I joined Westerra about five years ago and really came in to improve efficiencies. I started upgrading infrastructure, building things for scale and growth, aiming to do things efficiently and securely. I had prior experience using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in a call center and the administration effort went down tremendously with VDI. We started looking at how we could leverage that type of technology in Westerra’s environment.
We began the normal processes of reviewing available options, looking at providers, costs and benefits, and any sort of roadblocks that might come up. The process took a few years since modernization wasn't a high priority. We were getting by and managing without any issues so the urgency wasn’t there.
As we continued to grow the business, our team was being asked to do more, but we didn't have more people. When that happens, you either make things more efficient or you hire more people ─ I'm always a fan of finding efficiencies first.
We got to the point where we were ready to make some decisions and get some testing going. We did a proof of concept and started to think “Okay, this is gonna work for us, we're ready to go down this path.” And that's when the pandemic hit.
We started out 2020 like most people ─ we had plans. We had the year laid out with projects on the roadmap and everything planned as best as could be at the beginning of the year. Then March hit and everything shut down.
All our transformation plans had to be put on hold because our first priority was to get our staff working from home. Anything that didn’t directly align to that was put aside.
We got people working from home in whatever way we could, whether that was giving them PCs to take home or laptops. We bought Chromebooks, which worked out for a couple weeks. Come May or June, we realized this wasn't going away as quickly as everybody had hoped. What was initially planned for three to four weeks became eight to 12 — and there was still no end in sight.
So we decided to change gears and start thinking about permanent remote work. We’d found that people were still efficient, were more effective in some aspects, and their stress was less because there was no commute. We were seeing the benefits of remote work so we made the decision to let everybody stay home if their role allowed it. We determined which roles could work remote, which couldn’t, and then we updated our existing structure to move everybody to laptops.
During our initial COVID-19 response, we gave people whatever devices we could, including PCs and Chromebooks. When we decided to allow remote work on a permanent basis, we took the next few months to bring everyone up to the same standard. So there was a big push for equipment, which Insight was vital in acquiring. We got all that taken care of and were good to go by the end of August.
Next, we started looking at everything we’d planned for the year and re-evaluating what still made sense. One of the initiatives we’d had on the roadmap was VDI. With everyone now working from home, the value of VDI was more obvious than ever. It would allow us to push applications remotely, maintain better control and give employees a virtual desktop versus a full-powered laptop. So VDI became a priority again.
We engaged Insight professional services to partner with our team to get a VDI environment stood up using VMware Horizon. We were able to accomplish that by September and that’s when we stopped and asked ourselves, “What do we do with the 200 people that are sitting at home with laptops now?” The management of those devices was getting cumbersome simply because they were all remote ─ they weren’t sitting on our own network anymore. We wanted to improve our controls, have better insight and manage them better.
We decided to look for a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, which would make management simpler and allow our workforce to use their personal devices. A couple of years prior, we’d looked at VMware Workspace ONE as an MDM for a very small segment of employees with mobile phones. At the time, it didn't make sense for such a small group of mobile users.
After the advent of the pandemic, we re-evaluated Workspace ONE and our team found that it now made sense to use Workspace ONE to manage all our endpoints, not just mobile devices. So that became our new direction in the fourth quarter of 2020. We’re anticipating that Workspace ONE will give us the full ability to manage all devices more efficiently, add security where needed and also allow flexibility for employees to use other types of devices.
Like with our VDI deployment, we leveraged some new hardware and ran into an unknown issue. It wasn’t anything Insight or VMware were responsible for, but our Insight team worked with us and the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to figure out the issue. Insight was able to leverage their relationship with the OEM to get things escalated and get it resolved.
Because Insight was the driving factor between all of the relationships (we bought the hardware, VMware licensing and professional services through Insight), when we ran into this issue, we were able to work through it faster. We ended up finding a bug in some code within the OEM's platform. We fixed it, removed it, got everything up and running, and still met the time frame.
No implementation is ever going to be perfect. Things are going to happen and it's how you respond to it that makes the difference. In the 20 some years I've done this, I've never had one go completely smooth, but how you respond to disruption is more important than your ability to say you can deliver because, at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding.
Whatever you do, whether it’s IT modernization, digital transformation or whatever buzzword you want to use, the bottom line is that it has to make sense for your organization. Don't just implement technology for the sake of technology; put solutions in place that have a purpose to help the organization.
Anyone can sell me stuff, right? But a good partner will take the time to understand what the business needs and build a relationship. Insight talked with us for two years before we pulled the trigger on VDI. Not everybody would have done that, but they understood the process and where we were going and worked with us to deliver what we needed, when we needed it.