World-renowned author and business consultant Peter F. Drucker observed: "Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done."
For the past several years, infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations have pushed for standardized, locked-down corporate PCs in order to allow as little variation as possible. They want few surprises and even fewer support calls. While this approach might keep IT operations costs lower, it brings an unintended consequence of stagnation from the worker's point of view. Forrester's Q4 2011 Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey showed that workers are dissatisfied. They are spending an average of $1,253 annually of their own money on computers for work purposes, with 43% of workers saying they have used their own personal computer or smartphone to do their job in the past year.
Given the competitive advantages that empowered workers can bring, and the risks associated with underground behaviors, embracing empowered workers and unlocking bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) programs are more important now than ever. That doesn't mean embracing anarchy; rather, changing mindsets, from one of prohibition to one of channeling and enablement, will set you apart from your peers. How should you get started?
Step 1: Learn About The Available Tools
The solution to variation for BYOC programs is a combination of client virtualization; using the correct management tools for the job; education; and matching skills. There are several methods for providing workers with a standardized Windows environment without a corporate PC. The most common methods are hosted virtual desktops (e.g., Citrix XenDesktop, VMware View, and now Microsoft VDI), desktops-as-a-service (e.g., Desktone, tuCloud, and dinCloud), and locally deployed and managed virtual desktops (e.g., MokaFive, Parallels, and VMware Player and Fusion). Each carries its own benefits and drawbacks--learn about them to figure out how they can, or can't, help you.
Step 2: Understand Employee Work Styles
The technology that employees use for their jobs should be a function of their work styles. However, it's true that many I&O professionals have a better understanding of technology and internal processes than they do the nuances of employee work styles and productivity drivers. It will take a concerted effort and a formal initiative to shift this imbalance toward greater work-style knowledge, but it's well worth the time to do so.
I&O pros should be able to answer questions such as:
1. Which workers work more away from a desk?
2. Which workers are willing to buy their own computers and use them for work?
3. Which workers would be happy with a locked-down computer?
4. Which workers use advanced collaboration tools?
5. Which workers pose the most information risk?
6. Which workers would lose significant productivity with hosted virtual desktops?
Step 3: See If There's A Better Way
Frederick Winslow Taylor, widely regarded as the father of scientific management, said: "Whenever a workman proposes an improvement, it should be the policy of the management to make a careful analysis of the new method ... and whenever the new method is found to be markedly superior to the old, it should be adopted as the standard for the whole establishment." For example, VMware Workstation was introduced in 1995 on Linux first, and it was a game changer for technology pros who needed a way to run multiple operating system instances at the same time, such as sales engineers and software developers.
Today, tech-savvy pros are using tools like Microsoft MED-V, VMware Workstation and Fusion, and derivatives like MokaFive to run a corporate PC image in order to provide access to business applications, such as Outlook and Siebel, while they use the PC or Mac of their choice underneath. Yet few I&O organizations have formally studied these as a potentially viable alternative.
Step 4: Define Your Self-Support Zones
A natural outcome of the exercises above is to develop a better understanding of who can potentially move into self support. Workers with moderate or better technical abilities, few dependencies on internal or legacy applications, and low security requirements are the best candidates for self support initially. They'll also be the least likely to need help to remain productive with the computer of their choice.
While the self-support zone may initially be small, client virtualization, community development, and self-service tools will allow you to rapidly expand the self-support zone. Client virtualization is already a proven way to improve supportability, and it works particularly well for BYOC programs when properly matched to work styles. By supplying BYOC workers with a standardized Windows environment in either a hosted or locally deployed virtual machine, you can provide a clean separation between work and personal applications and data, while also improving manageability and supportability.
David K. Johnson is senior analyst at Forrester Research, serving infrastructure & operations professionals.
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