Category Archives: Digital Experience Monitoring

End Users Are People Too

Companies are finding that the traditional approach of a four-year, one-size-fits-all technology refresh cycle no longer works for today’s tech-charged workforce. For some employees, that cycle is too long and limits their ability to be productive by keeping them from the latest hardware and applications that they’re accustomed to in their personal lives. Other workers are less demanding, and a refresh may arrive years too early for them, resulting in unnecessary system downtime and wasteful spending.

In theory, surveying employees about what technology they use and need to be most productive would result in harmonious unions between people and technologies. However, this ideal scenario breaks down pretty quickly when you consider the time it would take to process that feedback at the enterprise level. And, even if you could, does the user really know best? The average user isn’t going to be able to name every application they’ve interacted with, provide an unbiased portrayal of their system performance, or be willing to disclose their use of Shadow IT. Not to mention that people change job roles and leave companies frequently, which immediately nullifies the project of matching resources to those individuals.

Thankfully, there is a better approach that will allow you to make purchasing and provisioning decisions based on facts rather than user perception. While the basic concept behind this approach may sound familiar to you, the addition of collection and analysis of real user data makes all the difference between a time-intensive effort with minimal returns and an ongoing way of tailoring end-user experience improvements to employee workstyles.

A Personalized Approach to IT

Continuous user segmentation, also known as personas, is a way of grouping users based on their job roles, patterns, behaviors, and technology. Personas provide a meaningful lens for IT to understand what different types of users need to be productive, allowing IT to optimize assets accordingly.

Workspace analytics software for IT automates the segmentation process and continues to assess user characteristics and experiences to update groupings based on quantitative metrics. As a result, once persona groupings are defined, IT can focus on addressing the needs of different groups and let the software do the work of updating the populations within each persona. This functionality is key to any Digital Experience Monitoring strategy.

It Pays to Segment Users Right

Overlooking personas can lead to over- or under-provisioning assets to a job role. This can be costly to a company in several ways. Over-provisioning licenses can be wasteful of a company’s money while under-provisioning can become a nightmare for IT administrators. Under-provisioning encourages users to install their own applications and allows their user profiles to be personally optimized. However, all the miscellaneous applications can burden IT administrators with the multitude of unique problems for each user and application. Applications that users installed might also not be compatible with each other. Additionally, users may use applications not compatible within the workspace, disabling the ease of sharing files.

Optimizing assets for a company with the aid of personas can enable an increase in productivity. With the use of personas, job roles can be catered to uniquely, but with the provisioning remaining consistent. Each job role, based on real user data, can be provisioned unique licenses and applications that cater to their needs. This prevents users from feeling the need to install their own versions of missing applications, ultimately allowing IT administrators to limit any potential application or license errors.

Segmenting Users in Practice

Using common persona categories, a company may have deskbound users who are provisioned with expensive laptops when a desktop would do, or they may have knowledge workers with expensive i7 CPUs when a PC with an i5 or i3 makes more sense. We have also had customers report that they found that their power users needed to be refreshed every year because of the productivity improvement, while their task workers didn’t need a refresh for as long as five years.

Using personas to segment the end-user environment for a targeted refresh allows an enterprise to provide the right end-user device for a given end user based on their CPU consumption, critical application usage, network usage, and other key metrics. The benefits are numerous and include reduced cost, higher end-user productivity, better security, and a device custom-fit to the end user’s needs.

Learn more about Enterprise Personas

Foundations of Success: Digital Experience Monitoring

We’ve all seen the rapid evolution of the workplace; the introduction of personal consumer devices, the massive explosion of SaaS providers, and the gradual blurring of the lines of responsibility for IT have introduced new complications to a role that once had very clearly defined purview. In a previous post, we discussed quantification of user experience as a key metric for success in IT, and, in turn, we introduced a key piece of workspace analytics: Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM).  This raises the question, though, what exactly is DEM about?

At its very heart, DEM is a method of understanding end users’ computing experience and how well IT is enabling them to be productive. This begins with establishing a concept of a user experience score as an underlying KPI for IT. With this score, it’s possible to proactively spot degradation as it occurs, and – perhaps even more importantly – it introduces a method for IT to quantifiably track its impact on the business. With this as a mechanism of accountability, the results of changes and new strategies can be trended and monitored as a benchmark for success.

That measurable success criterion is then a baseline for comparison that threads its way through every aspect of DEM. It also provides a more informed basis for key analytical components that stem from observation of real user behavior, like continuous segmentation of users into personas. By starting with an analysis of how well the current computing environment meets the needs of users, it opens the door to exploring each aspect of their usage: application behaviors, mobility requirements, system resource consumption, and so on. From there users can be assigned into Gartner defined workstyles and roles, creating a mapping of what behaviors can be expected for certain types of users. This leads to more data driven procurement practices, easier budget rationalization, and overall a more successful and satisfied user base.

Pie chart showing the number of critical applications segmented by persona

Taking an active example from a sample analysis, there are only a handful of critical applications per persona. Those applications represent what users spend most of their productive time working on, and therefore have a much larger business impact. Discovery and planning around these critical applications also can dictate how to best provision resources for net new employees that may have a similar job function. This prioritization of business-critical applications based on usage means that proactive management becomes much more clear cut. The experience on systems where users are most active can be focused on with automated analysis and resolution of problems, and this will have the maximum overall impact on improving user experience. In fact, that user experience can then be trended over time to show what the real business impact is of IT problem solving:

Chart showing the user experience trend for an enterprise

Various voices within Lakeside will go through pieces of workspace analytics over the coming months, and we’ll be starting with a more in-depth discussion of DEM. This will touch on several aspects of monitoring and managing the Digital Experience of a user, including the definition of Personas, management of SLAs and IT service quality measurements, and budget rationalization. Throughout, we’ll be exploring the role of IT as an enabler of business productivity, and how the concept of a single user experience score can provide an organization a level of insight into their business-critical resources that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Learn more about End User Analytics

The Quantified User: Redefining How to Measure IT Success

In 1989, the blockbuster hit Back to the Future took the world by a storm with wild technology predictions. Now, we know the film might have missed the mark on flying cars and power clothes, but many of its predictions were more accurate than expected. Case in point: wearables.

From virtual reality headsets to fitness trackers, wearable technology powers this notion of the “quantified self” where our personal lives can be digitalized and analyzed with the end goal of being “improved.”

But when it comes to our professional lives, can we similarly analyze and improve them in order to enable productivity? Yes! Just as we are living in the era of the “quantified self” the enterprise is now entering the era of the “quantified user.”

But don’t just take my word for it. Here is how and, more importantly, why you should care…

What is the “quantified user?”

Think about the workplace today: it is one where people, processes and technologies are overwhelmingly digital and largely managed by third parties (eg: Office 365 and other business-critical SaaS offerings). And this is a great thing!

But this also presents an unforeseen challenge for IT which is, “how do we support a workforce that is largely digital and whose technology resources may or may not be managed by us?”

The key to supporting today’s workforce lies within the concept of the “quantified user” where, just as we are able to quantify the number of steps we take per day to help us improve our personal health, the “quantified user” is one whose end user experience within the digital workspace is quantified and given a score in order to enable productivity.

Learn more about End User Analytics

You might think that, at a glance, there is a loose relationship between a user’s experience and their productivity. However, over the past 20 years, workspace analytics provider, Lakeside Software has found the better the user experience score an employee has, the lower the barriers to productivity within the digital workspace. How? Via a healthier, more available desktop experience.

End user experience score: the most important metric in IT.

A bold statement, I know, but the end user experience score is the most important metric in IT because it accurately and objectively measures how all the technologies and actions taken by IT are enabling business productivity, which is the original purpose of any IT team.

The end user experience score is one that is normalized and is not touched by IT or IT vendors, and serves two purposes: inform what factors are impacting productivity and improve visibility into the health and performance of technology investments.

So how do we calculate the end user experience score?

Calculating employees’ end user experience score is done by analyzing and managing all the factors that could impact their productivity using a data-collection agent right where they conduct most if not all their work: the endpoint.

Why the endpoint? Because as critical IT functions are being outsourced and managed by third parties, reduced visibility into network transactions, data center transactions, and overall IT infrastructure is inevitable. Therefore, an employee’s workspace, the endpoint, has become the most privileged point of view IT can have into the state and the health of an increasingly scattered IT environment.

The end user experience score is one that should be calculated based on the availability and performance of all the factors that could impact the end user experience, that is everything from network and resource problems to infrastructure and system configuration issues.

The result is a score that is normalized and supports the “quantified user.” It is one that can be compared across teams and groups of users, and one that the IT team can work to improve in order to enable business productivity of those who matter most: the end users.

How to start using your end user experience score to enable productivity

Lakeside Software’s flagship solution, SysTrack, is based on permeating the use of the end user experience score throughout IT. A solution for workspace analytics, SysTrack is an endpoint agent that gathers and analyzes end user data on usage, experience and the overall endpoint in order to help IT teams in the following key areas:

– Asset Optimization: ensuring the cost of IT is being optimized for the captured needs and usage of the users

– Event Correlation and Analysis: pinpointing and resolving IT issues blocking users from being productive

– Digital Experience Monitoring: monitoring and most importantly, analyzing end users’ experience with all the technologies and business processes provided for by the organization

Learn more about SysTrack

 

What You Need to Know About GPUs for Windows 10

Dedicated GPUs aren’t just for gamers and designers anymore. The modern workspace is experiencing increasingly vivid and interactive software that is challenging entrenched beliefs about the nature of corporate work. Back in the day, IT supplied users with hardware and software that far exceeded anything employees interacted with in their off-time. The field has changed, and now users are the ones setting the pace for technology needs and adoption. Virtual assistants like Cortana have piqued user interest in AI and intuitive software experiences, which users now expect to follow them across locations and devices. Business leaders are looking to harness this evolving demand to accelerate the implementation of technology with the aim of enhancing employee engagement and performance.

We see growing awareness of this shift in conversations with our clients, who are looking for smarter ways to manage hardware and software transformations. One of the most discussed projects in this space is Windows 10 adoption. Many CIOs have yet to upgrade their users to Windows 10, but are gearing up for a transition in hopes of improving end-user experience and productivity. While we’ve been talking to IT professionals about the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10 since the Windows 10 launch in 2015, recently we’ve noticed an uptick in questions specific to graphics requirements. “How will my Windows 7 users be affected by Windows 10 graphics demands?” is a fair question, as is “What can I do to prepare my VDI environment for Windows 10?” We knew that the user-focused features available in Windows 10 would demand increased GPU usage, but to answer the question of degree, we turned to data supplied by our customers to achieve an accurate view of graphics needs in Windows 10. Our analysis of customer data focused on GPU and CPU consumption as well as user experience, which we quantify as the percentage of time a user’s experience is not being degraded by performance issues.

Key findings from our assessment include:

  • The amount of time users are consuming GPU increases 32% from Windows 7 to Windows 10
  • Systems without dedicated GPUs show higher average active CPU usage
  • Windows 10 virtual systems with GPUs consume 30% less CPU than those without

  • Presence of a dedicated GPU improves user experience with either OS on both physical and virtual machines

Overall, we found sufficient evidence to recommend implementation of discrete GPUs in both physical and virtual environments, especially for Windows 10 virtual users. Shared resources make the increased graphics requirements in Windows 10 potentially damaging for VDI because high CPU consumption by one user could degrade performance for everyone; however, we found that implementation of virtual GPU could allow IT to not only avoid CPU-load issues, but actually increase density on a server by 30%. Scaled, increased density means fewer servers to purchase and maintain, potentially freeing up resources to direct towards other IT projects.

Whatever stage you’re at in your Windows 10 transformation or other software projects, SysTrack can help you anticipate your users’ graphical needs. As developers continue to release software that enables users to have greater flexibility and creativity in the way they work, IT teams will need to ensure that users have adequate tools at their disposal to power a tech-charged workforce.

We Know You Don’t WannaCry

By now you likely know that WannaCry is a malicious widely distributed ransomware variant that is wreaking havoc over enterprise IT. The most important thing to know is that Microsoft has issued patches for nearly every flavor of the Windows operating system (including Windows XP) to prevent any further attacks.

Since AV (even next-gen AV) and other security tools have not been very effective at mitigating the WannaCry threat, our advice to our customers is to ensure you have a complete inventory of every Windows instance and its respective patch level. This will enable you to identify which Windows instances in your environment are still vulnerable so you could focus your energies on finding and patching them.

To help you accomplish this, we’re offering Lakeside customers several complimentary dashboards that can help you identify Windows instances that are at risk of being infected by WannaCry or other security threats:

  • Security Patch Details: We’ve developed a new kit, Patch Summary Kit, that provides details on security patches based on operating system. It also provides details for a specific patch if you know the patch’s KB or definition. The details include if the security patch was installed in a system and which patch it was. This kit provides clear and precise data to help users remain safe.
  • Risk Score: SysTrack provides a risk score in Risk Visualizer. The risk score is an uncapped integer that takes into account all potential ways a system may be vulnerable. Risk Visualizer allows you to view the risk scores of all systems in your environment to easily identify systems of concern. A higher risk score implies that your system is at greater risk of attack.

You can use the table below in conjunction with the Patch Summary kit to check whether a security patch has been applied to systems with the corresponding OS. An example of this feature is shown in a screenshot taken of the kit.

Operating System (Version Number) Security Patch KB
Windows XP KB4012598
Windows Vista KB4012598
Windows Server 2008 KB4012598
Windows 7 KB4012212
Windows Server 2008 R2 KB4012212
Windows 8 KB4012598
Windows 8.1 KB4012213
Windows Server 2012 KB4012214
Windows Server 2012 R2 KB4012213
Windows 10 (1511) KB4013198
Windows 10 (1607) KB4012606
Windows Server 2016 KB4013429

Our goal at Lakeside is to help keep our customers’ end users productive. We hope that by providing these risk management and compliance dashboards, we can help IT departments continue to improve organizational digital experience.