Managing the Strategic Desktop

Proactive desktop support has become an important corporate initiative. Here's why.

Over the past few years, managing end user desktops and laptops has changed from being a necessary IT operation to being a strategic function within organizations. Early on in my company's history, it was common to hear, “The desktop is important but not strategic.” That argument is now rarely heard. In fact, now many CIOs cite proactive desktop support as a strategic corporate initiative this year.

In the past year we have moved from finding select early adopters -- who, early on, recognized the strategic value of the desktop -- to hearing (loud and clear) from prospects, customers, channel partners, and advisors that the desktop is strategic for three main reasons:

  1. The customer/employee experience: The desktop is the primary technology resource for customer-facing employees and other mission-critical tasks in so many businesses. Companies need to guarantee uptime and availability of these systems to provide a positive experience for their end customer and avoid revenue loss, as well as to meet service levels. These enterprises recognize that deploying an ESD and patch management solution is not sufficient to ensure real-time performance and availability of these devices.

  2. Security: Desktop devices are constantly changing and can pose security risks to corporations if not proactively managed and monitored. Whether because of viruses, spyware accidentally downloaded on the desktop, or the value the information the system's files contains, knowing what is—and is not—on desktops is vital to a corporation’s security.

  3. Employee productivity: Today companies focus on improving operations without hiring new staff. By automating manual support tasks, companies can improve support services while simultaneously lowering costs and improving end-user satisfaction.

Proactively Resolving Issues, Anticipating Risk and Change

End-user systems management enables companies to attain a strategic advantage in managing mission-critical applications and constantly changing desktops, thus allowing them to proactively anticipate risk and resolve issues.

For example, one customer uses a product from our company on its equity trading desks to debug client side errors that can potentially cost the firm millions in lost trading revenue. In the past Wall Street brokerage firms configured standby trading desktops that had to be "hot swapped" in the event of a device or application outage. By deploying an end-user system management solution, these firms no longer have to wheel in backup workstations. Rather, they can identify which workstations pose a risk to traders’ productivity and troubleshoot them before an outage occurs.

In addition to benefits for the technical support group working at the trading desk, the software enables developers of internally-developed applications to see the audit trail of the errors in their software. This allows them to proactively fix buggy applications, further ensuring application uptime. Furthermore, it enables IT management to eliminate the blame game that often takes place between development and support.

Identifying Change

Although some companies claim to ‘lockdown’ the desktop, the reality is that this is extremely hard (if not impossible) to do. Desktops and laptops are rarely single-use devices. Indeed most everyone using a desktop uses it for multiple purposes: e-mail, browsing the web, office applications and dedicated customized applications.

End-user systems management software can be used to spot new, unauthorized software that is intentionally or accidentally downloaded onto business critical devices. By understanding what just changed, IT can proactively manage devices without having to wait for a call to the helpdesk complaining about poor desktop performance, or worse, finding that a desktop has been infected with a virus.

Proactive Desktop Support Increases Employee Productivity

One of our new customers recently shared with us his rationale for purchasing an end-user systems management solution. He had budgeted to hire a new support person to look after his company’s desktops. Once he used the software, he realized he did not need to hire a full time support person. He found that automating the support process was a faster and (as he suspected) more productive way to provide proactive desktop support to his customers.

In the last two years, the industry has certainly come a long way in understanding the importance of proactive desktop support. From managing the desktop to increasing its availability, proactive desktop support has a clear impact on a business’ bottom line.

About the Author

Lou Shipley is president and CEO of Reflectent Software, Inc.; the company develops enterprise scalable End-user Systems Management™ software that provides IT with an integrated, real-time view of enterprise applications from the end-user's perspective.