An interview with James Mercer, Solution Director for Virtual Client Services at Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand
What exactly do you mean by the term, ‘Agile Workplace’?
There are two aspects to agility in the workplace:
- The agility of the workforce, and
- The agility of the organisation in general
A truly agile workforce has the ability to access corporate systems and information from a variety of devices and locations. Access to corporate systems and data needs to be flexible enough to cater for employees varying work and life commitments. This typically means the ability to change devices and still be able to access corporate information at any time. We all find that the ideal device varies with what we are doing at the time. For example a mobile phone becomes our choice of device while travelling or between meetings. A tablet may be the choice at home, while the corporate PC or laptop is our chosen device when in the office. The key to agility in the workforce is to enable the same access regardless of the device that is being used at the time.
An agile organisation needs to have the ability provide its workforce with the IT resources to meet its business needs at any point in time. This often means the ability to scale up and down in response to seasonal events. For example Christmas time is a big push for Retail organisations, while the end of the financial year is a big period for accountancy firms. An agile workplace must be able to scale ‘compute power’ up and down to meet the needs of users based on seasonal or unusual requirements. From a commercial point of view, consumption-based delivery models lend themselves better to this approach than traditional managed services models that rely on capacity to be forecast well in advance to accommodate all requirements – ultimately resulting in organisations paying for more capacity than they really need.
How are your customers embracing the concept? Do you see any patterns emerging?
We are seeing a lot of interest in Virtual Client Computing (which we brand Virtual Client Services (VCS)) – led by large enterprises. We are working with large organisations in transport, logistics, and financial services. We have had a lot of interest from all levels of government as well as support functions for government such as police forces. We are seeing this across Australia and New Zealand and I’m informed by my global counterparts that there is a significant demand worldwide.
The demand for VCS is definitely being led by large enterprises. It is clear that reducing costs is a major driver towards consumption-based services but there is also a clear requirement to be able to provide a more mobile experience for users.
There is a lot of talk about BYOD – does this approach have a place in the Agile Workplace and what challenges does this present for corporate IT departments?
BYOD definitely plays a big part in the drive towards centralised computing, although many organisations are still struggling with the concept. What we will see is a change from managing devices to managing corporate applications and data. The technologies are becoming available to enable enterprises to manage applications and data regardless of the device. Currently there is still concern as corporates want to select and control devices but that mindset will change as the security around applications and data is improved through technologies such as the Citrix ‘Mobility Bundle’.
So do you think we are finally seeing the end of the PC in the corporate world?
We are still seeing good use cases particularly for people who work offline or who don’t have continuous access to communications infrastructure. People who travel a lot on trains or planes where the constant access to the network is not always guaranteed will still benefit from using a laptop. But for those who are always connected – whether it is by a telco data connection or Wi-Fi – remote desktops are fantastic. I can see that in a short time frame people will just go to work and log into a corporate device rather than carry their own laptop around. Alternatively PC’s and laptops may be replaced by lower cost devices such as Netbooks .When staff are away from the office users will be able to select the device or devices of their choice and access corporate systems securely – and all of these devices will have the ability to access to the same business applications and corporate data to allow the user to be productive. It will be less important to travel with a laptop and therefore promote more sustainable practices such as cycling or walking to work.
Of course there will always be a use case for people with specific needs to use a PC or laptop at work – for example high-end developers, and people who need access to bespoke systems, and legacy applications – so PCs will hang around for a while. But I think you will see a shift towards remote desktop computing with virtualised end-user services.
Is the Agile Workplace the domain of Gen Y? How will Baby Boomers adopt to this way of working?
Regardless of their generation, people will adopt a new approach to technology if they see value. The key for organisations to make the implementation of Virtual Client Services a success is to demonstrate to end users a superior service to the service they are currently using. Essentially we need to show people that there is no difference while they are in the office, but they have a much richer experience when they are out of the office. Our service provides a highly personalised, enterprise grade solution to ensure that users feel like they have been ‘upgraded’. Whereas traditionally people felt like they were being ‘downgraded’ by moving to a thin client.
What is the impact of Agile Working on corporate IT departments and what strategies do you recommend to make their lives easier?
In short, corporate IT are generally our biggest fans! A lot of headaches go away and it improves the agility of the organisation. It makes it easy for them to make changes and maintain policy. VCS has a significant impact on the corporate IT department and it is mainly all positive.
Firstly, computing is centralised so there is a much lower security risk than in a decentralised architecture. With a centralised approach it is also easier to encourage the use of best practices. For a large organisation it could mean the difference between having only a few hundred servers to manage as opposed to thousands of Operating systems on PC’s- and most of the server images are copies of a Gold Build master – this makes managing VCS relatively simple to manage.
Software upgrades and adding new services is significantly easier. For example in the case of Microsoft Office instead of a gigabyte upgrade for each of several thousand PC’s the upgrade can be applied once and rolled out to the organisation almost immediately.