The Revenge Of The Politburo! One Company's Quest For Soviet-esque Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

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
"What should we do?" he pleaded. "A big vendor has presented a fully bundled solution to our executive team and they're convinced that it's the way they want to go. Should we buy that or put this out to an RFI?" "You're kidding, right?" I asked between gasps for air. A cool sweat had begun to form on my brow as chills took over where the initial shock had been. "First thing you gotta do is buy yourself some time to get educated. Let's set aside the whole issue of whether or not virtual desktops are appropriate for all members of the organization for a minute, and deal with the bundled solution," I continued. "If you don't educate yourselves on the alternatives to this infrastructure bundle, you will have zero leverage at the negotiating table, which is EXACTLY where this vendor wants you to be. It's good business for them. By all means, get this out to an RFI. Then use the time you gain to study the workstyles of the employees and put together 3-4 persona models that bring these people to life for your executives."

Constraining productivity options will be disastrous to the business in profound ways
The core issue here is one of productivity and preserving the creative potential of the organization as a valuable and irreplaceable source of competitive advantage. The danger of the Politburo approach is that by setting such heavy-handed controls in place in the form of centrally delivered and locked-down virtual desktops, it all but eliminates the possibility that employees will find new applications and methods for increasing their personal productivity, or for solving business problems.

Throw open the windows and free your employees to make the most of their time
Don't buy into the hardware or infrastructure software vendor propaganda. There is no question that hosted virtual desktops are a productivity helper for some because the performance and resiliency can exceed local desktop performance, but there are critical gaps in client virtualization technology that make hosted virtual desktops a crippling compromise for many business user workstyles. They also present significant management challenges which have not been solved by the big vendors. Your organization will suffer and so will your customers, as employees find themselves corralled and constantly hitting the bars of their electronic cages instead of finding new ways to be more productive and serve customers better.


Kudos Dave! I have come up

Kudos Dave!
I have come up against this dilemma with several clients over the years and really appreciate your response. I often find the lure of a seemingly "all encompassing" solution that feels easier to support catches the ears of organizations that are at a low to mid-level on the IT maturity curve. We have found it helpful to allow organizations to use their current hardware and still meet user needs by implementing a Managed Services approach to support. Doing so removes them from the day to day support hassle that often drives the perceived need to get rid of desktops and force everyone to use the same standard despite their variance in productivity tool requirements. SMB clients especially are finding this a viable solution.

Hi Jason! Thanks for your comments

I agree. Supportability is a huge driver for client virtualization, along with security which is where this customer was hitting insanity. There is no question in my mind that a combination of managed services and cloud-based solutions will deliver increased information access and operational advantages for more of the services we currently rely on IT for today.

Great to hear from you!