As faster, cheaper and more pervasive broadband networks start becoming a reality in South Africa, the stage is set for a complete reinvention of the workplace, writes Shailendra Singh, business director: Africa Region at Wipro.
With a comprehensive desktop virtualisation strategy, organisations are able to securely deliver personalised employee desktops, combined with centrally-deployed applications, and various online services. This new, unified workspace provides end users with a consistent experience across devices, locations, and via all forms of connectivity. Deployed correctly, desktop virtualisation extends the boundaries of the traditional office. Now, the office is anywhere where the employee can connect from.
Virtual office environments illustrate the importance of the big four technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. Most obviously, cloud and mobility come to the fore. Virtual desktops connect cloud-based architecture with flexible mobility services. As these four major trends continue to evolve and converge, future-proofing the organisation’s desktop environment becomes paramount.
End-users benefit from the ability to securely tap into the core business processes whenever they need. A clear desktop virtualisation strategy brings the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) into reality, as users are able to work with the laptops, tablets and smartphones that they are comfortable with. By improving the levels of access and ease of use, employees become more productive, more innovative and more collaborative. No longer does the company representative have to wait in line at the office to load product orders into the system. With the right virtualisation solution, he can do so from the client’s offices, immediately following his successful meeting.
In this way, virtualisation accelerates the pace of work within the enterprise, as hand-overs become more seamless and role-players more tightly connected. In larger organisations, with offices around the country or around the world, these benefits are clearly visible.
But this approach is certainly not just for companies that have a large staff complement that is ‘on the road’. As companies compete for top talent by offering the most flexible, most progressive working arrangements, virtualisation becomes the key to providing the right employment environment and getting the most of one’s team.
Business applications are provided in an ‘app-store’ format, available according to role-based permissions, making the entire experience of remote working more accessible, or – to use a popular term – more “consumerised”. Staff enjoy better work-life balance, as they are able to work more from home (or other out-of-office locations), and from the devices they prefer. Ultimately, organisations are able to start shedding some of the costs of permanent office spaces – as trends such as hot-desking and flexi-hours start becoming possible through virtualisation.
From the organisation’s perspective, there is a growing recognition that business software and applications are best rolled out iteratively, in short, incremental cycles (as opposed to large jumps every three to five years). This transition becomes far smoother with a virtualised approach, as the IT team centrally deploys and updates the latest versions of various applications.
Administrators are empowered to set and then dynamically adjust role-based permissions. For example, if an external consultant is working on a project for six weeks, he may be given time-based permissions to certain applications which expire after that period of time. He may be disabled from writing any content to anywhere other than the secure, hosted platform.
So desktop virtualisation has huge benefits in the fields of information security, governance, and compliance. Advanced cloud-based storage, with the right disaster recovery management policies, will ensure that critical corporate knowledge is never lost. This is combined with security controls on the native devices to ensure that in the event of physical theft, there is no risk of losing any corporate data.
Finally, moving to a virtualised desktop environment also gives IT teams the ability to offload the day-to-day management to outsourced partners. Virtualised architecture means that remote desktop support can be provided by one’s ICT services partner and their pre-existing 24/7 call centre.
Shifting the operational burden to an outsourced provider means the organisation’s IT team is able to move closer to the business – focusing on strategy and on generating business value. It can better align business strategy with the IT roadmap, and maximise the value of every aspect of its IT estate – including, of course, the shiny new virtualised office.