Creating a Data-Driven Workforce Model

In most companies workforce costs average about 70%. These costs are the single biggest expense of any company and companies have struggled, particularly in the economic environment of the last few years, to gain workforce efficiencies. Many of them have used the sledge hammer approach – hiring freezes, layoffs, company reorganizations – because they’ve lacked the visibility and the tools to effectively manage and optimize their workforces.

Companies have financial models, and models of key supply side and demand side processes, but what they have struggled with is creating credible workforce models. By aggregating SysTrack data with data from other workforce applications including HR, Finance, Operations and Business Unit data, we see the opportunity to create a data driven workforce model.

By undertaking this effort, we believe companies can systematically assess and gain visibility to workforce patterns and insights. We see this as a game-changing opportunity to solve workforce problems that have remained allusive due to a lack of complete worker information, as well as an opportunity to better align company strategy with workforce plans. The immediate results would be better decisions, improved productivity, reduced cost, and a more competitive company. We further believe the costs of integrating the data and doing the analysis will pale in comparison to the benefits gained.

Here is just a sampling of the questions that could be addressed by this effort:

Demographics

  • What is my mix of full time, part time, temporary and contract workers?
  • Where are my workers located?
  • How mobile are my workers?

User Experience

  • What is the user experience of my employees, contractors, temporary workers?
  • Which employees are most impacted by user experience issues? How does their user experience compare to those of the most productive workers?
  • How are my workers using the web? Which web applications are most used?

Roles

  • What are my most critical job roles?
  • Who are my innovators, knowledge workers, mobile workers, process workers, and executives?
  • What distinguishes their work?
  • How do employee work styles compare to their formal roles?
  • Do we have role duplication?

Competencies

  • What are the competencies of each of my employees and where are those employees located?
  • Do we have the right competencies in the right place?

Productivity

  • Who are my “known” most productive workers, (i.e. workers whose work and output maps to their role)?
  • What are the work patterns of my most productive workers? How long do they work? Where do they work from? What applications do they use – from where and when?
  • Based on those patterns, who are my “unknown” most productive workers (i.e. workers whose work and output exceed their roles)?
  • How productive are my workers based on type of site?
  • From an IT perspective (h/w, s/w, network, apps) how are my most productive workers equipped versus my least productive workers?

Collaboration and Communication Flow

  • What collaboration devices and applications are productive teams using? How are my workers using email, messaging, Unified Communications, the portal(s), project management, document management, video conferencing, web conferencing, calendaring and other collaboration tools?
  • What collaboration devices and applications are my most productive teams equipped with versus my least productive teams?
  • How and when do they use they tools?

Compliance, Risk Management, Security

  • How does knowing who my employees are, how they work and where they work impact existing business continuity plans and what needs to be changed?
  • What security issues exist within my worker environment?
  • What external applications are my workers using?

Workplace

  • How do flexible hours and alternative work places affect hiring and retention of employees?
  • Based on work styles which workers could productively work from home and how would that impact my existing real estate costs?
  • How much power and energy does my workforce consume and what are my savings opportunities?

Furthermore, we believe there is a game-changing opportunity to use SysTrack, in combination with other databases, to build a data-driven workforce model resulting in significant competitive advantage for the enterprise.

Check out our new white paper and learn how a CIO can escape the “80/20 trap” by freeing up funding heretofore locked within the run budget and use the freed up funding to not only innovate within his/her own organization but also foster innovation across the enterprise.

SysTrack 7: enhanced visualizations, greater customization, more data, more analytics, more real-time visibility

I’m excited about Lakeside’s announcement today of the release of the latest major version of its SysTrack product: SysTrack 7.

SysTrack 7 represents a significant advancement in the creation and utilization of Big Data to enhance end user computing, and a major milestone in the evolution of SysTrack.  In its essence, SysTrack provides IT with the data they need to better visualize their workforce environment and deliver operational excellence.  SysTrack 7 is easier to use, web-based, highly customizable, much more visual, and provides significant new real time capabilities.

For example, you can create a custom dashboard that you publish through your enterprise portal where an executive could, in a glance, see the real time health of the enterprise’s end user environment. SysTrack 7’s dashboards can also integrate data from non-SysTrack sources. Through its distributed data architecture, SysTrack scales to hundreds of thousands of monitored systems in a single deployment across the entire spectrum of physical and virtual desktops and servers. 

SysTrack allows IT leaders and business owners to gain deep insights into their workforce, pinpoint application and system issues in real time, and accurately scale and size virtualized environments based on actually observed user behavior.  Because today’s knowledge workers are interacting with a compute environment almost 100% of their working time, SysTrack’s data allows forward thinking organizations to gain insights into their workforce’s needs and behaviors, allowing you to solve previously unsolvable workforce problems. SysTrack 7 will allow you to make better decisions whether they are planning decisions, project execution decisions, or decisions around managing your day to day operational environment.

In short, Version 7 extends SysTrack capabilities along multiple dimensions – dashboard customization, data visualization and reporting, root cause analysis, virtual infrastructure monitoring, and more:

  • Dynamic Content Construction – A new dashboard web application provides a dynamic method to construct customized views of any data in SysTrack.
  • Real-Time Graphing – Real-time reporting capabilities have been extended to allow for more advanced data presentation for individual endpoints, groups of systems, and across the enterprise.
  • SSRS Integration – Advanced reporting leverages Microsoft(R) SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to provide detailed software inventory analysis, system configuration, virtual infrastructure, and other important environmental information.
  • Comparative Analysis – A new comparative analysis engine provides quick comparison of an individual system to sets of other systems in the enterprise for most key performance metrics.
  • Real-Time Application and Health Reporting – A new, extremely efficient process feeds real-time application and health data from a child system to the master system.
  • Host Performance Analysis – A new tool – SysTrack vScape – specifically for monitoring virtual infrastructure and identifying sources of environmental issues allows for partitioning health into a guest operating system view and an infrastructure view.
  • Host Reporting Dataset – A new dataset provides a wealth of information about the virtual infrastructure; summarizing the topology with datacenter and virtual machine manager references as well as detailing the host configurations and utilization, this dataset provides an at-a-glance reference to identify infrastructure components and oversubscription.

Check out Lakeside’s new white paper “New Features in the SysTrack 7.0 End-User Analytics Platform” to learn more about these and other new capabilities in SysTrack 7.

 

Citrix Synergy 2014 and Big Data for End User Computing

When I started working at Citrix in the summer of 2005 in the consulting organization it was considered a special honor to attend the Citrix Synergy events (back then, it was called iForum and the format was slightly different, but we’re talking generally here about the large annual customer conference). As an employee, one had to have some sort of special assignment in order to get the authorization to go and my co-workers and I always scrambled to get on the list. A speaking slot in one of the many breakout sessions or learning labs would typically do it and many of us became very creative in terms of proposing a session and positioning ourselves as the speakers.

Since then, I rarely missed the event and I had the honor of speaking on topics of implementation methodologies and practices in the area of Network Application Delivery, WAN optimization, and later on desktop transformation.

Besides the big keynote sessions and breakout presentations, the exhibit floor was always a big draw at the event and one of the many reasons why we wanted to attend. This was the opportunity to speak directly with the various Citrix product and business groups, but more importantly with the exhibitors and technology partners. This allows attendees to get a really good overview of the entire ecosystem of technologies, partners, and competitors that make up the entire landscape around the core Citrix technologies of virtualization, mobility, cloud, and networking.

This year should be no different and I am excited to attend Citrix Synergy for the first time as a sponsor and technology partner. This will provide me with the opportunity to connect with many of my friends at Citrix and the partners and to talk about Lakeside Software’s move into the Big Data for End User Computing space.

Long before “Big Data” was the buzzword it is today, long before Google published the MapReduce paper that led to big data and its associated technologies, long before hadoop was a thing, Lakeside SysTrack took a big data approach to end user computing. “Big” because large enterprises generate terabytes of end-user data, but due to the highly distributed nature of end user data, have virtually no good way of harnessing the information contained within the data in a meaningful way. SysTrack started solving that problem in the late 1990s and has been on the forefront of data collection and analytics in de-centralized environments at unprecedented scale ever since then. Today, we’re moving beyond the IT centric view of machine generated data and we’re presenting unique and innovative ways to gain deep insights into the human side of end-user computing.

Sounds too esoteric? For those of you interested in the virtualization side of end-user computing, please stop by our booth at Synergy and let’s have a conversation about the established best practices in monitoring and managing XenApp and XenDesktop deployments – including the latest 7.5 releases. Let’s have a conversation about planning, designing, and executing the implementation or migration to 7.5. Let’s have a look at our latest release. We hope that you’ll like what you see and give us your vote in the Best of Synergy award election.

See you in Anaheim next week!

Florian Becker

florian.becker@lakesidesoftware.com
Twitter: @florianbecker

Data-Driven Selling: How to take Guessing Out of the Conversation

One of the best business books I have ever read is Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig.

From the authors’ perspective too often sales people go into a client with a solution without fully understanding the client’s problem or need. For a variety of reasons, clients are often less than transparent in providing information about the problem. This is not a recipe for success for either party.

In the book, the authors advocate an entirely new selling paradigm. The authors strongly believe that trust is the keystone for any successful buyer/seller relationship. On the seller side, trust is built on listening and asking the right questions. Among other things, the authors advocate a process of skilled inquiry where the sales person better understands the client’s problems and values and the client better understands his own situation. The authors emphasize that during pre-sales sales people do the “critical spadework to uncover the issues the solution is supposed to resolve.”

We believe that using Lakeside Software’s SysTrack as early as possible in the sales effort will significantly improve the rigor of analysis and the breath of the inquiry process. The information gathered can then be used to provoke a rich, focused series of discussions with the client in a process where both sides work together to derive the best possible solution for the problem.

As the authors point out, too often proposals are put forth and solutions are offered based on guessing. We all have seen proposals with multiple pages of assumptions. We’ve also seen vendors run into major problems because they were blind to the complexity of what they were trying to solve or significantly underscoped the problem.

The authors believe that a key component of getting real is eliminating the reliance on guessing:  “Let’s not guess what problems clients are trying to solve and/or what results they want to achieve. Let’s not guess about how those problems are defined and how we would recognize when the results are achieved.”

According to the authors, what we want to do is make the undiscussable discussable, and get “the underground above-ground so that the unmanageable can become manageable.”

This is what Lakeside Software is all about. Our goal is to provide high-quality insightful data to solve previously unsolvable problems. You can’t propose, design, build and run what you can’t see and you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Our role is to help you see and measure from pre-sales through the entire life-cycle process of any workplace solution. Our role is to provide the data and the information that will allow the seller and the buyer to communicate clearly with one another using the same language. Our role is to facilitate an alignment in the seller buyer relationship that will lead to mutual success.

Eliminating Waste in Your Run Budget

The number one issue for most CIOs today is how to move out of the keep-the-lights-on-trap in which as much as 80% of their IT budget is being spent on run-the-business capital and expense costs, and move that money into their Grow and Transform budgets. In many businesses the only budgeting being done for Innovation is in some Business Units. Moreover, CIOs will privately tell you that they know at least 10% of the money in their Run budgets is waste. They know the waste is there, but they are flying blind because they lack the data to clearly identify where that waste is and how to eliminate it. Following the Gartner “Run, Grow, Transform” model, CIOs need to free up money in their existing Run budgets and move that money first to their Grow budgets and then to their Transform budgets.

As Gartner has pointed out, along with a number of other authors and analysts in the IT space, there are three kinds of IT spenders out there. There are the Late Adopters who are primarily focused on running the business with minimal risk, the Mainstream Adopters who wait until a technology or innovation is proven and the Early Adopters who are continually innovating, want to be leading-edge and are looking for Transformations that will lead to significant competitive advantage. According to a March 2012 article in the Journal of Accountancy by Dorothy Shimamoto entitled, “A Strategic Approach to IT Budgeting, “ – http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/Issues/2012/Mar/20114439.htm – spending for these three types of organizations typically breaks out like this:

IT Budget Run Grow Transform
Late Technology Adopters 80% 20% 0%
Mainstream Adopter 60% 30% 10%
Early Adopter 50% 30% 20%

As the Journal of Accountancy article points out, the key difference between the Mainstream Adopters and the Early Adopters is that the Early Adopters are spending twice as much on IT Transformation initiatives as the Mainstream Adopters.

Based on our experience, Lakeside Software estimates that at least 50% of an IT organization’s Run budget is spent in End User Computing. So let’s take a look at the End User Compute environment to understand how a CIO can shift her IT spending and free up money in the Run budget so it can first be allocated to the Grow budget and eventually to the Transform budget.

Using Lakeside Software’s SysTrack, the process of freeing up Run money budget and making it available for your Grow and Transform budgets is very straight-forward:

  • Assess the existing End User Environment to fully capture the health and inventory of the End User Environment – users, their locations, the devices they are running, the state of those devices (MIPs, Memory, IOPs, storage etc.), application inventory and usage, application license information, print and network environment.
  • Run the various out-of-the-box reports provided by SysTrack to determine waste, such as resource-consuming service desk issues, infrastructure sprawl, unused or redundant applications, anomalies in the environment, and opportunities to improve end user productivity and the quality of IT services delivered
  • Identify the areas of waste and potential savings
  • Prioritize the list based on the amount of waste based on savings and the ease by which the waste can be eliminated
  • Develop a plan to eliminate the waste
  • Execute the plan
  • Move the savings to your Grow and Transform budgets

The goal is to move IT from being a drag on the business (which is often the perception) to delivering business value, from flying blind and being analytically impaired to providing a competitive advantage. Lakeside’s goal is to empower you with insightful data so you can solve previously unsolvable problems. We think escaping the Run budget trap is a great way to get started.

Check out our new white paperand learn how a CIO can escape the “80/20 trap” by freeing up funding heretofore locked within the run budget and use the freed up funding to not only innovate within his/her own organization but also foster innovation across the enterprise.

Big Data for End-User Computing – An Introduction

There are a tremendous number of conversations going on regarding Big Data in the enterprise, and the IT industry is certainly not an exception. In fact, IT represents a particularly interesting area in the exploration of interrelated datasets and user behaviors as it provides not only supporting infrastructure and server data, but the much more interesting distributed endpoint usage. This allows characterization of end-user behavior across platforms to start drawing some very valuable conclusions about how to deliver solutions and improve work experience with workstations, applications, and mobile devices.

In general the principle is fairly straightforward: by using a distributed database architecture and capturing details on the local device SysTrack uses the power of each client for analysis and summarization. This frees up central resources that may otherwise be tied up with resource intensive traditional big data solutions with heavy infrastructure requirements. That way our End-User Computing Big Data platform can capture the thousands of data points that are generated every second on an endpoint and perform meaningful analysis in real-time. With our latest version (SysTrack 7.0) we also leverage an innovative operational packet of processed data to communicate health and application activity from each endpoint to provide immediate insight into utilization across a deployment.

Florian mentioned DaaS as one specific area of interest for Big Data oriented around end-user compute devices, but there’s really a lot more that can be determined from the various devices that users interact with. SysTrack provides a wealth of information that makes workforce management and characterization simple. This includes everything from software rationalization to performance characterization to not only perform transformations to be completed to improve user experience, but also develop new workflows and business solutions.

Another interesting facet to SysTrack’s DataMine is the ability to integrate other solutions or analytical engines in with the processed datasets provided through our architecture. With OpenAPI many leading technology solutions, such as Citrix AppDNA and ServiceNow, can take advantage of our data management techniques from the client to gain insight into environmental characteristics like deployed software and utilization habits to augment their solutions.

Check out our new whitepaper about Big Data for EUC to find out more about how SysTrack leverages its unique architecture to provide actionable information without the complexity.

X-IO and Lakeside Simplifying the Search for Storage Solutions

When you’re looking into enterprise storage options, the amount of information available to you and the in-depth knowledge you need of your environment to make an informed decision can become overwhelming. It’s easy to ballpark how much overall space you need and tack on some extra for expected growth and overhead, but that can quickly become very cost inefficient. The best way to approach the storage solution search is to gather some data and insight into your environment so you know things such as current space used, how that space is allocated, and IOPS details.

Getting all of this information and making sense of it is no small task, but luckily Lakeside Software has teamed up with X-IO to provide an easy way to address questions about storage solutions. As an innovator in the storage industry, X-IO’s products fit well with Lakeside’s data analysis capabilities. X-IO has taken the stance that not all storage is created equal, and here at Lakeside we were happy to work with them to provide data to illustrate that there’s no one-size-fits-all storage solution.

As a new partner to Lakeside’s MarketPlace program, X-IO worked closely with us to produce a report that highlights all of the storage related information about your environment and helps you decide which X-IO storage solution is right for your enterprise. After a short assessment period, usually two-four weeks, with Lakeside’s core product, SysTrack, the report can be produced through our Virtual Machine Planner assessment tool and auto-populated with data collected from your environment. This provides invaluable insight that would otherwise be very difficult to produce.

Armed with this information you can feel assured that you’re choosing the right storage solution. No more guessing on the specs your environment requires, simply let SysTrack collect the data and do the analysis for you. If you’re considering a new storage solution for your enterprise, contact us so we can set up SysTrack to do the work for you.

Monitoring Citrix XenApp 7.5 and XenDesktop 7.5 Has Never Been Easier

Citrix has made some waves in the IT community with the recent releases of XenDesktop 7.5 and XenApp 7.5. Whether it be an app or a large desktop infrastructure, the newest versions of these leading products provide some of the best the market has to offer for virtualization solutions. Here at Lakeside we get pretty excited over software and IT product releases, and the new Citrix offerings are no exception. In earlier blog posts we talked about how SysTrack’s monitoring abilities can add value to XenApp and XenDesktop, but how do you best monitor the environment these products are running in?

Log files and performance monitor are one way, but those methods can be unreliable and time consuming. Lakeside Software works to make monitoring easy with SysTrack. SysTrack collects an extremely large amount of data out-of-the-box, but each enterprise is different and we recognize the need for additional data collection based on what software is being used. That’s why Lakeside offers Roles that are designed with a specific product in mind to ensure we’re monitoring that product as best as possible.

A number of Roles are already available and we work to add additional ones as new enterprise software hits the market. The new Citrix XenApp 7.5 and Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 Roles will make sure that you have the data and business intelligence needed to keep your Citrix solutions running as smoothly as possible. Research into best practices for these products recommended by Citrix as well as Lakeside’s experience in the monitoring space has allowed us to tune these Roles to be just right. They’ll monitor performance counters, events, and more and can be configured to alert you when something has gone wrong or even to take action.

Between Roles and SysTrack your enterprise is being closely monitored to make managing it a little easier, because deploying enterprise software on a large scale is already a big enough task with real costs associated with it. Delivering the best possible user experience by ensuring your environment is performing well will help ensure those costs deliver their best possible return. Check out Lakeside if you want to learn a little more about how Roles or SysTrack can help.