Episode 1: Diving into Windows 10

Lifeguard IT is a podcast about the intersection between enterprise IT and the people, business processes, and technologies that define the modern workspace. Grab a towel, slather on some sunscreen, and tune in as hosts Heather and Linda discuss how IT can protect their users while making the computing experience more like a sunny day at the beach.

In the first episode, hosts Heather and Linda discuss the depreciation of MS Paint and their Windows 10 user impressions. Special guest and Director of Applied Engineering at Lakeside Software, Ben Murphy, joins in to explore the current state of Windows 10 from an enterprise IT perspective.

Resources

The Verge: “Microsoft Paint isn’t dead yet, will live in the Windows Store for free”

Intel Atom Processor Users Dropped from Windows 10 Feature Updates

 

Harmonize Your Resource Stack with IT Asset Optimization

Within every innocuous enterprise workstation exists untapped potential for savings and better system performance.

Over a decade of working on large-scale desktop transformation projects, I’ve seen a gradual erosion in price point to supply a managed desktop to a user. At the same time, complexity of these estates has dramatically increased, with new technologies and delivery platforms constantly being evolved and introduced, presenting opportunities to further lower the cost of delivery or ongoing management of systems.

Yet, many organizations haven’t realized the cost savings brought on by the so-called consumerization of IT. Rather, IT and users have been pitted as adversaries with conflicting objectives. This divide has grown as users have become accustomed to personal devices with “unlimited apps”, expecting their work devices to have equal performance, usability, and app availability. Just this morning I counted 78 “personal applications” installed on my cell phone, contrasted with the dozen or so applications on my laptop that I require to complete my work tasks. One thing’s certain – we are in application overload.

IT asset optimization is the answer to the dizzying influx of new technology in the workplace. By distilling hardware and applications down to what users need, organizations can streamline operational costs and focus IT efforts on improving the end-user experience.

As in any optimization discussion, the much-overused management phrase of “do more with less” comes out to play. The problem is, most organizations simply don’t know what they currently have (and how it’s being used), so they’re unable to even consider “doing more with less”.

Starting with what you’ve got (or think you’ve got)

Let’s start by declaring that simple inventory lists on spreadsheets do not work! When managed by procurement teams within organizations, such lists can offer a picture of what has been purchased, but in reality, how often are these updated by other teams in the organization?

For example, a Service Desk team might add more memory to a machine to fix an immediate problem and never update the spreadsheet, so the hardware change goes unaccounted for. Or devices change hands via HR as part of a leavers and joiners process, but the procurement team isn’t notified. Clearly, spreadsheets are dubiously reliable and won’t bail you out at the time of audit – we need to accurately establish what is deployed and used across the estate.

Identifying Waste

Ensuring that software usage is lower than the procured licenses obviously mitigates the hefty fines on organizations following a software audit (which we are seeing more frequently reported in the press).  On the flipside, being over-licensed for software can also be a huge opportunity to reduce IT spend. With software representing ~30% of a desktop spend and ongoing software assurance averaging 20% of that cost, it is vital to ensure that as organizations we are paying for what is being used.

We can do so by harnessing workspace analytics data, which provides a vast amount of end-user-computing-related information. With the vast array of information captured around the user and device, workspace analytics provides a complete picture into not only what is installed on a device but also how and when applications are used. This gives the administrator an understanding of how frequently the applications are used (if at all), allowing them to make a variety of decisions pertaining to IT asset optimization, including provisioning, license optimization, and how reliably software packages can be delivered. Ultimately, this can lead to reducing licensing costs by removing applications and reclaiming licenses that see infrequent use.

Licensing can also be streamlined if administrators notice all end users require roughly the same software portfolio which can be covered more effectively by a different license with potentially dramatic financial consequences.

As the responsibility for software upkeep shifts from IT to service providers, it is equally as vital for IT to track whether providers are meeting their SLAs to ensure that organization aren’t paying for applications that go unused due to service-side performance issues.

Identifying Underutilized Systems and Intelligent Procurement

In a similar manner to exploring application usage to establish where licenses can be reclaimed, workspace analytics provides the insight to establish how devices and compute resource are being utilized across the estate. Understanding key performance metrics on each device allows for informed decisions not only on if new hardware is required, but also if the user or device is a suitable candidate for running on a lower-cost platform like presentation virtualization or, in the case of deskbound user, if a less expensive device can be utilized instead of a mobile laptop.

With the increasing hype towards cloud-based delivery of desktop and true DaaS models, understanding “by the minute” loading of resources gives administrators complete visibility into the resources both inside and between cloud-based systems to fully understand the new cost components of cloud-based systems and make informed, metric-based decisions on the suitability of users to move to these platforms. This kind of informed decision-making ensures that the costs of desktop transformation are known prior to procurement or moving to a new platform.

While the need to account for and manage assets is established from a risk-aversion angle, there is more to be gained from IT asset optimization beyond application license utilization management. Using workspace analytics to gather and upkeep accurate, real-user data, IT teams are positioned to streamline costs through need-based procurement and to maintain visibility into users’ experiences with cloud-delivered services by tracking SLAs and monitoring the performance of key technologies. With this user-centric viewpoint, IT and end users are on the same side. The same initiatives that result in simplified support for IT also align with what users need in order to be productive.

As we’ve noted before, “End Users Are People Too”. The IT asset optimization capabilities of workspace analytics give administrators another avenue through which to customize procurement and enhance the end-user experience.

Read more about the benefits of workspace analytics

Optimizing the IT Service Desk

As a former university IT employee, I’ve interacted with a lot of users with problems (and emotions) of varying difficulties. Excited parents would set up their brand-new tablets only to forget the password minutes later. Confused professors hauled in their 15-year-old laptops wondering why they weren’t functioning as quickly as the ones displayed. Frustrated students strode in with network connectivity issues, leading me to their embarrassing internet histories and laptop screensavers.

I worked as a Tier 1 employee and often found myself referring these people up the levels of the IT service desk chain, sometimes feeling like I was only there to cause more frustration. As a student is crying, while a parent is yelling, one can’t help but think that there has to be a better way. However, if we want to optimize a process, we must first understand it.

What is the service desk process?

The IT service desk provides information and support to computer users. It involves a process that is broken down into three tiers:

Tier 1: The initial call for help. This level mainly provides simple checks such as resetting passwords or updating computers. Often users spend time discussing the issues they’ve been encountering while the technical support tries to solve their issue. This tier can solve basic issues, but if the problem remains unresolved, it is escalated up to Tier 2.

Tier 2: This level offers more in-depth support. This technical support team has more tools and skills to address issues that couldn’t be solved by Tier 1 support.

Tier 3: This is the highest (and most expensive) level of service desk support. These are often the engineers that are skilled and considered the experts of the subject. It is not uncommon for this level to try to reproduce the problem to determine if this issue exists beyond just that specific user.

Frequently, users get stuck within these layers of service desk support wasting money, time, and patience for themselves, IT staff, and the organizations that employ the support staff.

IT service desk optimization has been a goal among companies for many years. Optimizing help desks reduces the number of tickets, hastens repairs, saves time and money, and leads to increased productivity. The process of requesting support from IT is a tale as old as time. How can companies take the next step in improving their service desk operations? The key is making use of a rich set of data.

Reduce/Prevent/Resolve with Real User Data

The best way to optimize the service desk process is to have the most privileged view in IT, the endpoint. Commonly, IT staff attempts to solve issues after the time of impact and without any historical record of what actually happened (except the account of the end user, which can vary on the truth). With the ability to track user data from the endpoint, IT can see what was happening on a system at the time of impact as well as the full current state of the system. With the new view of the end user, IT can reduce the amount of tickets, address problems proactively, and, most importantly, speed up the resolution process.

Reduce

Endpoint insights provide IT with the tools they need to solve an issue at a Tier 1 level instead of pushing it up levels and creating an overflow of tickets. By logging historical data, IT can understand the state of a system at the time of impact as well as its current performance. This valuable information can lead to discovery of the root cause of impact. Through this approach, support teams have access to more actionable information from the start, helping to improve first call resolution.

Prevent

Continuously monitoring key performance indicators among users within the environment gives IT the power to address issues before they occur. By setting up alarms that trigger when performance deviates from an acceptable level, IT can begin automating problem resolution before a user notices an issue, leading to fewer tickets.

Resolve

By viewing performance issues at the endpoint, IT can accelerate the resolution process. For example, Tier 1 support can easily identify problems by being able to see the data for a specific user instead of going through the common, generic process of ‘How long have you had your laptop?’ and ‘ When did this problem occur?’. Instead, they can easily see where the fault happened, at what time, and with what application. This will reduce redundancy and allow the service desk to identify and resolve the problem faster.

IT service desk optimization is a key component of workspace analytics. Implementing workspace analytics results in increased productivity in the service desk and beyond. When the service desk is optimized, not only are support costs lowered, but end-user issues are resolved faster. This leads to the benefit of increased confidence in support staff, encouraging users to start reporting issues (instead of ignoring them or fixing it poorly themselves), resulting in more problems being resolved. With fewer system issues, end-user experience increases, which IT can track through a quantitative score. Shorter time-to-resolution means that users spend less time with system issues and enjoy better experiences with their technology.

Learn More About Service Desk Optimization