Using cloud and virtualisation technologies and delivering desktop as service (DaaS) is seen as a great opportunity for any organisation looking to increase the flexibility and mobility of its workforce. Whether the main aim is to avoid the cost and complexity of managing Windows migrations, respond to changing business models, enable a shared services model, or support initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the outcome has the potential to be positive.

From a strategic perspective, however, a programme of transformation entails much more than simply swapping out ageing PCs and outsourcing or cloud sourcing. Rather, it’s about transforming the entire working environment and the underlying operating model of the business in order to realise new levels of agility, efficiency, and flexibility.

Organisations differ as to what this transformed working environment should be called, but we like to refer to it simply as the ‘desktop’ because delivery of a simple, effective desktop to users is what organisations are seeking to achieve.


At its essence, the desktop represents the combination of workforce requirements and work styles and describes a place of work as delivered by corporate IT and tailored to the individual needs of the user.

While that sounds straightforward, it takes significant planning and investment to achieve. It also entails a significant level of risk. Although most organisations may have a good idea of what they want their future desktop to look like, those that start a transformation journey without having a clear idea of their current state, or what the best route would be to achieving their objectives, soon encounter problems.

The risk is that they end up with a solution that fails to deliver the expected benefits or meet the needs of the organisation and its users. Too many business leaders today believe the hype surrounding cloud computing and virtualisation. They see a wide range of productivity tools being delivered via app stores for free, and then are shocked when they are presented with a cloud or virtualisation proposal with a hefty price tag. Similarly, end users are accustomed to information anytime, anyplace anywhere, and expect IT to be able to deliver similar results in the corporate environment.

Transformation and risk

Transformation occurs when organisations change the way they deliver applications, desktops, and personalisation to their users. But while the motivations and commercial pressures are compelling, change at the desktop impacts directly on user productivity. This makes it inherently more difficult and risky for an organisation than many of the other types of technology change they may have delivered in the past.

Such a transformation also poses a huge personal risk for those tasked with its delivery. But in raising objections at the outset, CIOs and CTOs can often look like they’re trying to avoid answering awkward questions. This tends to reinforce the rather simplistic view that everything is made unnecessarily complicated by corporate IT.

Bringing in an independent partner to substantiate their concerns can be a massive help. An experienced partner will listen, analyse, and propose practical and sensible solutions to meeting the changing needs and goals of the business. They can also provide some much needed support at a difficult time, when even the most trusted brands might not be the right answer.

Importantly, finding a partner with experience in consultative engagement at c-level offers an effective way for those tasked with delivering change to secure stakeholder buy-in. It gives stakeholders the confidence they need to plot the best course forward, as well as the empirical analysis necessary to understand current state and design requirements that meet both the immediate needs of the business and its long-term strategic objectives.

Some would argue that stakeholders and senior managers should already have this level of understanding. In reality, how many c-level executives, if asked, could provide an accurate picture of what each and every role and responsibility within their organisation entails on a daily basis?

Only fools rush in

The clamour for the cloud has been such that it has become a staple for almost any corporate IT strategy document. Indeed, ‘evolve or die’ has been the overwhelming message for quite some time, yet experience shows that organisations simply cannot afford to jump into the cloud without a parachute. It’s simply too difficult to see what’s on the other side.

Consider for a moment the experience with business process outsourcing (BPO). The most common mistake companies make is attempting to outsource a problem. Processes have to be problem-free before they can be outsourced; otherwise the firm doing the outsourcing ends up paying over the odds for a worse service than it started out with. And in the long term, decreasing cost without increasing value is a sure-fire bet for going bust.

Likewise with the cloud, it’s naive to think that simply adopting cloud technologies without making any structural or value-added changes will deliver long-term benefit. Of course, CIOs and CTOs are going to be on a sure footing if they can demonstrate with certainty that adopting cloud will reduce cost, complexity and risk, increase the efficiency of the business and ensure that the infrastructure that’s left still allows it to achieve its corporate objectives.

DaaS for example, is a cloud solution that is tempting for almost any business looking to reduce costs. It is a subscription-based model, with the desktop provided to the organisation for a fixed price, sometimes expressed as a ‘per user per month’ cost. Yet there are numerous ways to deliver DaaS. Finding the right approach, balancing levels of service and security against risk and cost is therefore a case of matching the solution with the needs of the business.

The Devil is in the detail

Many organisations have taken a serious look at virtualising the desktop and, like cloud it is considered a technology with the potential for massive impact on the bottom line. But the bold predictions made by analysts in the last few years have yet to materialise. This is because many pilots of the technology have been conducted on a small scale.

While the majority of these pilots perform extremely well, the problems typically emerge when trying to scale a solution across the organisation. It is only at this stage that the true implications of its requirements in terms of infrastructure, network management, storage, and application delivery become apparent.

Introducing cloud solutions such as DaaS changes the conventional operating model, and unless that change takes place from the top down, all that a cloud implementation achieves is shift CapEx to OpEx without actually changing the operating model itself. More likely than not, the outcome will be counter-intuitive – namely increased cost and complexity.

This is why a strategic review, comprehensive design requirement, and transformation methodology are so essential. Understanding your requirements, both current and future, is fundamental if you are going to successfully transform your infrastructure to meet your future business requirements – whether physical, virtual, cloud, or mobile. Ultimately, it is only possible to de-risk technology change if it is combined with organisational change by involving stakeholders and operational change to implement effective management.

Cloud and virtualisation aside, what’s really exciting about the future is that it’s flexible. It’s about having the ability to instantly shift your desktop from your home PC to your tablet, to a company laptop or a desktop, or to a touch screen in a boardroom. And it is that flexibility that gives organisations the opportunity to evolve and operate faster, stronger and leaner – a mantra that is vital to remaining competitive in the current economy.