Several things have become part and parcel of today’s digital workplace – sometimes without us even noticing. If you were to start a new company today, and had the opportunity to rethink everything, you would probably never implement what you have now. Your current workplace evolved organically over time. And some elements of that workplace have become a burden, holding us back from taking the next step in innovation. In this blog, Chris van Werkhoven, CTO Digital Workspace, talks us through those barriers and explains how we can overcome them.
As your organization grows, so does your IT environment. Solutions that made so much sense years ago may no longer be the best option. For example, many organizations use VPN clients – once the ideal solution for occasionally working from home. The Windows Start menu has become part of the furniture at many companies, even though it is not necessarily the best way to present applications to users nowadays. Even if your organization still uses outdated legacy applications that only work with Windows, there are other solutions available. And finally, there’s the way in which new laptops and other devices are prepared for use. This no longer has to be handled by the IT department. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the four barriers to workplace innovation.
Many companies use VPN clients to allow their employees to connect to the company network from home. Putting aside the fact that VPN clients can only be used on company-owned devices, the disadvantage of this kind of VPN connection is that all the network traffic first goes to the office. This can have a huge impact on performance where all these VPN clients come together. That worked fine in the pre-COVID era, when people only occasionally worked from home. But now that so many people are working remotely on platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, this is no longer a viable option. For example, it’s almost impossible to hold a large video meeting with hundreds of participants if the majority of them are logged in via a VPN client. Since all those individual video images first have to make their way to the company network, there’s a good chance that the whole meeting will freeze. Sure, you can optimize the routing so that Teams traffic doesn’t go into the tunnel, but the bottom line is that when you use VPN clients, you’re pretending to be at the office. This old technology was designed for occasional use – and that’s not how we do things today.
The application delivery model, the way in which you present applications to users, has been hidden in the Start menu for many years. This means that – once again – you’re stuck with a Windows desktop. Many users find this quite handy… the Windows Start menu, the shortcuts, the H:\ or Y:\ drives have become familiar territory for many employees, especially older ones. Often, resistance is a key obstacle preventing organizations from switching to something else. But file integration with references to drive letters is also difficult to move away from. Just think of macros and scripts.
If you are still dependent on old applications for critical business processes that only run on Windows, you also need to provide your employees with a Windows device. And if the application only runs on a specific or old version of Windows, this can really start to hold you back. On top of that, the various plugins in their different versions and the order of installation – which often turns out to be so important – create an ecosystem of dependencies that is incredibly difficult to unpick. Consequently, that application – or a small set of applications – can be a barrier to innovation.
Traditionally, new laptops and other devices are made ready for use by the IT department. That means extra work and it takes a long time. So no one is happy – neither the waiting employee nor the IT staff. But the worst part is that you have to do it all again every three years, for every device and every user. Not to mention the times when a laptop breaks down or has to be reinstalled due to Windows erosion. This way of issuing laptops and devices is, to put it bluntly, incredibly out of date. It also means that you have to know everything about all the devices in order to be able to support them.
There is a solution to every problem, and these barriers are no exception.
By replacing your traditional VPN clients with PerAppVPN, MicroVPN, VPN-less access, you no longer connect a device to the company network, but rather you only connect an application to a specific back-end. Not only is this more secure, it’s also much easier to scale up. If you only connect application xyz to the back-end, and you are using Microsoft Teams at the same time, for example, the traffic from Teams can access the internet independently without using the VPN connection to the company. So instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, you can use microtunnels for each application. It’s also a lot more secure because other applications on the device, such as malware, will never be able to reach the back-end.
By offering applications from a portal, you have the chance to finally say goodbye to the Windows Start menu. If you go down this route, you are no longer tied to a Windows endpoint to be able to use applications. You can create a kind of application springboard containing the specific functionalities that the user really needs. Plus, the portal looks the same on any device, regardless of whether you are using a Windows laptop or MacBook.
If you use older legacy applications, you can choose to run them in the cloud as a published application. You can also host a published application in your own data centre using VMware or Citrix. By removing that particular legacy application from the workplace and using it as a published application, it will no longer stand in the way of innovation in the workplace.
Thanks to modern management systems, you can now simply send a new device to the user at home. They then log on using their credentials, and the device effortlessly navigates its way into the company network. The laptop is then equipped with the right applications, the right security, and any patches required to meet compliance regulations – all done over the internet. Not only does this mean that users can initiate the installation themselves at a time that suits them, but it also opens other possibilities, for example the option of using other devices such as MacBooks and Chromebooks.
When it comes to setting up a smart, future-proof digital workplace, there are lots of decisions to be made. Luckily, we are here to help. So make an appointment to chat to our innovation coach or simply get in touch. We’d be delighted to help you. Even from a distance.