In this second of a series of four blogs designed to support and inspire technology leaders at this disorientating time, Lewis looks at the knock-on impacts that the new #stayhome workforce is having on IT strategy.
This blog is part of a series dedicated to exploring four key questions that any CIO trying to steer their organization through this disrupted period now urgently needs to answer.
1. How do I manage complex human capability?
2. How do I uphold enterprise resilience and capacity?
3. How do I maintain cybersecurity?
4. How do I keep Digital Transformation moving?
Today, I am looking at the second question on the list: Upholding enterprise resilience and capacity.
Embracing this new reality: What are your strategies for staying up and running in the wake of current events? How do you — as an enterprise — need to re-envision what resilience and capacity actually look like?
Right now, you almost certainly do not have coherent answers to those questions, and that’s OK. But as working from home becomes the new normal, you will need to start thinking more urgently about how your definition of these terms is shifting and what new strategies you need to embrace to keep the lights firmly on.
The challenge of decentralized working: One of your key aims now must be to maintain productivity and support employees trying to work effectively in busy home environments. Providing quick, reliable, always-on access to all their usual desktops and apps is the obvious way forward.
Managing the stress that comes with working in a busy, space constricted household surrounded by family is tough enough. The last thing home-working communities need is added problems with logins, access and uptime barring them from using the everyday IT resources they need to get tasks done.
With key network and compute resources now federated in people’s homes, the good news is that your business does not need to be so fanatically focused on the network and telecommunications resilience of your business premises.
While this may be a welcome relief, that challenge has been superseded by another problem that can feel potentially far trickier to solve: how to deliver better everyday compute and network capacity to your new workforce stationed in kitchens, dining rooms and home offices around your extended operation?
And how to ensure resilience and business continuity across this new decentralized set up?
The urgency of these challenges ramps up when it comes to the question of ensuring uptime for business-critical applications. How can you ensure that these can be quickly rolled out and reliably scaled?
Do you really have sufficient resource elasticity for today and whatever new curveballs the future may throw your way?
Can you guarantee that any service outages that do occur will have a minimum impact on business-critical operations and project risk?
I am convinced that there some really simple, smart and fast fixes that CIOs can now make to directly answer these questions — alongside other resilience and capacity challenges they may be facing. Sometimes the most obvious and practical solutions can have the biggest impact.
Here are a few directions I have recently been exploring with CIOs:
- Diverting IT budget freed up from networking business premises to upgrading home internet packages, paying for better, faster, unlimited home internet access for the staff that need it.
- Shifting device break/fix programs — phone and laptop maintenance, repair and replacement – to the edge with local support teams and remote tools versus a centrally-managed model.
- Investing in more robust and feature-rich end-user service and support desks to quickly resolve resource and application access issues and ensure uptime.
- Upping network capacity further to support virtual desktops, VPNs and vital collaboration tools such as video and audio conferencing.
This last point contains within it some really rich territory and a potential straightforward fix which many CIOs I am talking to are now considering taking forward for investment.
Just to recap:
- You want to ensure that all users have quick, reliable access to desktops and apps in an always-on manner and be able to scale this up across remote working locations.
- You need to get to this end-state quickly and make users feel at home and empowered with a familiar ‘native’ desktop experience across devices.
- You want to deliver all this alongside maintaining security and compliance for users scattered across locations — and ensure continuous data access in the event of outages and unforeseen events.
To me, this reads like a love-letter to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Perhaps you already have a VDI solution in place that is working brilliantly. If so, I commend your forethought and wisdom in deploying it and keeping it adequately networked and up to capacity.
However, most enterprises are not in such a fortunate position. Many have a VDI solution in place that is designed for way fewer users than are currently needed.
Some CIOs I have spoken to have underlying network issues that prevent their VDI from working as well as it could. I also know that lots of our customers have a VDI environment on their deployment hit list for the new decade but before they had the chance to embark on their project, COVID-19 changed the world.
I would suggest that now is a great time to blow the dust-off plans for revamping or newly investing in VDI. The potential of a scalable VDI platform to give all your home-working employees that workplace-like desktop experience and anytime access is really second to none — and these solutions come with security and compliance ensured. No stress, no hassle and, with all with the new rules of pandemic working now firmly upon us, no delays in getting there.
Paul Lewis is the global chief technology officer at Hitachi Vantara and can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paullewiscto/ and on Twitter via @PaulLewisCTO