Virtualised Desktops Redefine The Way South African Companies Operate
By Shailendra Singh, Business Director, Africa Region, Wipro Limited
As faster, cheaper and more pervasive broadband networks start becoming a reality in South Africa, the stage is set for a complete reinvention of the workplace.
With a comprehensive desktop virtualisation strategy, organisations are able to securely deliver personalised employee desktops, combined with centrally-deployed applications, and various online services.
This new, unified workspace provides end users with a consistent experience across devices, locations, and via all forms of connectivity. Deployed correctly, desktop virtualisation extends the boundaries of the traditional office. Now, the office is anywhere where the employee can connect from.
Virtual office environments illustrate the importance of the big four technologies; Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. Most obviously, cloud and mobility come to the fore. Virtual desktops connect cloud-based architecture with flexible mobility services. As these four major trends continue to evolve and converge, future-proofing the organisation’s desktop environment becomes paramount.
End-users benefit from the ability to securely tap into the core business processes whenever they need.
A clear desktop virtualisation strategy brings the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) into reality, as users are able to work with the laptops, tablets and smartphones that they are comfortable with.
By improving the levels of access and ease of use, employees become more productive, more innovative and more collaborative. No longer does the company representative have to wait in line at the office to load product orders into the system. With the right virtualisation solution, he can do so from the client’s offices, immediately following his successful meeting.
In this way, virtualisation accelerates the pace of work within the enterprise, as hand-overs become more seamless and role-players more tightly connected. In larger organisations, with offices around the country or around the world, these benefits are clearly visible.
But this approach is certainly not just for companies that have a large staff complement that is ‘on the road’. As companies compete for top talent by offering the most flexible, most progressive working arrangements, virtualisation becomes the key to providing the right employment environment and getting the most of one’s team.
Business applications are provided in an ‘app-store’ format, available according to role-based permissions, making the entire experience of remote working more accessible, or – to use a popular term – more ‘consumerised.’
Staff enjoy a better work-life balance, able to work more from home (or other out-of-office locations), and from the devices they prefer. Ultimately, organisations are able to start shedding some of the costs of permanent office spaces, as trends such as hot-desking and flexi-hours start becoming possible through virtualisation.
From the organisation’s perspective, there is a growing recognition that business software and applications are best rolled out iteratively, in short, incremental cycles (as opposed to large jumps every three to five years). This transition becomes far smoother with a virtualised approach, as the IT team centrally deploys and updates the latest versions of various applications.
Administrators are empowered to set and then dynamically adjust role-based permissions. For example, if an external consultant is working on a project for six weeks, he may be given time-based permissions to certain applications which expire after that period of time. He may be disabled from writing any content to anywhere other than the secure, hosted platform.
So desktop virtualisation has huge benefits in the fields of information security, governance, and compliance. Advanced cloud-based storage, with the right disaster recovery management policies, will ensure that critical corporate knowledge is never lost.
This is combined with security controls on the native devices to ensure that in the event of physical theft, there is no risk of losing any corporate data.
Finally, moving to a virtualised desktop environment also gives IT teams the ability to offload the day-to-day management to outsourced partners. Virtualised architecture means that remote desktop support can be provided by one’s ICT services partner and their pre-existing 24/7 call centre.
Shifting the operational burden to an outsourced provider means the organisation’s IT team is able to move closer to the business, focusing on strategy and on generating business value.
It can better align business strategy with the IT roadmap, and maximise the value of every aspect of its IT estate; including, of course, the shiny new virtualised office.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”