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, actualizing 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.
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The idea of being dependent on a single computer or location for work is becoming as outdated as needing a payphone to make a call when you’re away from home.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 virtualization, organizations can instantly and securely deliver an individual’s complete desktop, including data, applications, and personalizations—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desktop on their PC —whether they’re accessing it on an iPad at a public hotspot, a laptop over a hotel network, or an outdated computer in a friend’s guest room.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 datacenter, simplifying management and ensuring security.
The ability to work from anywhere can make a huge difference to individual and organizational productivity and to work-life balance. An attorney can research and respond to a client query using her iPhone without leaving her son’s soccer game. A former employee’s complete workload can be moved to a new employee in less time than it takes to clean his vacated office.
A sales rep can access complete customer files at a moment’s notice, even if he left his laptop in the back of a cab.
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 datacenter and not on the laptop.
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 the best talent in all corners of the world.
It can also help business reduce capital and operating costs, especially in organizations 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.
Virtual meetings are already a well-established practice for business. Last year, more than 100 million people experienced a virtual meeting or support session powered by Citrix. By moving meetings from the conference room to the web, organizations can support real-time collaboration between dispersed co-workers and keep in close touch with customers and partners.
Culturally, organizations benefit from a sense of cohesion and unity, while saving time and travel costs
Virtual meetings extend far beyond formal meetings and one-way presentation. Remote training and support sessions, product demos, professional development courses, and product design workshops can now move online, and be just as effective as an in-person meeting.
Shifting Workloads and Processes
On an organizational level, workshifting accelerates business velocity by moving a process from one location to another—for example; having a 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 virtualization 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 specialized 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 organizations look to maximize the value of their technical infrastructure, shifting the work of one server to another can improve efficiency and utilization. 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.
Virtualization 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 datacenters for maximum capacity, and lower their capital investments and operating costs as well.
Virtualization technology also lets in-house datacenters become increasingly cloud-like, evolving from data processing factories in to flexible, efficient delivery centers 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 globalization, 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.
Software vendors must also be aware that their applications and services will be used in places they never imagined and on devices they never envisioned. Few corporate users work in a “9 to 5” office environment anymore. Business users will need to collaborate and communicate with their peers using capabilities within the applications themselves, as well as via virtual meetings and support sessions.
Think also about how fast the rise in touch-enabled devices like smart phones and tablets took place. Most enterprise apps today were designed for keyboard and mouse input. When using a touch-driven device, many of the tiny widgets that are part of the app become too small to use and activate with one touch. Vendors need to design their applications with future accessibility and mobility in mind to ensure they will be well-received and easy to use by the next generation of workshifters on whatever device they use – wherever they use it.
Kimberly M. Woodward is Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Citrix Systems.