My colleagues and I have spent the last four years studying the links between technology, human performance at work, customer experience, and the financial performance of companies. One fascinating insight we’ve learned is that what separates the highest performing people in their work from others is their ability to reliably focus their attention, bringing more of their cognitive resources to bear on their work each day than their colleagues do. It’s not easy in our distraction-rich, techno-charged world.
There’s plenty of research that proves that happy employees are more productive, but Drs. Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer made an important discovery in 2010 that turns conventional wisdom about where happiness at work comes from, upside down. The most powerful source of happiness at work isn’t money, free food or recognition, but rather getting things done; making progress every day toward work that we know is important. The more conducive our work environment is to staying focused, and the better we are at suppressing the sources of distraction within ourselves to get our most important work done, the happier we will be at work. And, the effect is even stronger for work that requires creativity and problem solving skills.
Unfortunately in our workforce technology research, technology distraction isn't on the list of things leaders are concerned about. It should be, because the most pernicious sources of distraction employees face are the ones that lie beyond their control - the distractions that originate from the technologies their employers require them to use, when there are no alternatives.
Bill Gates said "People everywhere love Windows.” Whether or not you agree, the fact that Microsoft Windows remains the de facto standard for business productivity after nearly 3 decades, suggests that many still do. But as the sales figures of Microsoft’s competitors suggest, people everywhere love lots of other things too. And one of the reasons they love them so much is that they like to get things done, and sometimes that means getting away from the office to a quiet place, or using a technology that isn’t constrained by corporate policies and controls, so they can be freer to experiment, grow their skills and develop their ideas uninhibited.
Technology managers I speak with are aware of this, but they’re justifiably paranoid about security, costs, and complexity. So the result of these conflicting forces coming together is inspiring rapid innovation in a mosaic of technologies that Forrester collectively calls digital workspace delivery systems. It involves many vendors, including Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Dell, nComputing, Amazon Web Services, Fujitsu, AppSense, Moka5, and more. The goal of our work is to help companies develop their capabilities for delivering satisfying Microsoft Windows desktop and application experiences to a wide range of users, devices, and locations.
When I was maybe 2 years old, my mother lost track of me in a Toys-R-Us store. After a dozen stressful minutes, she finally found me - holding a Fisher-Price airplane. And so began my love affair with airplanes and aviation. So as I looked through the break-out schedule while attending NVIDIA’s GPU conference two weeks ago in San Jose, California, Gulfstream Aero’s session on transforming manufacturing and field service with desktop virtualization caught my eye. It didn’t disappoint.
There are 2 reasons why I liked this session so much and why I think it’s worth sharing with you:
It’s a nice example of technology that makes the work easier for employees, and helps them improve the customer experience directly.
It’s also an example of how a technology that’s not necessarily a money saver (in this case, VDI) shines when it enables workers do something that would be difficult or impossible any other way.
This morning Citrix announced the acquisition application mobilization vendor Framehawk for an undisclosed sum as the battle for high performance for corporate Windows apps on mobile devices rages on. Here’s my take:
It's a good acquisition for Citrix and in turn for I&O pros for 3 reasons:
Some of Framehawk's technology will be additive to Citrix's enterprise portfolio. Specifically, Framehawk's framebuffering protocol - called Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol, or LFP - is designed for mobile carrier networks like 4G/LTE where there is often highly variable latency, loss, and jitter. Citrix will add it to their arsenal alongside HDX to improve the end user experience of server-hosted Windows applications on mobile devices for XenDeskop App Edition and XenDesktop.
It will be a boon for DaaS providers' customer experience. Citrix is in the business of building a Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) platforms for service providers. One of the barriers to the success of DaaS in the enterprise, and a potential source of value for service providers, is the user experience on mobile devices over mobile networks. Another player to watch the remote desktop/app protocol space for mobile networks is RapidScale.
It's a competitive take-out play as well. Delivering Windows apps from the datacenter to both corporate and employee-owned desktops, laptops and mobile devices is what Citrix does - it's their place in the technology universe. Framehawk's technology approach, while expensive, has some advantages. Citrix was probably starting to see them in more deals as competition.
Winning teams delight in the 'doing', not the 'winning'
When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Chuck Noll was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his leadership was my first glimpse into what separates teams that win from teams that don't. My favorite quote from Noll exemplifies his view both simply and eloquently: "The thrill isn't in the winning, it's in the doing." What Noll taught his players, including Terry Bradshaw, 'Mean Joe' Green, and Franco Harris, is how to delight in the joy of doing, over the joy of winning. Why? Because the 'winning' won't come unless your passion comes from the 'doing'!
This is why I'm so excited about the explosive trend of BYOD and consumerization of IT on so many levels, from cloud computing to tablets. Workers are putting the joy back into the 'doing' parts of their jobs by exploring different ways of working, and using technologies that often exceed what even the best IT organizations can generally provide. It's also why I think we'll see a rebound of Hosted Virtual Desktops (also known as VDI) through 2013 and beyond. But first, let's look at the data:
IT interest in VDI appears to be on a downward trend
Forrester's annual survey of IT decision-makers revealed a drop in interest and plans for VDI initiatives from 2011 to 2012:
But a shift in the IT drivers for VDI suggests it could actually be an inflection point
Demand for mobility is rising dramatically, but IT support is not keeping up. Over the next 12-18 months, we expect a majority of Asia Pacific (AP) organizations to begin to feel the pain of poor mobility strategies. Now is the time to define and manage mobility as part of a broader end-user computing strategy – this must include desktop virtualization initiatives, including (but not limited to) virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But while server virtualization is now accepted as a fundamental design principle and part of any data center implementation or refresh, that doesn’t mean desktop virtualization will follow suit. Long touted as a means to simplify desktop provisioning and management – and hence improve the efficiency and effectiveness of an organizations’ end-user computing strategy – over the past decade desktop virtualization has been driven primarily by CIO’s desire to lower hardware costs – by delaying or skipping PC refresh cycles – simplify application provisioning, and increase compliance and control of desktop infrastructure in areas like data security and patch management. Desktop virtualization doesn’t adequately address all end-user computing requirements since it’s essentially focused on eliminating the client device from the equation. This is particularly true for VDI. Thin (e.g. ‘dumb’) clients won’t work in a world where a growing percentage of users – not just information workers – are mobile and expect access to key resources but also expect those resources to be optimized for the particular device they’re using. With the explosion in device usage and changes in end-user expectations, IT is being forced to expand its focus around end-user computing from ‘control’ to ‘engagement’. Desktop virtualization will remain a key component of many organizatons’ end-user computing strategies, but its role will remain
Michael Masterson's book "Ready, Fire, Aim" is one of my favorites. Masterson, a serial entrepreneur who has built dozens of businesses, some to $100 million in revenue and beyond, explains that the biggest determiner between success and failure is how quickly we get going and execute…even if the plan isn't perfect. Spot on!
But, Masterson also takes great care to explain how critical (and often misunderstood) being truly "ready" is, and that "firing" without actually being ready is as bad as if not worse than delaying for perfection. So what do we do? Where do we draw the line when it comes to projects like client virtualization, with hundreds of moving parts, politics galore, and very little objective, unbiased information available?
Answer: The winners will get going today…now...and will get ready by talking to the people their work will ultimately serve, and learn enough about their needs and the technology and best practices to avoid the mistakes most likely to result in failure -- knowledge that they will acquire in less than 90 days. The fire process starts the moment they make an investment in new people or technology, and the aiming process continues through the life cycle of the service, steadily improving in value, effectiveness, and efficiency.
As soon as you think you understand software companies’ policies on virtualization, a new problem appears that makes you tear your hair out and scratch your now-bald head. This month’s conundrum is whether or not VMware’s ThinApp product breaches your Microsoft Windows license agreement:
However, Microsoft, via its knowledge base, claims that “Running multiple versions of Windows Internet Explorer, or portions of Windows Internet Explorer, on a single instance of Windows is an unlicensed and unsupported solution.” http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2020599/en-us#top
VMware doesn’t warn customers that ThinApp could cause them Microsoft licensing problems, but neither does it claim that it is legal. It merely advises customers to check with Microsoft.
The Politburo is making a comeback
Winston Churchill described Soviet-era politics as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It came to mind recently as I was engaged in a conversation with an I&O professional who works for a US-based company, and he needed help. Seems his executives had decided that due to two data breaches over the past year from stolen hard drives, that the new Central Committee policy should be to have everyone use a locked down virtual desktop, no matter their role or workstyle. It was hard for me to conjure up a picture of the profound lack of understanding that led to such a misguided policy, though images of nondescript buildings, row after row of undifferentiated cubicles, and Gulag-style productivity quotas came quickly to mind. Had he not been on the other end of a telephone line, he could've knocked me over with a feather.
Big vendors are using top party relationships to push huge pork-barrel deals under the banner of security and mobility
Every spring I’m faced with the wonderful opportunity – and challenge – of choosing the best questions for Forrester's annual 20 minute Web survey of commercial buyers of IT infrastructure and hardware across North America and Europe.
As technology industry strategists, what themes or hypotheses in IT infrastructure do you think we should focus on? What are the emerging topics with the potential for large, long term consequences, such as cloud computing, that you’d like to see survey data on? Please offer your suggestions in the comments below by May 21!
This year, I’m proposing the following focus areas for the survey:
New client system deployment strategies– virtual desktops, bring-your-own-PC, Win 7, smartphones, and tablets
Hypothesis: Early adopters are embracing virtual desktops and bring-your-own-PC, but the mainstream will proceed with standard Win 7 deployments