What is desktop transformation?

To ensure that the transition to a new or improved desktop infrastructure runs smoothly, IT departments need to consider user workspace management technology as essential, says Bob Janssen of RES Software.

Commentary - IT departments are continuously changing their desktop infrastructure following requests for new functionality, cost savings and overall quality improvements (e.g. integrity and performance). Such changes often have an impact on the way end users work with desktops. These types of upgrades typically occur every three to five years, so it’s important to have in place a good framework to manage these moves now and in the future.

Some examples of desktop infrastructure changes that could be made are: centralization through virtual desktop computing or hosted desktop computing, upgrades from Microsoft Windows XP to Microsoft Windows 7, upgrades from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2010, implementation of location-based printing, or implementation of removable disk security.

The first three examples listed above represent comprehensive projects that involve moving end users to a “new” desktop infrastructure. The complexity of these projects makes them difficult to plan and control due to the time and resources required. This means the impact on the end user’s productivity can be substantial and unpredictable.

The last two examples are often solved using so-called “point solutions” which is a standalone technology address a specific problem that often requires additional management and understanding. Multiple point solutions are difficult to sustain in the long run, leading to more complexity and an increase in the overhead costs of operating the desktop infrastructure and the IT department.

To ensure that the transition to a new or improved desktop infrastructure runs smoothly, IT departments need to consider user workspace management solutions as essential to this process. Once user workspaces are in place, any component of the desktop infrastructure can be replaced without impacting user productivity or losing maximum control in the transition process. The user workspace does not substitute the desktop; instead it works dynamically with it to manage desktop items independently from the underlying computer and user technologies. The user workspace contains configured applications, data, printing capabilities and personal settings unique to the user.

Three tightly coupled elements define the unique user workspace. When one element changes, the others follow automatically and change as well. The first of these is context, which identifies a user’s identity, location, what device they are using and the time of day they need access. The second is content, which provides the user access to applications, data, and printer and user settings. Finally, security rules can be applied to context to provide content to specific users.

Desktop transformation solves the problem of how to make the move from a typical, static desktop environment to a dynamic, managed user workspace. With this process, IT professionals are able to achieve user work spaces through a step-by-step process that presents a clear picture of the effects each action has on the overall environment.

To ensure desktop transformation happens in a seamless manner the following steps are recommended to prevent issues from arising pre and post implementation:

1. Gather live data from existing desktops
2. Analyze the data for context
3. Create workspace items
4. Set up workspace models
5. Transform existing desktops

Exploring the desktop transformation process

Gathering live data:
To get from the current desktop situation to managed user workspaces without impacting users, it is essential to gather information about how desktops are currently being used. With the right solution in place, organizations can gather this information in the form of desktop samples that hold encrypted information on available desktop items such as applications, mappings and printers as well as the user’s context (name, group membership, IP address, type of computer etc.). Once gathered, this information goes into to the analysis stage.

Analyzing the data:
First, the IT professional should set up how context will be established for directory services and location and devices. It is then important to analyze the context information in the desktop samples and make suggestions for suitable rules establishing context. Finally, the IT professional will be ready to start analyzing desktop items and should leverage user workspace management technology that is capable of creating a list of items identified in the gathering stage. This data can range from very common to uncommon, in the following categories: applications, data sources, drive and port mapping, drive substitutes and printers. Once the list is made, items can be further processed in order to create workspace items.

Creating workspace items:
The IT professional selects one desktop item from the list of those found for further processing. A comparison needs to be made for each possible context with the actual desktop samples to determine which users have access and would keep it, which users have access but would lose it, and which users that currently do not have access would be given it. Sophisticated user workspace management technology enables IT to automate this process, identifying these necessary elements for them. It will also suggest the appropriate access rules that will need to be configured to create the new workspace items.

Setting up the workspace model:
Setting up a workspace model enables the IT professional to control which parts of the user workspace will be composed and secured during transformation. Managing these workspace items using the right tools will allow them to co-exist on a user’s desktop along with all the unmanaged workspace items, so that any impact on productivity is minimized substantially.

A mix of different workspace models can be used to accommodate different kinds of users and desktops. Further, the workspace model is created in a manner that allows it to evolve over time so a transformation addresses today’s challenges first, but prepares the environment for future changes.

Transforming the desktop: The final step the process is to the transformation of the desktop to the dynamic, highly adaptable user workspace. The right solution will captures the context of the user and secures the user workspace and its parts without impacting a user’s personal setting.

Assessing the full benefits of desktop transformation

By leveraging these steps and the appropriate user workspace management technologies, organizations will realize the following benefits:

Ensure security and compliance
There are two approaches in Information Security: asset-centric and user-centric. The asset-centric approach ensures that the infrastructure is available, and helps protect it against external threats. But in the current versatile user environment, this approach by itself is not enough to make services available to users. Because the user is working from multiple desktops both in and out of the corporate network, a user-centric approach is needed as well. Combining these approaches will result in a better availability, but, even more importantly, will greatly improve the confidentiality. Desktop transformation driven by user workspace management solution takes this need into account, delivering organizations optimal security.

Eliminate migration headaches
By separating the user workspace from the operating system, and following desktop transformation, customers are able to migrate easily to new environments, whether they are traditional or virtual. This is achieved while a consistent delivery of applications – complete with printing, data and personalized settings, is maintained. This creates a smooth migration with minimal impact to the organization and reduces cost and time strains on IT.

Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO)
User workspaces streamline operations and are able to reduce the time and cost investments typically required for overseeing desktop management, both pre and post migrations, decreasing overall TCO. According to Gartner, complete desktop management can deliver 42 and 45 percent savings for desktops and laptops respectively.

Increase agility and user productivity and satisfaction
Increased agility may be realized due to the reduction in complexity of IT changes, which enable technology to be deployed faster and with more predictable outcomes. This generates minimal impact to the user. In turn, user productivity and satisfaction will improve.

Increase return on investment
By transforming traditional desktops into dynamic user workspaces, customers are able to see a quick turnaround on their investment through time and IT administrator savings.

Realign vital IT resources
Leveraging desktop transformation provides organizations the ability to realign valuable resources, including time and money they have saved, on mission critical needs that will help them achieve strategic business goals.

Summary

To ensure that the transition to a new or improved desktop infrastructure runs smoothly, IT departments need to consider user workspace management technology as essential. If organizations decide to forego transforming their desktops into dynamic workspaces before attempting to upgrade their desktop infrastructures, they may face great difficulty in managing these environments both during and after the infrastructure transition. Since these changes have an impact on the way end-users work with their desktops it is necessary to eliminate any disruptions. With the right solution in place, organizations will be able to seamlessly transition their desktop environments any time there is an upgrade or change is necessary and will see many positive benefits for both the end-user and the business as a whole.

biography
Bob Janssen is the co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of RES Software. He has been responsible for product vision, strategy and development at RES Software since co-founding the company in 1999. He was instrumental in the creation of RES Software’s flagship products, RES PowerFuse User Workspace Management and RES Wisdom Run Book Automation, released in 1999 and 2005, respectively.