When I consult with companies about virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), they often have a very specific use case in mind. They might be moving to flexible office space and want to give users access to their desktops anywhere in the organization, for example. Or, they might simply be refreshing their hardware and looking for a new long-term desktop solution.

However, I often find that this narrow focus prevents leaders from seeing the bigger picture. When considering VDI, organizations should ask themselves the following questions to ensure that they are taking advantage of all that client virtualization has to offer.

1. What Is Our Mobility Strategy?

For as much as mobility has done to transform and improve the way most organizations do business over the past decade, it’s somewhat surprising how many lack a clear mobility strategy. Not coincidentally, this area is often initially neglected when leaders pursue client virtualization.

For many organizations, it will make sense to pursue a full digital workspace strategy, including not only desktop virtualization, but also application virtualization and deployment of enterprise mobility management (EMM) tools. If users never perform work on smartphones or tablets, then desktop virtualization alone may be sufficient. Otherwise, organizational leaders should think carefully about mobility when pursuing client virtualization.

2. Who Are Our Users?

User group segmentation is an important piece of client virtualization, because not all employees will require the same tools and services. By studying which users work from home, which work on the road and which need anywhere, anytime access to their data and applications, organizations can adopt a virtualization strategy that will best support their workers. A “road warrior” salesperson, for instance, will likely have different needs from a receptionist, and they might both require a different level of access than accountants or human resources professionals. By putting in some time to assess the unique needs of all users, organizations can avoid overspending or underprovisioning.

3. Do We Really Need Full Desktops?

When organizations study user needs and behaviors, they sometimes find that their plans to provide full virtual desktops are unnecessary, at least for some users. When I sit down with customers, I often give the example of using an iPad or other tablet. It’s rare that a user will need to interact with the iOS operating system; mostly, they just need access to their apps. This analogy sometimes helps people see that app virtualization and other mobility tools are sufficient to meet most of their needs.

To be sure, some use cases call for VDI. Some legacy applications are nearly impossible to virtualize, and many executives want access to their full desktops (whether they really need them for their workflows or not). But organizations can take a hybrid approach, incorporating VDI only when necessary. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

4. What Is Our Total Cost of Ownership?

Cost is often a driver of VDI, as many organizations want to avoid the capital expense associated with replacing physical machines. But when executives ask me about the potential return on investment of virtualization, I have to ask another question in response: What is your current total cost of ownership? Often, they don’t know the answer. By calculating their current costs, organizations can better define their goals and gauge the success of their client virtualization efforts.

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