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.
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.
With a couple of months' perspective, I’m pretty convinced that Intel has made a potentially disruptive entry in the market for programmable computational accelerators, often referred to as GPGPUs (General Purpose Graphics Processing Units) in deference to the fact that the market leaders, NVIDIA and AMD, have dominated the segment with parallel computational units derived from high-end GPUs. In late 2012, Intel, referring to the architecture as MIC (Many Independent Cores) introduced the Xeon Phi product, the long-awaited productization of the development project that was known internally (and to the rest of the world as well) as Knight’s Ferry, a MIC coprocessor with up to 62 modified Xeon cores implemented in its latest 22 nm process.
Driving in the snow is an experience normally reserved for those of us denizens of the northern climes who haven't yet figured out how to make a paycheck mixing Mai Tais in the Caymans. Behind the wheel in the snow, everything happens a little slower. Turn the wheel above 30 on the speedo and it could be a second or two before the car responds, and you'll overshoot the turn and take out the neighbor's shrubs.
Hosted Virtual Desktops are a bit like driving in the snow. Every link in the chain between the data on a hard drive in the datacenter and the pixels on the user's screen introduces a delay that the user perceives as lag, and the laws of physics apply. Too much lag or too much snow and it's hard to get anywhere, as citizens of Anchorage, Alaska after this years' record snowfalls, or anyone trying to use a hosted virtual desktop half a world away from the server will testify.
NVIDIA Brings Gaming Know-How to HVD
Last week I spent a day with NVIDIA's soft-spoken, enthusiastic CEO, Jensen Huang who put the whole latency issue for VDI into a practical perspective (thanks Jensen). These days, he says, home game consoles run about 100-150 milliseconds from the time a player hits the fire button to the time they see their plasma cannon blast away an opponent on the screen. For comparison, the blink of an eye is 200-400 milliseconds, and the best gamers can react to things they see on screen as fast as 50 milliseconds.