Working optimally is as simple as ensuring a task is done in the right place by the right resource at the right time. While this may be a bit of an obvious statement, actualising it is certainly easier said than done, particularly as “work” has become more a state of being rather than a place and time for many people, writes Sean Wainer, country manager for Citrix Systems South Africa.
Making it possible for employees to perform their jobs at the time and location of their choice, shifting tasks to different departments or departments to new locations, holding meetings online, and even moving computing workloads from one server or network to another require new ways of thinking for business and for IT.
As companies look to do more with their available time and resources, workshifting – moving work to a more optimal place – is becoming critical to business performance. Software and services companies should help their customers take advantage of this critical workplace trend.
Shifting the work of individuals
The idea of being dependent on a single computer or location for work is becoming as outdated as needing a payphone to make a call when away from home. Increasingly, workers are using remote access tools and cloud services to tap into their business applications and data from any location using an ever-widening array of business laptops, personal smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.
This anytime, anywhere, any device capability is made possible by the delivery of on-demand desktops. Using a technology called desktop virtualisation, organisations can instantly and securely deliver an individual’s complete desktop, including data, applications, and personalisations – even their familiar wallpaper – to any device.
To the user, this “virtual desktop” looks, feels, and acts like the traditional desktop on their PC – whether they’re accessing it on an iPad at a public hotspot, a laptop over a hotel network, or an outdated computer in a friend’s guest room. Their virtual desktop is provisioned centrally from their company’s data centre, simplifying management, ensuring security and removing dependency on the end point device.
The ability to work from anywhere can make a huge difference to individual and organisational productivity and to work-life balance. An attorney can view and respond to a client query using her Android phone without leaving her son’s soccer match.
A former employee’s complete workload can be moved to a new employee in less time than it takes to clean his vacated work space. A sales rep can access his full CRM system, even if he lost his laptop on the way to the client. While unfortunate, his lost laptop does not create a security risk since his virtual desktop with its associated data and applications is stored centrally in the data centre and not on the device.
While any employee appreciates the benefits of more flexible work arrangements, such as the ability to work at home part or all of the time, the payoff for the business is also considerable. A workshifting policy can aid recruiting, employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention, and support diversity by making it possible to recruit and retain the best talent in all corners of the world.
It can also help business reduce capital and operating costs, especially in organisations that use virtual desktops to enable employees to bring their own device to work, and to use that device interchangeably and securely for work and personal tasks.
Shifting workloads and processes
On an organisational level, workshifting accelerates business velocity by moving a process from one location to another – for example, having sales rep process leads and orders directly from a trade show or placing a dedicated employee on-site at a customer location.
At times of peak demand, the ability to share work across additional workers – or move it offshore for round-the-clock productivity – can provide crucial added capacity. Shifting lower-value tasks from highly skilled employees to hourly workers can reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Just as virtualisation technology enables workshifting for individuals, it also plays a key role in shifting workloads and processes to more optimal people or locations.
Since computing resources are run, managed and secured centrally, data, applications, and complete virtual desktops can be made available instantly to any number of users in any location with no need for physical shipments or specialised local IT resources.
Shifting computing loads
It’s clear there are many benefits for end-users and the business in a workshifting model, but how does it benefit the IT department? As organisations look to maximise the value of their technical infrastructure, shifting the work of one server to another can improve efficiency and utilisation.
Similarly, moving the work of one network to another can yield better performance and higher availability. Once unthinkable, this kind of real-time reallocation is becoming the norm.
Virtualisation technology makes it possible for one physical server to function as multiple virtual servers, with workloads moved dynamically between them. Public cloud providers also use this technology to offer businesses the ability to tap into exactly the computing resources they need, when they are needed.
This can free business from provisioning their data centres for maximum capacity, and lower their capital investments and operating costs as well.
Virtualisation technology also lets in-house data centres become increasingly cloud-like, evolving from data processing factories in to flexible, efficient delivery centres which move applications, data, and other resources throughout the infrastructure as needed, both quickly and easily.
Implications for software companies
Software companies must help their customers understand that moving work to a more optimal place will soon be the norm for business of all types.
Instead of having to worry about what’s where, and what would be involved in moving it somewhere else, virtual computing lets companies focus on the optimal way to meet their business goals and customer needs, confident that they’ll be able to put people and workloads exactly where they need to be, quickly and easily.
As forces such as globalisation, increasing regulation, growing security risks, an aging workforce, and the rise of a more savvy generation of workers call for a new level of business agility, embracing a workshifting model will be a competitive differentiator and essential for success.