So at a high level, we all know that a CIO can add value to how a company is run. We know that by managing the IT department and motivating the IT staff, the CIO can keep the email system up and the network running. However, that’s not good enough. How can the CIO really transform the company? What does he / she need to do to make a difference? Turns out that over at Ascend One, they know the answer to this question…
Who Is Ascend One And What Do They Do?
Ascend One is a company that works with consumers who have built up a lot of debt. As you can well imagine, a key part of the service that they offer is agents who talk to customers who are drowning in a sea of debt.
Ascend One had a problem. Their contact center and its staff were both a critical part of the company as well as a major expense. Back in 2000, this part of the company occupied two buildings and was located near Baltimore, Maryland.
One of their biggest challenges was trying to keep the computers that their 600 call center staff used up-to-date. Every time there was an update to any of the software that they used, it would require that the IT department shut down and spend their time attempting to push 600 software updates out to the 600 workstations that the staff used.
To make things even more challenging, the workstations that the staff were using weren’t getting any younger – as the software become more demanding, the end of life date drew closer and closer for this expensive corporate asset.
What Did Ascend Do?
Ascend One’s IT department knew that they needed to do something and do it fast. What they decided to do was to bite the bullet and create a virtual desktop environment for use by their call center staff. What this meant was that no longer would the call center agent’s aging PCs run their desktop applications, instead all of the heavy lifting would be done on backroom servers and only a browser would be needed to display the results on each PC.
The ultimate goal of this transformation was to allow the customer agents to stop worrying about upgrading their PCs and allow them to spend more of their time performing credit counseling with their customers. Centrally storing and managing all of their applications on virtual desktops allowed them to do this.
What About Security?
You may have already guessed this one – a side benefit of virtualizing desktops was that it meant that Ascend One’s call center staff no longer HAD to come to a fixed location to perform their job. There was just one problem: how could they securely access the virtualization servers from their homes?
It turns out Ascend One didn’t want to have to send staff out to each remote worker’s house in order to configure their bewildering array of different computer types. Instead, what Ascend One did was to sit down with Dell and spell out exactly what the minimum configuration that they needed was and then they created a disk image that permitted a computer to access their back office securely. Now each new call center employee has a brand-new Dell computer shipped to them and it works correctly right out of the box.
This has had the additional benefit for Ascend One that they’ve been able to hire workers on the West Coast. This means that they are able to run their call center for an additional three hours each day without having to work multiple shifts.
What All Of This Means For You
In the end, every CIO gets judged based on the value that they’ve been able to bring to their company. Just keeping things up and running is not enough: you need to do things that will allow the company to truly run better.
Ascend One’s IT shop has shown how to do this. They were faced with a challenge in that their front-line staff was spending too much time doing IT work and not enough time working with customers. The IT department implemented a Desktop virtualization solution and it has paid off handsomely.
As CIO you are going to have to keep your eyes open for opportunities to add value to your company. It’s not always going to be the big CRM implementation projects that will advance your career, sometimes it may be as simple as finding something else to virtualize…
Question For You: Do you think that eventually all desktops will be virtualized?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Global financial crises are no fun. Those of us in IT find ourselves just like everyone else standing around and scratching our heads trying to figure out just what happened. It turns out that IT may have been a big part of the problem – we are part of the reason that the crisis happened in the first place. What do CIOs need to know about this and how can it be prevented from happening again?