When the pandemic first occurred nearly two years ago, businesses had to react with speed to support rapid delivery. They had to ensure that employees could work remotely whilst also maintaining business as usual in every other area. This meant implementing changes to enable remote and hybrid working quickly to keep up with demands. Those businesses that were slow to adapt would end up suffering the most.
Organisations faced their own unique challenges, but some common themes of IT adaptation have been:
- Increased distribution and usage of corporate issued end user devices such as laptops, surface devices, tablets and smartphones
- A rise in bring your own device (BYOD), users using their personal devices for work tasks
- Introducing or extending the use of virtual desktops and applications
- Greater reliance on remote access solutions for users
- Repurposing existing infrastructure and even datacentres to cope with increased back-end compute demands
- Onboarding of cloud-based platforms such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications
- Enablement and usage of collaboration suites for virtual meetings and content sharing
Despite the challenges, it is likely that the future will be in hybrid working. According to a recent BBC news report, 79% of senior business leaders and 70% of general public surveyed said it is likely that people will never return to office at the same rate as before the pandemic. As business and individual attitudes towards the future of home working changes, indicators suggest that a large proportion of organisations across many industries are embracing a hybrid approach of office and home working. The overwhelmingly positive response of employees to home working means that there is a desire for business leaders to meet these expectations.
Robin Gardner, Strategic Services Director, Xtravirt, fears that the “lifeboat” solutions implemented as an emergency response through the pandemic may be unsuitable for a long-term strategy of hybrid working. Gardner commented, “the challenge now for IT teams is to re-evaluate the digital workspace tools and quick-fix solutions that were implemented as part of a COVID-19 response and consider whether they really are a sustainable solution for the business going forward”.
Points to consider when evaluating your remote & hybrid working situation
Is your current set-up the right solution?
If you are still benchmarking performance and capability against previous ways of working, then you may need to re-evaluate whether it is still optimised for performance and cost effective to maintain long-term. Where modifications were made in response to the pandemic, the risk of not being able to work at all may have resulted in compromises that should not be accepted as organisations return to steady state.
Do you currently have the correct operating model to maintain, fix, run and manage the existing set-up?
There is a chance that due to skills gaps or changes in personnel, the previous methods of managing the systems and maintaining the required systems are no longer viable. To help address these risks, consider whether a Managed Service Provider could provide this operational capability, freeing internal staff to work on projects which are critical to business operations.
Are you actively securing remote work against the risks?
When working outside the normal office environment, it is often no longer possible to rely entirely on centrally managed controls such as corporate firewalls and building security. While some risks can be mitigated using VPNs and device configuration, these will struggle to address new challenges such as a distributed clear desk policy or family members sharing computer resources. Implementing robust controls is likely to require technology updates, changes to policies and focussed employee training.
Does the current environment support employees effectively enough?
The last and possibly fastest growing area of focus is the understanding of inclusion and well-being in a distributed environment. Finding an approach within hybrid group meetings to ensure that those working remotely feel like they are included and have an equal voice to those physically in the meeting room is not a new challenge but will affect a far higher number of employees.
VMware’s Digital Workspace Solutions
VMware have a portfolio of technologies in the digital workspace arena that can help you advance a remote, or hybrid working strategy.
Their flagship offering in this area is Workspace ONE, a suite of capabilities delivered primarily from two key components -Workspace ONE UEM and Workspace ONE Access.
To make the solution more complete, you may want to consider integrating VMware Horizon as your third component.
Workspace ONE UEM, or Unified Endpoint Management to give it its full title, provides mobility and endpoint device management capabilities for:
- Desktop and Laptop PC’s such as Windows, Mac and Chromebook devices
- Corporate mobile devices such as IOS and Android based smartphones and tablets
- Rugged devices like kiosks and handhelds
- Wearables and IoT
The components of Workspace ONE are available as SaaS offerings, where VMware manage and maintain the underlying platform for you or as traditional on-premises deployments.
By adding and integrating VMware Horizon technology you can create a first-rate virtual desktop and applications capability for your business. This will allow your business to rapidly build and deploy virtual desktops, such as Windows 10 machines, with all your corporate applications, systems, and data accessible then deliver this out securely over the internet to wherever your users are.
Much like the deployment options available for Workspace ONE’s UEM and Access components, VMware Horizon can be deployed on premises or via a variety of cloud-based solutions such as Horizon Cloud on IBM, Horizon Cloud on Azure and Horizon in VMware Cloud on AWS.
If your business already has existing Horizon environments, or other virtual desktop platforms such as Citrix, these can be directly integrated into Workspace ONE.
By delivering this in conjunction with Workspace ONE you will get the added benefits of centralised conditional access controls and endpoint management as outlined above.
Supporting IT infrastructure
Whilst this article focuses primarily on the digital workspace, some of the topics covered naturally lead off into other areas, particularly when looking further ahead on improving these solutions in line with corporate strategies.
For example, addressing configuration drift in virtual infrastructure against best practise and compliance frameworks. This will probably not have been in the forefront of IT departments minds when deploying tactical solutions in response to the initial COVID-19 crisis but will be a must going forward.
Security and Risk
As organisations adopt a remote or hybrid work set up, their digital workspace becomes a business-critical component. It is therefore important to consider how it can be optimised for better performance, availability, and security. Many of the standard tools only look at a single element rather than everything, yet it is essential to remain in control of all these factors.
Xtravirt Health Check can help you stay in control. This specialist service package from Xtravirt, provides a thorough independent assessment of the underlying infrastructure covering configurations, performance and maintenance process. Xtravirt Health Check provides insight into improvement opportunities and operational risk factors.
Xtravirt Risk and Compliance Assessment is also available. This is a full assessment of risk factors on information security (InfoSec), availability and performance risks across the entire VMware estate.
Accelerate Digital Workspace success with Xtravirt
Having led hundreds of digital workspace modernisation programmes, for organisations big and small, Xtravirt are a trusted partner for digital strategy and the design and deployment of cloud and digital technologies. Our consulting capabilities have won global acclaim for their proven ability to deliver positive business outcomes. Furthermore, our Managed Services teams are there to support customers, beyond deployment and ensure IT investments deliver value throughout their lifecycle.
Xtravirt are one of VMware’s top tier service delivery partners. Our proven expertise and track record of success has meant we have attained all 6 VMware Master Services Competencies making us the most qualified VMware Partner and one of a handful of Principal Partners for Digital Workspace and VMware Cloud on AWS in the UK.