How Server-Led IT gives businesses a competitive advantage through productivity

Why the new model for IT can give your organisation an accumulative advantage.
Benjamin Tomlinson
Female manager showing an increase in profits on a flipchart

The new standard of desktop computing for the workplace.

Competitive advantage through productivity

Often, an organisation’s biggest asset is its employees.

Employees are more-likely-than-not the biggest variable between a company and its competition. Their ideas, initiatives and commitment can set a company apart and are always the driver behind entering (and potentially dominating) new markets.

Technology is the single biggest enabler to employees, helping them research and act upon their ideas. Ineffective technology acts as a hindrance. This article is the case for how the Server-Led IT model offers employees more effective technology capabilities than the contrasting, yet well-established, Device-Led IT model that the majority of organisations have adopted.

It centres on two key aspects: making work faster and making work more accessible.

Making work faster

The unique configuration of Server-Led IT allows consistently fast boot-up and login times, even as end-user devices begin to age. It takes down the average time to start working from several minutes to seconds (literally); which might not seem like a lot, but it affects every employee, every day of the year.

Once logged in, the Server-Led model takes employees precisely back to where they were when they left; all open browser tabs, applications and files remain as they were left. The benefit isn’t simply cutting out load times, it’s the physiological factor of helping employees reduce the time it takes for them to get back in ‘the zone’ – which, according to this University of California study, takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds.

It takes employees 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to their work after a distraction.

When at work, the Server-Led model makes it far less likely that employees will lose work caused by crashed applications. Research from Desktop 365’s delivery partner, Atlas Cloud, found that almost one-third of office workers suffer from an application crash at least once each day. The same research also found that users working from the Server-Led model were 38% less likely to experience a crash. Why? Because the centralised model means computer processing happens on far more capable servers than is feasible on individual end-user devices, which makes crashes far less likely. On top of this, if disturbances through crashes are significantly reduced, then – as above – an additional 23 minutes of employee time is saved each time.

The likelihood of lost work is also reduced in other ways; for example, if an employee’s device loses power suddenly, either during a power cut or a battery running out. If this happens with the Server-Led model, the user wouldn’t lose their work; they’d just lose their connection to their work. The user would easily be able to pick up where they left off with either another device or when they have regained power to the original device.

Then there’s the dreaded Windows updates. Vitally important (to minimise security vulnerabilities) but a pain to initiate. Microsoft says the average wait time for a Windows update is around 30 minutes, but this can be much longer for older machines. Frustratingly, users don’t always get to choose when updates are installed, which leads to lost work or even failed new business pitches. Server-Led IT has the answer; the centralised model means Windows updates can be centrally managed, in one go, outside of business hours – meaning no lost employee time and no likelihood of lost work or failed pitches.

Desktop 365 also comes with a set of optional time-saving features, only realistically feasible with a Server-Led model, discussed in the next three paragraphs.

New employee challenges are emerging with the growth of SaaS applications.

Users now find themselves having to login and switch between numerous web-based applications, having saved work anywhere across the web. Research by McKinsey found that workers spend 19% of their average work week searching and gathering information – almost one working day a week. This wasted time can be vastly reduced with an overlaying interface that offers the ability to search all online and offline file storage mechanisms (e.g. Box, Dropbox and OneDrive but also on-premise and on-device storage) as well as a Single Sign-On solution that allows employees to launch approved SaaS applications in seconds, without the need for multiple passwords and logins.

Employees spend one working day a week searching for and gathering information.

The same McKinsey study found that employees spend 14% of their time communicating and collaborating internally. Again, this can be dramatically reduced with enhanced features, like collaboration workflows, to help employees get the feedback and signoff they need to progress their work quicker.

Employees spend 14% of their time communicating and collaborating internally.

Making work more accessible

Giving incremental gains to employees in situations where they’re already at work is beneficial, but the real productivity gains can be sought by making more employees able to do work in more situations. It can get more out of employees in terms of time but also, and perhaps more crucially, in terms of ideas.

That’s what making work more accessible is all about.

With the traditional model of IT, Device-Led, employees are more-or-less tied to their primary work devices (i.e. the computer they’re given on their first day). In any of the many possible situations where an employee finds themselves without that device – whether expected or unexpected – they won’t be able to do their work, nor will they feel an obligation to do any work. That’s not-so with the Server-Led IT.

The BBC predicts that the UK economy loses up to £1bn a day on snow-impacted days. In situations like this, companies running Server-Led IT would reasonably be able to ask employees to login to their work from home, using a personal device, and continue work without hindrance or security risk (side note: the model also seems safer in these situations, given the increase in accidents caused by snow). The same is also true for other unexpected external influences, like the office losing power or internet connection, refurbishments, or suddenly losing indirect necessities like running water. All a low likelihood of happening, but do occur, and when they do, a significant disruption.

External influences are comparatively a small factor on work time though. Employees’ personal circumstances, however, can add up when you factor in illness, childcare and other family issues. By giving employees the ability to quickly log in and out of their work from any available device, you increase the likelihood that they will be able to do some – or any – work when such issues take place.

Giving employees the opportunity to access their work in more places makes them more likely to work.

Travelling is another situation that affects many office workers. External meetings, events and the relating travel can add up for many employees. If those employees are usually office-based, they might’ve been supplied with a fixed, desktop computer; meaning they can’t take it anywhere. For those with a laptop, they have to make sure they take their laptops with them everywhere they go – no matter how big they are. With Server-Led IT, they could take any device with them, even small, inexpensive ones with day-long battery lives, and be able to work effectively when they have personal downtime.

Perhaps the greatest impact Server-Led IT will have on productivity, however, is merely giving employees the ability to access their work very quickly in more situations (e.g. at home, from an already-on iPad). This, in itself, is enough to change the behaviour of when engaged employees might add to their work. That then becomes the difference between an idea popping into someone’s head in their free time and forgetting about it, and them actually seeing that idea through while the idea is fresh, by logging-in in seconds and making necessary changes.

Innovation is more likely to happen outside of the office.

And, because ideas come when people are relaxed and subject to varied influences, the best ideas are more likely to come when outside the office. Giving employees the ability to access work quickly is where real innovation happens, as employees begin to act upon their ideas as they happen.

It’s not necessarily just ideas, either. Giving employees easier access will make preparation easier and helping projects move faster, as well as generally improving employee lifestyles.

Perhaps an example might help paint the picture a little more effectively.

Example

 

You’re a sales rep, it’s Friday and you’ve been preparing for a pitch on Monday. The internal senior stakeholder you’ve involved gives you feedback on your deck after you’ve gone for post-work drinks, you see the email on your phone.

 

If your business operates the ‘normal’ Device-Led IT model, you’re tied to your single work device – which is in the office, and you’re at the pub. You have the option to cut short your social to pick up your laptop before the office is locked up, then make some changes to your deck at some point during the weekend, knowing it’ll take time to boot everything up and make the changes… or you could just make the changes on Monday morning and assume everything will be fine.

 

If your business operated Server-Led IT, you wouldn’t be tied to your single work device. You know that you can access all of your work from any device, you can quickly switch to it from your iPad when you’re surfing the net on Saturday morning. You can make some changes in 10 minutes then and send it back to the senior stakeholder so they can familiarise themselves with the changes before the pitch.

 

It might be a small difference but, now and then, that’s going to be the difference between winning and losing a deal.

The example is a sales example because it’s relatable to many organisations. The same can happen in other departments in different forms: someone from operations making a quick client change, an executive seeing through an idea the moment it happens, an analyst checking in on something, etc.

What's the catch?

The benefits of adopting the Server-Led IT model are obvious. Before diving straight in, it’s worth considering what you might be trading off in the process.

Two factors to consider are connection requirements and the delivery of the model itself.

The nature of the centralised, Server-Led model means it works more effectively when connected to the internet. While that gives many security-related benefits, it means employees will work more effectively with access to an Internet connection. It doesn’t need to be a strong connection (you can work lag-free over 3G) and nor does it even need to be a secure connection (as no actual data is transferred to the end user’s device), meaning employees can safely and effectively use public Wi-Fi. With the general high availability of connections these days, companies lose less work time when operating a Server-Led IT model.

Finally, as the Server-Led model is still (relatively speaking) in its infancy – and as it’s fundamentally delivered differently to traditional, Device-Led, IT – it requires a particular level of experience to be able to deliver effectively. Desktop 365 partners with Server-Led specialists, Atlas Cloud, as a delivery partner because they’ve been fully focused on delivering the technology for many years – having won numerous awards in the process. However, with a non-specialist team, you may find challenges with the delivery that could affect stability and, therefore, the performance of your business.

In summary

Moving to Server-Led IT unlocks an abundance of relatively minor gains when viewed in isolation. When added together, however, they can make a significant impact – a concept referred to as “accumulative advantage”.

The author of the above linked article offers a powerful analogy.

Analogy

 

“Imagine two plants growing side by side. Each day they will compete for sunlight and soil. If one plant can grow just a little bit faster than the other, then it can stretch taller, catch more sunlight, and soak up more rain. The next day, this additional energy allows the plant to grow even more. This pattern continues until the stronger plant crowds the other out and takes the lion’s share of sunlight, soil, and nutrients.

 

“Like plants in the rainforest, humans are often competing for the same resources… Companies compete for the same potential client… The difference between these options can be razor thin, but the winners enjoy massively outsized rewards.”

 

The One Percent Rule – James Clear

There are some organisations that don’t consider their employees to be a substantial factor defining their success and there are some that do. For those that do, implementing Server-Led IT (like Desktop 365) will help them gain accumulative advantage over their competitors, stretching further and catching more resource.

Server-Led is an established IT model yet still (comparatively) in its infancy. Microsoft Office 365 uses the Server-Led approach and is beginning to become the new standard for office applications; Desktop 365 is the same for your full suite existing business applications, broadening the advantages further and wider.

The sooner an organisation can adopt the approach, the larger their accumulative advantage will be.

Desktop 365 is the leading IT solution

Desktop 365 is a Citrix and Microsoft solution delivered by award-winning consultancy and managed services provider, Atlas Cloud.

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a managed Server-Led solution for a suite of office applications; Desktop 365 is a managed Server-Led solution for user desktops, files and any existing business applications.

Desktop 365 is an all-in-one, Server-Led IT implementation that uses Citrix and Microsoft technology, delivered by award-winning MSP Atlas Cloud

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About Desktop 365

The new standard of desktop computing, Desktop 365 is a plug-and-play Citrix and Microsoft solution – delivered by Atlas Cloud.

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