In a recent webinar on this topic, I shared how I ran across an early pandemic era article by Intel that declared that “the status quo is officially dead” for end user computing (EUC), due to the need to adapt to remote work. Two years hence, we’re long past that prior status quo, yet most organizations have yet to truly grapple with the implications of remote work on end user computing services. Sticking with outmoded legacy methods puts organizations at a significant competitive disadvantage. Old ways of deploying end user devices can also cost organizations big time in terms of employee turnover, inefficient asset management, and lost IT talent and transformation opportunities. It’s high time for IT teams to modernize the way that they attempt to equip the remote workforce.
End user computing services deliver foundational IT infrastructure–most obviously the desktops and laptops needed by employees to access corporate apps. In some cases, end user computing environments also involve virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) running in on-premises data centers or in public cloud providers like AWS. In most cases, laptops are supplied by corporate IT while employees are allowed to “bring your own device” (BYOD) for mobile devices like iOS or Android smartphones. EUC also includes the software functionality needed to perform device management or endpoint management, addressing control and security over operating systems and application management for suites that run on end user computer systems (think MS Office).
Remote work breaks legacy EUC
Historically, the vast majority of employees worked out of offices, so the entire EUC lifecycle was office-centric. IT teams gave out laptops and other IT equipment during onboarding; handled repairs, loaners, and replacements; and received laptops during offboarding at the office. Typically, there would be an IT closet or some other facility to store equipment in.
In theory, when workers distribute geographically, things should work the same, except for some shipping and handling. But in practice things are far more difficult, because of what remote and flexible work reveals about both the prior and current state of IT end user computing workflow. The fact of the matter is that remote work has severely broken EUC, with far-reaching consequences.
Employee equipping wasn't great to begin with
Dealing with employee laptops and other devices is one of the least interesting and most thankless jobs in IT. It is highly manual work, driven both by surges of activity as well as unpredictable interrupts when employees require different equipment, peripherals, repairs, replacements, and upgrades. The pressure to be great at this is particularly high when employees start their journey in an organization, since HR teams are sure to (rightly) emphasize that strong onboarding with a positive IT end user experience is essential to retention.
Speaking of HR, end user computing has a lot of connection points to other teams, which has always made it both important and difficult to manage. Finance teams need to ensure that assets are tracked. HR teams want to be sure that employees have all the technology they need to be productive across their journey. Security and compliance teams need to make sure that they can tell the location and disposition of devices.
So, what was the amazing state of art tooling used in most end user computing work streams for all of these important collaboration points?
Need more evidence that EUC was already broken?
A really interesting and pretty damning statistic that indicates just how poorly EUC was working even before the explosion of remote work, is the degree of lost fixed IT assets suffered by enterprises. According to 2017 Gartner research, 30% of fixed IT assets were “ghost assets,” meaning they were lost, stolen, or otherwise missing. What this shows us is how inefficient and incomplete EUC processes already were in most IT teams, because they were not built for a whole lifecycle.
EUC teams have historically been staffed just to “press send” at the beginning of the process. Most IT teams will admit readily that they are not staffed to effectively handle refresh cycles, and there have never been incentives for IT teams to retrieve equipment efficiently. This is how you end up with so many lost assets.
It gets worse with remote and flexible work
Remember, those stats represent life in the office. Now, just consider what happens when end users become geographically distributed with flexible workspaces. It’s way harder to even get onboarding to happen on time. How about the rest of the remote worker equipment “lifecycle” like handling repairs and replacements, getting laptops back from remote workers, and doing proactive refreshes to keep workers from suffering an average of $3.6K in annual productivity losses (per Intel research)?
The high costs of doing nothing
In this highly dynamic environment, there are significant costs to sticking with the status quo and not adapting.
- High staff turnover. In the era of remote work, the switching cost for employees to change jobs is now so low as to approach e-commerce levels. If you aren’t great at onboarding, supporting, and offboarding employees with your IT (and other) equipment, it will have a negative impact on retention. It costs 6-9 months of salary to replace a worker, so the ROI of getting this right is significant.
- IT asset management losses. As noted, lost equipment was a costly problem even before remote work. We’ve spoken to so many companies who really can’t say where all their equipment is. One organization told us that they *might* have 65% more laptops than employees, but they have no idea where they all are.
- Operational inefficiencies. Based on our customers’ feedback and survey data, we’ve calculated that it takes about 500 IT staff hours to manage end user devices for every hundred remote employees you have to support. Add HR, finance, security, and facilities teams slogging through manual processes, and you’ve got a huge waste of staff time. But it gets worse, because if your end users are stuck with outdated technology, they are losing productivity. We all have either experienced working less effectively due to poor tech. Intel quantified this in their research, finding that U.K. employees with outdated tech suffer $3.6K in annual productivity losses.
- Opportunity cost. Let’s say you could put in the level of investment needed to do way better at handling EUC for remote workers. Wonderful, but here’s the problem, it would absolutely not be worth it. EUC is totally critical but is at the same time completely non-strategic. We’ve spoken with organizations that are spending half of all their IT resources to tackle this challenge. Think how much more value your IT team can be delivering to the business in terms of strategic or innovation initiatives, versus delivering laptops.
- Security and compliance. If you’re not in control of your laptops and other devices that carry data, you’re at a heightened risk of data loss that could be very costly. Examples of these abound, but a particularly poignant case study is the financial services company that got fined $35M because they auctioned off a bunch of used hard drives and neglected to erase PII data.
The digital transformation of end user computing
How do you transform EUC? In some ways, it’s really simple. Automate processes, deploy employee self-service, and outsource all the physical operations. It’s the same thing you’ve done for your applications when you adopted the cloud. You automate the spin up and spin down of computing resources through a cloud provider, allow employees to self-serve those resources, and you outsource all the physical work of building and running data centers. You can do effectively the same thing for end-user computing.
You can optimize your employee experiences, reduce turnover like Spotify did, gain operational and capital efficiencies, and put yourself in the position to win the remote work game.