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Anybody not tearing their rigid IT architecture down right now, they’re dinosaurs

May 4, 2020

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James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, a 60,431-employee Fortune 500 financial services firm, stated on April 16th,

"We've proven we can operate with no footprint," in a Bloomberg TV interview. "Can I see a future where part of every week, certainly part of every month, a lot of our employees will be at home? Absolutely.2

While uncertain about what life would look like after the pandemic, Gorman said the bank would need ”much less real estate” in the future.  About 90% of Morgan Stanley's employees have been working from home during the pandemic.2 Morgan Stanley is a large Citrix customer.

No more than 3.8% of the U.S. workforce worked from home before 2019.1 50% is closer to the real percentage so far in 2020.7  The world has changed.

Citrix Apps & Desktops customer, Barclays' CEO Jes Staley recently stated that putting thousands of workers in a corporate office building may never happen again. "There will be a long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy... the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.6

Barclays and Morgan Stanley’s shift are not unique, Citrix customer and Fortune 100-member, Nationwide Insurance announced on April 29, 2020 a permanent transition to a hybrid work model for its 32,110 employees. The insurance company will continue to operate four main corporate offices in Ohio, Iowa, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas, exiting other existing office space agreements by November 2020.  Employees in these offices will move to remote working or work from home status.

"We've been investing in our technological capabilities for years, and those investments really paid off when we needed to transition quickly to a 98% work-from-home model," Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker said in a statement. "Our associates and our technology team have proven to us that we can serve our members and partners with extraordinary care with a large portion of our team working from home."3

These forward thinking companies and many like them making the investment to increase IT flexibility with remote desktops and VDI technology from vendors like Citrix and VMware, find themselves positioned well to transition more of their workforce home permanently and shedding costs, like real estate and utilities, that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Once past the idea that some percentage of employees can and should remain working in a remote capacity, new questions come to mind with some new interesting answers.

Where should employees be working from? Should they be at home, should they be closer to key customers, vendors or key partners?  Does it matter?

Employees Expect a Good End User Experience no Matter Where They Work

With remote desktops or VDI, employees have an expectation that they can be as productive with VDI as their physical PC, Mac or laptop. Employees expect a rich, immersive experience anytime, anywhere, whether they are using a smartphone, tablet, thin client or high-end workstation.

COVID-19 has taught us that even though a lot of organizations did not have the IT agility to enable employees to work remotely immediately, working remotely is just the beginning of what is required for a good work at home experience. To remain productive, employees may need to be able to meet virtually and collaborate, replicating virtually what they did physically in the office. This pushes the edges of legacy remote desktop and VDI environments that have not been enhanced with NVIDIA GRID vGPU to handle the increased resource demands that graphic-rich and streaming media content places on these environments.

There is still a pervasive myth that GPU is not necessary for most employees even though every computer that ships with an Intel CORE I3, I5, I7 or certainly I9 processor includes an embedded GPU.

T-Mobile's Flexible IT Design Enables 12,000 Employees to Work from Home in 20 Days

With 52,000+ employees of their own (pre-merger) and a Citrix customer, T-Mobile began addressing the need to incorporate the ability process graphic-rich and streaming content over a year ago.  T-Mobile selected Nutanix as their primary delivery platform and began incorporating NVIDIA GRID vGPU technology initially for their graphic-intensive applications. As of April 2019 T-Mobile, made the decision to incorporate GPUs in everything for better performance and an overall better user experience.

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, now renamed Citrix Apps & Desktops, enabled T-Mobile to be more flexible with its technology delivery allowing for expansion anywhere T-Mobile saw an opportunity to bring new stores and call centers online with just an internet connection.One year later, the same Citrix technology that enabled T-Mobile to quickly spin up stores and call centers gave them the ability over two weeks in March 2020 to move almost their entire customer care workforce out of 17 call centers across the US and into a work from home model.

T-Mobile was able to determine technology needs and craft work from home policies for an initial 6,500 employees in 11 days. In the following twenty days 12,000+ were working remotely.5

According to a recent study by Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of employees have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely1 and some of the companies they work for may finally agree, now that they have seen firsthand what working from home looks like in practice.  Today there are an array of solutions widely available for companies wanting the flexibility to deliver a complete PC-like experience anywhere there is an internet connection, with collaboration tools, meeting applications like GoToMeeting or WebEx, and even applications to allow the trusty office phone to follow employees home.

There is no doubt that recent experiences will lead some organizations to dismantle legacy rigid IT architectures in favor of more flexible models that allowed companies like Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Nationwide, T-Mobile to successfully navigate the workforce displacement COVID-19 introduced and survive, if not thrive.

For the first time companies are realizing in mass that resources spent designing a flexible IT infrastructure not only provides needed flexibility to survive a transformational event like COVID-19, but also deliver direct savings and allow shedding of costs in other areas, most notably around the physical spaces they occupy.

I think Boston Red Socks' John Henry said it best at the end of the movie Moneyball, give or take my own tweaks for the present situation:

“Anybody who is not tearing their rigid IT architecture down right now and rebuilding it, using a flexible work-from-anywhere model, they’re dinosaurs. They will be sitting on their a**, on the sofa, in the future, watching somebody else win and take their business.”

– Val King, Whitehat (with a nod to John Henry)

COVID-19 introduced unprecedented workforce disruption in our organizations and exposed holes in business continuity plans most had never seriously contemplated before.  Whitehat Virtual has been helping new and existing customers alike respond to the present situation and develop plans to increase IT flexibility going forward.  If your organization's present IT capabilities, or its response to the workforce disruption caused by COVID-19, is something you want to improve upon we would love to invite you to the conversation solving these problems today so you can avoid them in the future.

The ACTUAL Moneyball quote:

“Anybody who is not tearing their team down right now and rebuilding it, using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They will be sitting on their a**, on the sofa, in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.”

– John Henry, Moneyball

1 [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service (ACS) data]

2 Erik Schatzker (2020) ‘Morgan Stanley CEO Sees a Future for the Bank With ‘Much Less Real Estate’ Bloomberg April 16, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-16/gorman-sees-morgan-stanley-future-with-much-less-real-estate May 4, 2020.

3 Adedayo Akala (2020) ‘More big employers are talking about permanent work-from-home positions’ CNBC May 1, 2020 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/01/major-companies-talking-about-permanent-work-from-home-positions.html May 4, 2020.

4 Chris Edwards (2019) ‘T-Mobile accelerates performance and saves money with Citrix WEM’ Citrix.com April 18, 2019 https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2018/12/06/t-mobile-accelerates-performance-and-saves-money-with-citrix-wem/ May 4, 2020.

5 Callie Field (2020) ‘Next-Gen Care: How T-Mobile Transitioned over 12,000 Care Experts out of Call Centers and into Their Homes in Less Than a Month’ April 30, 2020 https://www.t-mobile.com/news/tex-covid-response-callie-field-blog May 4, 2020.

6 Lawrence White (2020) ‘Barclays CEO says 'putting 7,000 people in a building may be thing of the past' Reuters.com https://www.reuters.com/article/us-barclays-results-offices/barclays-ceo-says-putting-7000-people-in-a-building-may-be-thing-of-the-past-idUSKCN22B0ZE April 29, 2020.

7 Erik Brynjolfsson, John Horton, Adam Ozimek, Daniel Rock, Garima Sharma, Hong Yi Tu Ye (2020) ‘COVID-19 and Remote Work: An Early Look at US Data’ April 8, 2020 john-joseph-horton.com https://john-joseph-horton.com/papers/remote_work.pdf May 4, 2020.

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