TechBeat: Managing workspaces

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13 October 2017 | 0

As the old axiom goes, the unmeasured is the unmanaged.

In today’s digital enterprise, providing the workspace flexibility to enable productivity and collaboration, while providing data protection and security, takes sophisticated tools, robust systems and detailed reporting.

How is your organisation currently delivering desktop services to users in your organisation?

TechBeat, in association with Zinopy and Citrix, conducted a survey among 114 IT professionals to see how organisations use analytics to manage visibility across the infrastructure, monitoring and improving user experience.

Analytics driven
With the idea being that an analytics-driven strategy enables organisations to more actively and efficiently manage workspace environments by providing actionable insights on user experience and activity, application usage, and the health and performance of IT systems, the survey gauged where Irish organisations are in this journey.

The first question showed that respondents were clustered in three key areas, with IT leading (29%), followed by financial services (11%) and manufacturing (12%). There was then a broad spread across construction, education, healthcare, public sector and telecommunications.

Respondents were asked how they currently deliver desktop services to users. The majority (69%) still employ the distributed model, that is PCs on desks, with centralised models accounting for 27%. In the other category, hybrid models comprising elements of a centralised and distributed system dominated.

“These results are very revealing,” said Aidan McEvoy, sales director, Zinopy. “It’s interesting that such a vast majority of respondents use a distributed desktop model over shared hosted/virtual desktop delivery.

Do you perceive a business value in providing monitoring and analysis of workspace (desktop) environments?

“Shared hosted desktop models have been validated as being more efficient, secure and cost-effective than distributed PC models by centrally managing  computing resources. We expect security and regulatory compliance requirements such as GDPR (coming in May 2018) to be the key drivers for organisations adopting virtualised (centralised) computing models over the next 12 months.  Windows 10 adoption is also likely to come to the fore over the next year as a consideration for many businesses as well.”

The survey then asked whether organisation used toolsets or services to monitor and provide analysis of the workspace environments, for parameters such as user experience; it systems health and performance; applications usage/compliance.

Half said they did not use monitoring measures, of those that did, security, compliance and performance were all mentioned, with a diversity of tools.

Despite the half that did not employ such measures, the vast majority (81%) said they saw a business value in providing monitoring and analysis of workspace environments.

Business value
“The vast majority of respondents recognise the business value of monitoring and analysing their workspace environments,” said McEvoy. “This validates the hypothesis that organisations are seeking to gather more information and better intelligence to drive improved decision making. Their need for real-time information to respond faster to performance issues that affect user experience and historical data to facilitate trend analysis for Quality of Service (QoS) and capacity planning is clear.”

Respondents were asked what types of analysis is extracted using these toolsets. Unsurprisingly, IT systems health and performance metrics came out top (54%), followed by application usage levels and compliance (33%), application performance (29%), and user experience and activity levels (23%).

The fact that more than half of respondents reported IT systems health and performance as top, compared with user experience at less than a quarter, could be interpreted as organisations still focusing on infrastructure rather than experience. Organisations may still be worrying too much about availability as opposed to capability. It has been suggested that IT systems for end users should be able to provide the flexibility to allow people to work in whatever way is best for them and their teams, and the task at hand. This breakdown of approach could be taken to indicate a certain immaturity in use of the systems.

What type of analysis does your organisation extract using these toolsets?

Of those that use monitoring systems, nearly one in five (18%) have 3 or more such systems, while more than a quarter (29%) have 2, 23% have just one.

When it comes to how these toolsets are monitored, more than half (51%) do so internally, while 12% did so remotely through a service provider and 10% did so locally through a third party.

For those toolsets monitored by a service, the survey asked about the periods that were covered.

Monitoring period
Close to half (43%) said that the service provided 24 hour monitoring, 7 days a week, compared with just over a quarter (26%) who said they received an 8 hour service, 5 days a week. In the other category, there were a number of other options which likely reflected different working hours, with earlier and later periods, but there also indications of fully automated services.

Respondents were further asked what the preferred monitoring periods should be for Citrix environments. Almost two thirds (64%) said the optimal period for monitoring would be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, compared with more than a quarter (27%) who said 8 hours per day, 5 days a week was sufficient.

In the other category were again, reflections of different working hours, probably industry dependent, but suggestions included some weekend hours, and shift style patterns.

“Whilst most organisations see the need for monitoring,” McEvoy said, “it is interesting that monitoring services are primarily being provided by internal staff (over 50%) and that 24 x 7 monitoring is being provided in 43% of cases. However the requirement for 24 x7 monitoring for Citrix environments is perceived as a need by 64% of the respondents. This tells us there is clear gap between the required and current service.

“The question of how best to bridge this gap warrants further discussion in terms of cost, capabilities and efficacy of services based on internal versus external service augmentation models.”

What are the most important workspace requirements for your business?

The survey asked respondents to rank their most important workspace requirements, from low to high (1-5).

By weighted average, user experience came out top at 2.5, followed by compliance at 2.08. Availability and security came out close to each other at 1.08 and 1.05 respectively.

This clashes somewhat with the previous metric whereby the monitoring seemed to be more biased toward the infrastructural side, which would be most closely represented by availability. The result might reflect aspirations as opposed to implementation.

Similarly, respondents were asked to rank their workspace challenges from low to high.

Security concern
With much closer results, sneaking ahead was security at a weighted average of  4.05, followed by user expectations at 3.71, budget constraints at 3.6, people skills at 3.39 and mobility and managing digital transformation almost tied on 3.27 and 3.23 respectively. Managing business change, such as mergers and acquisitions, expansions etc., came in at 3.1.

While it is unsurprising that security is the top challenge, it is perhaps unexpected that people skills comes in ahead of mobility and digital transformation, if only by a small margin.

“It’s not surprising that User Experience topped the poll, followed by Compliance a close second,” McEvoy commented. “Security is, unsurprisingly, the biggest workspace challenge facing organisations across Ireland but equally, consumerisation plays a key part in user expectation today.

“The challenge facing organisations is how to deliver a satisfactory user experience, anytime, anyplace and possibly from any device—whilst ensuring that all data is protected and services are delivered securely.

What are the biggest workspace challenges to your business?

“This dichotomy on access and security has always existed,” McEvoy argued. “The difference now is the threat landscape, combined with the fact that compliance requirements have never been more challenging—all whilst user expectation in relation to mobility and experience has never been higher.

“Both vectors will continue to challenge the most proficient organisation in managing these demands. Insights into Security, Systems and User based Intelligence become the key components in managing and meeting this challenge,” said McEvoy.

As flexibility is a key element of workspaces, from a management perspective, the survey asked what period was necessary to allow for scaling, sizing and tracking performance for capacity planning.

Close to half (44%) said 12 months was required, while less than a quarter (22%) said six months was sufficient. Some 17% said one month was a sufficient period, with 14% saying a week.

While it is not surprising that the longer periods are specified by the majority of respondents, the shorter periods might reflect more flexible requirements where seasonality or other shorter terms influences are common. This might be representative of telecoms or other sectors where project or campaign-based activity might require short term but specific efforts and capacities.

Performance and availability
When issues do arise, it was interesting to see for the largest proportion of respondents (38%) that IT finds out about performance- or availability-related problems in workspace environments through the toolsets and products. A third (34%) find out through user feedback and complaints, while a quarter find out through helpdesk metrics. Reassuringly, just 1% said that IT finds out about such issues through social media, such as Twitter.

While social media is increasingly blurring the line between corporate and consumer communication, it so good to see that the incidence of social media being a means of discovering issues remains low. The results would also appear to show that many users are happy to rely on the toolsets themselves to indicate issues.

The survey asked respondents what considerations were made when choosing operational products for the workspace.

Reflecting the previous result where a large portion of users relied on toolset reporting, automated operational reports came out top at 29%, followed by configuration automation (24%) and DevOps (21%). Agentless reporting came in at 13%, while artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) came in last with 7% each.

“The standout consideration here is automation,” said McEvoy. “Whether for configuration services or data reporting services—automation is seen as the key consideration for organisations. Whilst smart tools are integral, the other components of defined and fluid processes and people from a management and interpretative perspective should never be overlooked for enabling automation.”

Automation
As McEvoy observes, it is not surprising that automation is uppermost. With staff time need for more high value tasks, the more that can be done automatically, particularly on the reporting and configuration sides, the better. It is perhaps, reflective of the maturity of such technologies in the market that AI and ML do not feature highly in considerations yet, but this is likely to change as developments in automation in particular will increasingly rely on AI and ML to allow them to be more effective in security, compliance, and auto-scaling.

The strong showing of DevOps shows that Irish organisations are adopting the agile methodologies that are being driven by the overarching digital transformation drive. It is reassuring to see that such measures are being integrated with centrally managed workspace environments, allowing the benefits of rapid iteration and evolving capabilities to be delivered in a controlled and safe manner to users.

Overall, the impression from the survey is of a market that is becoming aware of the benefits of centrally managed, deeply monitored workspaces that are security aware and compliance driven.

The proportion of respondents who indicated a hybrid environment of distributed and centralised infrastructure can be taken to reflect those organisations who are on the path toward the centralised models and are perhaps squeezing existing investments as the move toward the centralised model proceeds.

User experience
However, the monitoring focus might reflect a short-sightedness when compared to user experience. While it is vital to ensure availability and performance, it is the user experience which will yield the most valuable insights, as organisations understand usage patterns that can help them evolve their environments to be more supportive of emerging workstyles. When this is taken in the context of the changing work force too, it becomes even more important. The multi-generational and diverse skilled nature of today and tomorrow’s workforce is taken into account, flexibility, self-provisioning and self-support becomes even more significant.

As a means of attracting and retaining talent, the workspace environment will become an increasingly important aspect of the fight for the right people in the future.

 

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