Evaluating the benefits of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Sometimes we don’t need a formal or structured Return On Investment (ROI) study to evaluate if a technology deployment has been a success. Sometimes, plain common sense is all that's need.

We spoke with Jason Mills, IT Manager at Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers (CGW ) in Brisbane, a large legal practice with more than 230 staff members. Jason was kind enough to spend some of his valuable time to explain the drivers, benefits and lessons learned from CGW's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) deployment.

The key driver for the project was productivity. The current fleet of desktops had well and truly reached their end of lives. The desktops were very slow and significantly compromised the time it was taking to complete tasks, and in a fee-based professional services environment time literally is money. In particular, remote access was very difficult to achieve, with lawyers regularly having to make additional trips into the office out of hours and on weekends to access files that were needed for casework.

Additionally, the PCs were on several different SOEs, using different service packs and applications, making support and maintenance very challenging. The help desk spent the majority of their time “putting out fires.”

Jason wanted the upgrade project to take CGW’s IT infrastructure from “being an inhibitor to being an enabler.” The initial plan to replace the aging desktops was put on hold as Jason researched the firm’s options. He was intrigued by virtual desktop technology, but needed to undertake significant due diligence to ensure it was the right fit for the firm. He read blogs extensively and connected with his peers, however the real work began when he decided to engage with the architects at Logicalis. Working together, they spent around 3 months detailing CGWs specific requirements.

Staff productivity and satisfaction
The VDI approach has worked very well. Staff productivity has risen significantly and in turn this has led to a reduction in frustration levels and an increase in satisfaction.

The real eye opener for the staff was the seamless remote access that they now have. This alone has been tremendously well received by the staff as the team can work with much greater flexibility.

Scalability – Planning for the unexpected
The VDI approach has also scaled very well as the firm's circumstances have changed. Even though a mobile strategy was not part of the initial brief the infrastructure's flexibility has been able to flex to accommodate mobile devices across multiple platforms and form factors such as smartphones, tablets, PCs and MACs. The Managing Partner of the business now relies almost exclusively on an iPad when travelling.

The impact on the IT Team
The switch to VDI has had a number of positive impacts on the IT team itself and has given them more time to focus on innovation rather than crisis management. Similarly, given the complexity of the system’s  infrastructure, the IT team’s skills have increased significantly.

CGW has a proactive approach to sustainability and is always looking for sustainable and energy efficient ways to improve its equipment. VDI technology is much more sustainable as it requires less “iron” than a traditional desktop approach. Also, power consumption levels are greatly reduced as each staff member is only using an LCD monitor. This translates into a lower carbon footprint per user.

Cost Comparison: VDI vs Traditional Desktop
Jason estimates that the initial costs were probably a little higher using VDI technology as the firm had to invest in some core infrastructure. Additionally, if they had stayed with the desktop upgrade approach they would have been replaced in waves over time. This would have spread some costs over time but, of course, would have perpetuated the inherent inefficiencies of the older technology. Jason estimates that the VDI vs Desktop cut over point (where VDI started costing CGW less than the desktop upgrade would have) was reached in 20-24 months.

If you would like to read more about this particular deployment you can access a further Case Study that focuses more on the technology used.

Tags Digital Transformation, Cooper Grace Ward, productivty, VDI, virtual desktop, VMware


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