Home > GestaltIT, Systems > User Classification And Standardizing

User Classification And Standardizing

Growing up, my parents have always told me “Everyone is special in their own way!” Those words of wisdom are very true and something I plan to impart upon my daughter as she grows up. They help explain to children why someone is taller, shorter, larger, smaller, better at basketball, or sucks at singing. But, sometimes being special is not a good thing.

In a corporate environment, being special means exceptions to the norm, non-standard, complicated. As my company has grown, we are seeing more and more deviation from what I would consider to be the norm.

Now, we see
– Sales people that are never in the office and on the road. They think they can handle managing a workstation (keeping AV up to date, patching, purchasing software, backing up data, etc…). However, all too many times the laptop ends up being left on the passenger seat and is “borrowed” by a stranger or IT is forced to support/troubleshoot an application that they have never seen nor have access to.
– Power users that seem to think they need the most powerful workstations and niche applications to get their job done. Sadly, the business approvers go for it and they get what they want. Power does not mean horsepower. Rather, it is more a function of the depth that you can go with your position.
– Operations users that work in 1-2 applications primarily but demand full application suites locally.
– Executives and high profile individuals that only ever need to check email and ocassionally open .pdf and MS Office files. Despite their relatively easy technical needs, they have to have the coolest, smallest, largest laptop that allows them to puff their feathers and strut around. Image is everything right?

Multiple models of workstations, desktops, and laptops exist. Multiple versions of software exist. Same old song and dance that every corporation/company experiences. So, I am sure I am singing to the choir.

However, we are on the verge of making a breakthrough. We are developing a user classification program and a standard computing environment program.

With limited resources and the common interrupt driven issues, development of this program has been slow-going. However, we are making progress and I love it.

The new schema is going to involve 4-5 hardware platforms:
– Small Laptop (for travelers/Road Warriors)
– Regular Laptop
– Regular desktop
– Thin Client
– Tablet (Android, iOS, whatever)

Users are going to be grouped based on their computing needs, not position. So, we are going to be positioning more and more people in our future-VDI environment for most computing. With VDI, Application Virtualization, and Citrix/RDS, we are going to be able to host most users in the datacenter, where they can be closer to their data.

Plus, users are going to be granted access to applications based on a restaurant menu style system. You want your user to have access to Microsoft Office? Office 2010 then. User wants to get Adobe Acrobat to print .pdf files? No more purchasing Acrobat… CutePDF for them. We are developing a menu of software that is acceptable and supported by IT. No supersizing, substitutions. No shirts, no shoes, no service (unless working from home! 🙂 ).

By taking the “specialness” and “uniqueness” out of the end user computing environment, we are going to be able to provide a more standardized and optimized environment for the user to run in and be more efficient.

We have a long way to go, but I am very hopeful that we are going to be able to get there. From my position now, I have no doubts we can get close. With a couple system additions and changes, we can definitely hit that target.

As we speak (or I type), I am eating our own dog food. I am taking one of the Road Warrior-ish laptops on the road (OS X 10.6 – older model, but I am more concerned with OS functionality) and seeing just how useful this platform is going to be. I have a little list of tweaks, apps, etc… that we are going to need to make this work for people.

Have you gone through something like this? Do you have strictly adhered to standards at your company. Please feel free to share in the comments. I always welcome commentary and examples!

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  1. LB
    November 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    How’s this process going?

    We are starting to embark on a similar process as well. We have standard equipment, but we don’t have a good handle on what might work for VDI’ish stuff (RDS, actual VDI, etc). So I thought our first step would be to analyze what apps our customers use, what sort of connectivity they have, etc.

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Hi LB,

      The process is still ongoing (no surprise, right?!). However, more than anything, company growth has been the major factor in slowing down the movement. We have taken honest to goodness stabs at application of user classification to the new users and offices and had significant success. The major issue being that we do not really have a lot of the automation in place to make the procedure quicker. However, 2012 looks to be the year of standardization and classification!

      It sounds like you’re on the right path with anaysis of what apps the customers use, connectivity, etc… However, we really wanted to take an approach of which services do we offer. That includes specific applications (ex: Office, Citrix, Adobe, etc…) as well as core functions (tracking web app, order Java app, etc…). By looking at our service offering, we understand which apps our customers are using.

      Connectivity is a major component as it truely affects the user experience. The advantage to RDS or VDI is that sessions are disconnected upon a connection termination. So, if the customer is out at a remote site with poor connectivity, all is not lost. However, screen refreshes are a little rough.

      RDS versus VDI is an interesting battle as it is both political and technical in nature. Employees/users/customers spend 8 hours a day with the little black/gray box on their desk. So, asking them to let go is difficult. A VDI solution is the closest they can get to a full on traditional desktop with their applications, bright yellow theme, picture of their dog on their background, etc… However, RDS (especially in Server 2008 R2) has some amazing density calculations… but, all users on an RDS server must use the same applications.

      In this scenario, we are actually going to use a hybrid environment. Users will be migrating from a local workstation to a VDI workstation. However, most applications will be presented via RemoteApp. We have a technical need to provide a core application via RDS, so leveraging RemoteApp for other business applications is a nifty way to help utilize the technologies in useful ways. The model may not work as we want, but like it or not we need VDI and RemoteApp.

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