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Centralized IT: The Backbone of a Decentralized Workforce




The appeal of a work-from-anywhere (WFA) model is undeniable: happier employees, a wider talent pool, and a potential boost to your bottom line. But for IT leadership – extending IT services and managing a scattered workforce can present a logistical nightmare. How can IT leadership ensure peak operational efficiency and ironclad security when employees are literally everywhere?


Pre-2020, when everyone, for the most part, was in the office, delivering effective IT services that kept employees productive was easier to achieve.  Some of the foundational operational tenants IT departments were built on were standardizing hardware, securing the network, and troubleshooting issues with a focus on reducing IT response times and improving issue resolution times. Fast forward to today's WFA reality, and every remote employee's location becomes a potential security weakness and a giant inefficiency monster. Home internet speeds fluctuate wildly, personal devices are a breeding ground for security breaches, and troubleshooting connectivity across a smorgasbord of setups makes you want to find a new calling in life, like gardening.  At least you can see those bugs.

 

Centralized IT: Not a New Idea but an Old Idea Worthy of New Respect, Especially for Work-from-Anywhere Environments


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Quick Breakdown of Centralized vs. Decentralized IT in Plain English


A centralized IT model puts all of your data in one place, like having all your employees in one office in one city.  Forgetting IT for a moment, having one location is easier to control and secure, makes collaboration easier with everyone working in the same space, and makes it faster and potentially less expensive to deliver IT support because IT can simply walk to anyone’s desk.  Having everyone work in one location can improve communication as you can see, chat, call, and go to lunch to engage with one another.  These are some of the virtues Work from the Office proponents advocate for.  However, centralizing everyone makes an organization less flexible for growth, as there is only so much space in any one building, and vulnerable to outages because a problem like a power outage for the building takes out everyone.


A decentralized IT model distributes data and applications across various locations, similar to having branch offices in different cities. This approach offers greater flexibility for growth – new branches can be added easily – and avoids single points of failure.  Think of a power outage in one town not impacting the others. However, decentralized IT can make data security and overall management more complex, like managing traffic lights in multiple towns with potential inconsistencies.  Additionally, collaboration might require extra effort as teams are geographically dispersed.


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The idea might seem counterintuitive, but the more centralized your core IT infrastructure is, the easier it is for the IT department to scale support to decentralized or work-from-anywhere employees.


Supporting end-users working from home, or what I call supporting rooftops, is the most difficult for an IT department to provide.  Why?  Because of the number of variables in each home or remote work location.  There is likely a different internet provider, different routers of differing ages between brand new and should-have-been-shot-years-ago, different bandwidth speeds, different Wi-Fi, different computers, different users sharing the network (think kids playing graphics and bandwidth-intensive games, or a spouse streaming movies), different distances to the office and paths across the Internet to “get to their work.”  Add all this to the known variables of where the corporate IT infrastructure lives, and IT has quite an array of potential sources to troubleshoot when you send in that one-line support incident: “Everything is slow for me.”


So how do organizations leverage the benefits and potential competitive advantage of enabling employees to successfully work from anywhere while making sure the IT department is up to the task and able to scale as the number of environments they have to provide some level of support for expands to every home and coffee shop an employee might choose to work from?


Centralizing your computing environment to the extent possible, which really means reducing the number of variables in play, makes potential issues that pop up easier to identify and remediate for employees. Minimizing any downtime also allows employees to stay at peak productivity as long as possible.


By centralizing your computing environment – think virtual desktops (VDI), Desktops-as-a-Service (DaaS) or cloud-based solutions like some Software-as-a-Service solutions – with the objective of simplifying IT operations, distributing maintenance, support and risk to other entities like MSPs,  and potentially slashing costs, while maximizing flexibility and productivity for employees.


  • Reduced Complexity, Faster Fixes: If every employee logs into a secure, standardized virtual workspace, with only the apps and permissions they need to do their job, no matter where they're working from, can you see benefits this can have on an IT team trying to scale to meet support needs?  This eliminates the need for your IT team to support multiple types of laptops, operating systems, and software configurations. Updates, security patches, and application rollouts become a breeze, saving you valuable time and resources.

  • Strengthen Security by Design: The dispersed nature of WFA opens up your network to a wider number of devices, more attack vectors, and security threats. Centralizing IT can improve overall security by design, like putting a steel wall up around your data. Data and applications reside within the secure confines of your centralized environment, significantly reducing the risk of breaches on personal devices. Plus, you get granular control over user access and permissions – an extra layer of security magic.

 

  • Cost Savings You Can Actually See: Sure, the initial setup for a centralized IT model can be more expensive up front than a more distributed model, though that is a hard claim to make considering the number of options for centralizing IT. However, there are long-term savings that are just as real and, I would argue, more impactful.  The only reason we buy IT “stuff” is because we all believe that computers with applications enable our most expensive resource, our employees, to be more productive than they were before computers and applications.

As a business owner myself, I am a fan of reducing overall costs, but not to the extent that cost savings hurt employees' productivity.  Saving a dollar upfront on an IT capital expenditure is no savings at all if it costs me $2 in productivity this year and repeats each year until the technology is decommissioned.  I am just paying interest on a poor IT decision.


From our own archives of building and managing centralized environments and work-from-anywhere environments for clients and their employees around the world, and in some cases supporting clients by fully managing their IT environment as well as managing their IT Work from Anywhere strategy, we routinely see a 50% and up to a 75% reduction in support ticket volume.  Beyond support ticket volume, one of our medium-sized healthcare environments (500+/- employees) achieved dramatic drops in initial response times and resolution times for their organization, returning $131,000 in productive time back to employees previously lost while IT worked to resolve their issues.  Centralizing and improving IT operations equated to 1.5 full-time employees in productive time being given back to the organization each month without one more payroll dollar being spent.


Here's some additional proof: A 2022 Citrix study found that organizations using VDI for their remote workforce saw a 30% reduction in IT support tickets and a 25% decrease in helpdesk resolution times. Another study by IDC in 2021 predicts the global cloud computing market to reach a staggering $671.5 billion by 2025. The message is clear: businesses of all sizes are embracing cloud-based solutions for a reason.


The WFA trend is unstoppable, but its success hinges on a few crucial factors, one of which is tied specifically to the design of your IT infrastructure.  Centralized IT models offer a powerful solution by simplifying management, bolstering security, potentially reducing costs as well as potentially creating a competitive advantage by widening the talent pool, taking great employees from less visionary companies, and being able to be more strategic about where employees need to work for maximum market advantage. By embracing this approach, you can bridge the gap between a geographically scattered workforce and a streamlined, efficient IT environment, unlocking the full potential of WFA.


Beyond the Basics: How to Improve IT Efficiency with a Remote Workforce

While the advantages of centralized IT are undeniable, successful implementation requires careful planning and great execution. Here are some key considerations:


  • Ensure the Path to Success by Having Access to Expertise that has made this journey before.

  • User Adoption and Training: A smooth transition to a new IT environment requires comprehensive user training and ongoing support. Don't leave your employees hanging!

  • Network Bandwidth: VDI and cloud-based solutions rely heavily on a stable and robust internet connection for optimal performance. Make sure your employees have reliable internet with sufficient bandwidth.

  • Security Best Practices: Centralized IT environments come with unique security considerations. Multi-factor authentication, strong password policies, and robust endpoint security measures are non-negotiable for mitigating potential security risks.

  • Data Residency and Compliance: For businesses operating in regions with strict data privacy regulations, careful attention needs to be paid to data residency requirements. Don't let compliance issues slow you down – we can help you navigate the complexities.

The WFA model is here to stay. By adopting a centralized IT approach, you can embrace this evolving landscape and unlock its numerous benefits. Through careful planning, effective communication, and a focus on user adoption, you can ensure a smooth transition and cultivate a secure, efficient, and cost-effective IT environment.


Ready to conquer the "anywhere" challenge and empower your remote workforce? Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how our centralized IT solutions can transform your business and unleash the full potential of WFA.


P.S. Download our FREE white paper, "The Ultimate Guide to Crushing the Work-From-Anywhere Challenge with Centralized IT." Learn the secrets to maximizing productivity, enhancing security, and saving money with a WFA model.


Click here to download your free copy!

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