How to Create a Sustainable Standard Desktop Environment

Foresight and planning for a standard desktop environment can help you avoid the hassle of future issues.

By LN Balaji

A standard desktop environment is typically made up of an operating system and its associated software. This could be anything from a simple Windows manager to an all-inclusive collection of desktop applications. Over the years, CIOs have been trying to control the expenses associated with the maintenance of a fully-functional IT infrastructure and the job is getting increasingly difficult in an economic slowdown. Furthermore, an automation drive a couple of decades ago left organizations grappling with non-uniform platforms that make upgrades particularly difficult and the cost of supporting such upgrades extremely high.

As a result, CIOs of large enterprises have shifted their focus towards expansive desktop standardization projects. However, such initiatives can only be successful if various components involved in the standardization help achieve overall uniformity. Only then can the organization achieve a cost-effective, sustainable model that streamlines the deployment of all applications. Even though the level of standardization depends on the scale of operations pursued by an enterprise as well as the number of external entities the organization is connected to or even controlling, there are certain basic measures that can pave the way for a scalable and maintainable desktop standard.

To create a standard desktop environment, an effective approach would involve scheduling tasks at the planning and implementation stages. An enterprise needs to understand that evaluating and implementing a desktop standard for the entire organization is far less time-consuming and more cost-effective than purchasing software for smaller groups within the enterprise.

The Planning Stage: Team Building and Analysis of Your Existing Structure

A robust plan, formulated after analyzing the overall functionalities of the system along with its discrepancies, can provide a clear picture of the structural changes to implement to ensure a fully integrated and scalable desktop standard. As part of this stage, you must:

  • Analyze existing system to identify all applications: Your enterprise needs to gather the team leaders, both internal and external (managers, technical resources, and administrators) and build a list of applications you’re your organization needs. This list will be necessary during the actual standardization process.

  • Assemble a strong project team: Once the communication channel opens and there is clear understanding of the overall project requirements, teams must be in place to directly manage implementation issues.

  • Assign team leads and connect them to the actual decision makers: The management and technical teams involved in the project should essentially have team leads for monitoring the operations as well as mediating with the decision makers.

  • Identify the core and common applications at the corporate and division/site level: The applications on your list (those identified to be standardized) should be classified as “common” or “core.” Each application should be segregated on the basis of its scope of operation. Those common for the whole organization must be listed as “common” and those unique to a particular division or site must be classified as “core.” This will help establish boundaries for the scope of operation within the desktop standard.

  • Specify server requirements: Based on the project’s functional and operational aspects, the server requirement has to be set. The application may be delivered to the user in various ways, such as directly or via a container/group association.

The Implementation Stage: Reducing Your Technology Footprint and Establishing a Scalable Technological Platform

Upon entering the implementation stage, management needs to choose a desktop standard implementation that would:

  • Create standard application objects: It is essential to create deployable application objects for the list of applications within the scope of the standardization. These objects would be either core or common for the users across the whole enterprise.

  • Increase operational efficiency and reduce audit risks: The new desktop standard must necessitate a sizeable increase in operational efficiency. Also, the implementation must be compliant with proper licensing in place to mitigate audit risks.

  • Enable cost savings: Reducing costs is the primary goal of the enterprise, so standardization must ensure cutback on maintenance costs. An offshore model can help to greatly reduce costs.

  • Reduce your technology footprint: As you decrease the amount of technology involved, fewer resources will be needed to drive it. It is a good idea to work with minimal yet powerful and effective technology.

  • Implement a flexible and forward technological platform: Scalability should be of primary concern so that future additions can be included easily and standardized smoothly across the enterprise.

Testing each component as well as the entire system is a necessary phase of the implementation process that can be achieved by simulating the standard environment of business units.

Centralized offshore setup of a desktop environment makes the entire operation extremely cost-effective because the infrastructure need not be supported and maintained at the client site. Security should be considered as a major concern when the standard deployable application objects are connected to the client’s premises offshore. Setting up VPN devices behind configured firewalls can help set up a secure and robust desktop standard.

It is essential to augment central help desk support to manage troubleshooting effectively. This also helps in keeping the communication channel open with the end user at all times.

To conclude, a good amount of thought and insight on the proposed desktop standard implementation based on the scope and operational needs of an enterprise can help you avoid the hassle of future issues, thereby delivering an outcome that is completely aligned with your organization’s present and future business needs.

LN Balaji is president of ITC Infotech (USA) Inc.; he heads the company’s operations in North America. You can reach the author at LN.Balaji@itcinfotech.com.