Many data center managers and administrators struggle with whether desktop and application virtualization are right for their companies. They aren't sure which users or departments need certain applications and which can be delivered through virtualization. If you're considering desktop and application virtualization and have such questions, it helps to survey your users.
Surveying a user community enables IT to make educated decisions about whether virtual desktops and application deployment are viable options. And if desktop and application virtualization strategies do make business sense, survey data also provides critical information that will come into play in architecting a solution. There are additional hidden benefits to surveying users. Foremost, users get to voice needs, preferences and grievances. And in turn, IT can communicate to users the benefits of moving to a new desktop/application deployment service, which creates user buy-in early on. And as far as user grievances, IT can get information ahead of time or identify prime candidates for moving to a new desktop deployment strategy. This allows IT to use a phased approach and communicate milestones of success.
After surveying his company's users, one IT director was able to categorize all users into six different use cases, which included those who needed access to two or three applications, those who used multiple computers, and remote and mobile users, among others. Not surprisingly, the IT group found strong correlations within departments, making a phased deployment easier. The company now has only two golden images for its desktops; has use case-specific scripts to add the required applications to the base OSes; and uses application virtualization/streaming for the two or three additional applications required. Implementing desktop and application virtualization has reduced hardware and software costs by about 10% compared with a standard desktop and internal support costs nearly in half. These numbers are pretty compelling cost justifications. If this company hadn't begun its project by surveying users, it would not have had the information needed to serve internal customers.
When creating a survey for delivery to thousands of employees, there is one crucial guideline: Make the questions simple, requiring yes-or-no responses. No one wants to receive and rifle through complex questionnaires with essay questions. Essay responses can contain good data, but analyzing it is nearly impossible. On the other hand, yes-or-no responses are easy to analyze but may lack vital information. The key to creating a successful survey is to divide the questionnaire by sections that cover the different topics on which you want to collect data so that questions are focused. If you ask questions with multiple answers, provide answers as checkboxes (i.e., "Check all that apply").
About the author: Anne Skamarock, a research director at Focus Consulting (www.focusonsystems.com), has been involved with computers and associated technology for nearly 30 years. She has recently co-authored her second book, Blades and Virtualization: Transforming Enterprise Computing While Cutting Costs.