maximise the effectiveness of Microsoft software deployments across your enterprise.

For starters, the volume licensing process should begin at least three months prior to the expiration of your current licensing agreement. This provides adequate lead time to get your volume licensing strategy and execution right.

Once underway, the volume software licensing process begins with a thorough understanding of the organisation’s current licensing environment, including an in-depth evaluation of your software asset management (SAM) programme.

During this stage of the process, it’s advisable to perform a comprehensive assessment of the installed software base, paying attention to issues like existing contract terms, license types and entitlements, quantities and other variables that will inform enterprise agreement (EA) renewal.

After you have completed an analysis of your current licensing environment, your decisions regarding the scope of your licensing renewal will be determined by your standardisation goals and deployment objectives.

As you map out your needs, it’s a good idea to create a six-year financial forecast (two software upgrade cycles) to fully assess the financial outcomes associated with licensing renewal. This is especially important as more and more organisations opt for license mobility and the flexibility to deploy software hosted by service providers in the cloud.

Once you have your current state and desired future state in hand, you’re ready to evaluate your volume licensing options. Making the right choices is critically important. For example, licensees that have standardised on a primary suite of Microsoft products, require Windows 7 Enterprise features or subscribe to the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP) usually find that a Full Platform EA is the most appealing renewal option. In contrast, organisations that have mixed software requirements or are interested in standardising on a limited selection of Enterprise Products might do better with some of the other Microsoft enterprise software licensing alternatives.

To get the best possible results, it’s a good idea to tap into the expertise of IT consultants that have a strong track record in Microsoft volume licensing. Our Datacom consultants, for example, will often find ways that our clients can save as much as 40 percent on their Microsoft software licensing costs.

In an economy where every penny counts, those savings drop directly to the bottom line. More importantly, getting the right software into the hands of your employees will enhance organisational productivity, which can drive even more profits and give you a huge leg up on the competition.

Hardware & Software Asset Management: 3 Surprise Discoveries

By Gary Wainwright

Like any other business assets, an organisation’s software and hardware assets need to be well-managed to ensure they deliver maximum return on investment. Logging details on a bulging spread-sheet – no matter how detailed – just can’t offer the level of detail required to deliver an effective asset management strategy.

A recent study by KPMG International revealed that 74% of the companies polled used a manual license tracking process, often fraught with human error.  The involvement of multiple departments, multiple authors and multiple lists wasted valuable time – often resulting in fragmented and incomplete reporting, which incurred steep fines for out-of-date licences.

Unfortunately, it’s only after a surprise discovery that has an impact on an organisation’s bottom line that CIOs choose to make hardware and software asset management a strategy. A few of the surprises I see most often in larger organisations involve the following:

Application downloads: During an asset management evaluation for a large mining client, original estimates reported that only 15 applications were used throughout the organisation, so only these would require migration to a new platform. However, the final count revealed more than 300 applications in use, many tied to a specific task in the mining industry, demonstrating the scale of “application creep” throughout the organisation.

Security risks: Unauthorised software can be a significant security risk. As tech-savvy staff members discover applications to assist with workflow, they often download viruses, security cracks or cookies that could present a genuine security issue for the organisation.

Soaring IT support costs: As multiple versions of popular software are released, demands on the IT team for supporting those versions escalate. For example, although staff may believe they are on the latest version of Adobe, this may not be the case. Extrapolate this scenario across the many different packages and applications being used within your organisation and you can see how IT support costs will soar.

Are you managing your organisation’s assets to avoid surprise discoveries?

During a Software Asset Management project, you’ll likely discover unused equipment, multiple gaps in information-sharing and multiple versions of the same software throughout your organisation.  Incomplete information could impede critical decision-making and escalate unnecessary costs.

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About Gary Wainwright

With more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, Gary Wainwright specialises in providing technology solutions that result in high dollar savings and increased agility for a broad range of large clients. In 2010, Gary joined Datacom Systems to focus on achieving growth in the integrator market.  As the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in Western Australia, he leads a team of solution architects who work on a variety of projects, including helping organisations better understand their infrastructure and better manage their hardware and software assets.

A Pre-Project Checklist for Large-Scale Desktop Deployments

With software asset managementvolume licence management and many more tasks involved in any large-scale desktop deployment, relying on a few highly meticulous staff members isn’t enough. This undergoing will require a robust pre-project checklist delineating the most important tasks to ensure a smooth desktop deployment.

To better prepare, consider these 4 essential to-dos. While it’s by no means a comprehensive list, it should get you thinking about all of the major areas you need to cover during a desktop deployment project, and whether you have the staff and expertise in-house to complete it or you need to look to an experienced IT firm to help.

1. Conduct a comprehensive hardware and application discovery and analysis.

In order to determine the extent and depth of your desktop deployment, you must have a thorough understanding of your environment. This phase should begin with an understanding of the machines that need to be replaced and those that will remain. This will determine the hardware platforms the desktop operating system will need to support. Next you’ll need to focus on applications to provide a useful inventory and to reveal how multiple versions of software applications are used throughout your organisation. In many instances, different divisions use multiple versions of the same software, for no logical reason. With your entire organisation’s hardware and software taken into account with asset management, you can begin to decommission older versions, create consistency and save money before your desktop deployment.

2. Tally your peripherals.

Some divisions have multiple peripherals for specific business processes. For example, the warehouse may have one set of scanners to track incoming and outgoing units. But a fulfilment department may use an entirely different set of scanners to log packages that are ready to ship. While your research may reveal one peripheral that can address each business process, you’ll want to include these in your software asset management strategy.

3. Assess your infrastructure—or infrastructures – as well as your deployment mechanisms.

Can your current global infrastructure accommodate your desktop deployment? What about the network and servers in your regional offices? And how will your deployment affect security—globally, locally and regionally? How will a telecommuter receive the updates they need without forcing themselves to become IT experts? Do you have the correct deployment mechanisms to handle the size of your rollout?

If your resources are already depleted assessing your devices, software and peripherals, IT consultants may be the best option for a comprehensive assessment and deployment.

4. Ensure you have the space to accommodate a large-scale desktop deployment.

Logistics are often forgotten about during the desktop deployment planning period. During rollouts, physical storage space is required to store new computers prior to rollout and old computers that need to be decommissioned or repurposed. Do you have adequate space to store packaging and hardware? Packaging for PCs, monitors and other peripherals can take up significant space.

Following this pre-project checklist will certainly add time to your deployment timeframe, but far less than fixing myriad hardware and software issues after launch. The investment in preparation always pays dividends in a successful desktop deployment.

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About Rohit Bhuteja

Rohit Bhuteja is the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom, Victoria, Australia. With 19 years of technology experience, Rohit leads a team of solution architects focused on designing agile IT environments that result in more productivity and overall cost savings for Datacom clients. His team’s goal is to help internal IT departments focus on strategy, including creating overall technology roadmaps, designing efficient end-user computer and infrastructure environments, and implementing a variety of vendor solutions, including Microsoft desktop software.

Small Technology Changes Can Equal Big Savings

By Jonathan Ladd

The economic downturn forced organisations to recalibrate their information technology costs – paring back all but essential roles and functions. Unfortunately, some organisations cut too deeply and nicked the bone. Now, as the two-speed economy rumbles along, IT departments should look to small yet meaningful changes that can result in substantial IT cost reductions that also enhance employee productivity.

Re-evaluate

First and foremost, you should review your organisation’s software asset management. For some organisations, economic downturn has necessitated tough choices relating to employee headcount. At the same time, some countercyclical organisations have prospered and grown. Regardless of which camp you are in, your organisation’s software licensing needs probably changed. Re-evaluate the number of licences you’re using compared to the number of licences you need. Organisations we’ve worked with have realised significant IT savings by right-sizing their software volume licences to better match current conditions. It may be that your organisation should revise its software licensing model altogether – companies in the 250-750 employee range, for example, should take advantage of Microsoft Enterprise Agreements to streamline desktop management and get better software pricing. On the flip side, if your organisation has reduced its staff and you have unused licences, scale back immediately and avoid extraneous costs.

Monitor

One of the easiest ways to avoid unnecessary costs is to maintain the software you already have. While updates are seemingly innocuous, every CIO of a good size organisation knows and dreads Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, on which Microsoft releases security patches. It’s a challenge to keep every computer up to date, but it’s worth the effort. By working regular updates into your firm’s enterprise software policies and processes, you can avoid costly security breaches that require expensive quarantines, hard drive wipes, compromises to your intellectual property and customer information, and other costly remediation. Software asset management is part of any true value-added service offering.

Virtualise

AOL recently restructured its entire infrastructure, and more importantly, its supporting tools and processes, to create a lights-out, completely automated deployment environment. That was a big shift for an Internet provider that has typically resisted change. Moving to the Cloud and virtualising certain IT functions need not be such a “sea change” in IT policy. You can gradually shift physical resources to Cloud environments and take advantage of virtualisation solutions. The steady drumbeat of Cloud providers entering the market has provided the full gamut of options, from entire infrastructure supporting environments to smaller, flexible solutions.

No one wants to make momentous changes in policy in such volatile markets. But given the rapidly changing tech environment, organisations that remain static will soon be overtaken by the competition or be rendered less relevant.  Small technology changes can equal big savings.

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Jonathan Ladd is the group CEO for Datacom responsible for directing strategy and success for the company throughout Asia and Australia. With over 30 years of technology, management, strategy, consulting and director-level experience, he’s worked across multiple sectors, and in many countries and cultures. Jonathan has held IT leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies, as well as in his own technology consulting business. Currently, he chairs a finance industry steering committee guiding a national payments system innovation. 

Keep the IT Department Strategic: 2 Desktop Management Practices

By Chad Basham

I’ve worked in IT for 20 years now and what I like most about this industry is that it changes, almost weekly, keeping me on my toes and learning constantly.  While technology never ceases to change, one big challenge IT departments face has remained the same every day I’ve been in this business – convincing the world that they are much more than a desktop management service provider.

Instead of balancing all of the responsibilities that come with desktop management while trying to find the time to focus on how technology fits into the overall business strategy, consider outsourcing the time consuming pieces of desktop management, such as software asset managementdesktop deployment and desktop support. It can free your staff to focus on big-ticket items, often for a cheaper price tag than keeping these desktop management services in-house.

The following two desktop management best practices will prepare your business to bring in a partner so the IT team can get to the business of strategy.

1. Determine the state of your environment, inside and out.

The first key to a well-oiled desktop management machine is understanding your needs. That means taking a comprehensive assessment of everything tech-related in your organisation’s domain.

As you begin examining your organisation’s environment, ask these questions:

  • Is the environment up to date? Does all of your software—including operating systems—have the most recent, secure patches and updates?
  • If you find various versions of software among employees, what’s the reason for the discrepancy? Do certain employees or groups need features only available in older versions? Or is it simply an oversight?
  • How do you plan and prepare for your desktop refresh? Is it a well-documented desktop deployment process, or an ad hoc task? Are you and your staff prepared to update your desktop every 6 or 12 months?
  • Is your software volume licence up to date? A huge time drain in desktop management is managing and updating complex licensing agreements.

Look to an experienced IT firm that can assist or assume full responsibility for assessing your environment and then help you design your volume licence and desktop support needs based on that assessment.

2.  Ensure global and local desktop deployment methods are in place.

You undoubtedly know the Patero principle states that 20% of the work will consume 80% of your employees’ time. With the proper desktop deployment measures in place, approximately 20% of your IT department’s time should be able to cover 80% of your deployments.

After your staff or an outsourced IT firm has assessed your environment, you’ll have the opportunity to manage deployment using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).  Here’s where you can make 80% of your deployments easily manageable.

And for the remaining 20% of software desktop deployment and system needs? Delegating these desktop management and desktop deployment tasks to an IT service provider with proven methods and extensive experience will help keep your team focused on strategic goals, not one-off software deployments and upgrades.

An experienced IT firm will take critical deployment headaches off your plate, including:

  • Packaging and installing software applications.
  • Providing compatibility testing.
  • Installing security fixes.
  • Specifying the desired configuration and upgrading your fleet accordingly.
  • Measuring software usage.
  • Remotely controlling computers and providing support.

With codified deployment processes and comprehensive IT environment assessment – and the right IT partner – your staff can spend less time on desktop management services and more time contributing to the overall business strategy.

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About Chad Basham

Chad Basham, Datacom Professional Services, Desktop Management

Chad Basham is the General Manager of Professional Services for Datacom, NSW. With 20 years of global technology experience, Chad leads a team of solution architects focused on designing agile IT environments that result in more productivity and overall cost savings for Datacom clients. His team’s goal is to help internal IT departments focus on strategy, including creating overall technology roadmaps, designing efficient end-user computer and infrastructure environments, and implementing a variety of vendor solutions, including Microsoft desktop software.