The Psychology Behind Taking Desktops Virtual

Our great friend and strategic partner, Michael Fraser of VDI Space  posted a great article on LinkedIn today about the psychology aspect of going virtual (cross-posted by permission):

The Psychology Behind Taking Desktops Virtual

Desktop virtualization is not a new technology; it has been around for years. The desktop is going through radical change. Think of desktop virtualization as puberty. I can sum it as one phrase – RADICAL CHANGE. What end user likes CHANGE, let alone RADICAL CHANGE? There is a true emotional attachment to the desktop. An end user is like a teenager, in the sense of the fact that they feel an entitlement to have their desktop setup however they want, and if they cannot, they will try every way to rebel and customize their system. A lot of organizations have their users all setup as administrators, so like a teenager, can you imagine if you had total freedom, and then one day that freedom is taken away. How would a teenager react? They would be very angry. This is how end users view desktop virtualization. Even the smallest change can send end users off the deep end. This is not the end users fault. It is human nature to dislike change. The one sure thing in the technology world is change. Realizing this, we need to dish out what we as IT professional have a hard time doing, compassion. Now, I am not trying to be all new age when I say this. We have to realize that change is difficult, so we need to do things that will help mitigate the end users stress levels when going through this major shift in how end users will be using their desktops.

The desktop is a very intimate tool for end users. It is something they spend more time with than their own family. This creates an emotional bond. The traditional desktop is a tangible object; a user can reach out and touch it, and make it their own.

Do you remember when you bought your first new computer? When that computer arrived you took it out of the box, and you took ownership of it not only physically but also subconsciously. You imprinted on it, and made it yours, an extension of yourself. Well this is how almost all end users view their own desktop, an extension of themselves. They sort their icons a specific way. They line up apps just like they want on the taskbar. There is a picture of their family on vacation on their desktop. The personal emotional connection to their desktop is real. So we need to put this into perspective when we look into desktop virtualization. There has to be a plan in place to ensure that the transition to desktop virtualization is somewhat transparent to users.

A proof of concept is the best way to start, and involve the end users to help gain trust in the difficult transition. Pick from all different kind of users to do the POC. The most difficult users, those who will give good feedback, power users, you get where I am going. Do not just go with the easiest users, as they might get the POC to go from a concept to production, but you will run into issues when the power users complain and ask management to rip the entire system out. Trust me, it will happen.

One of the main drivers to get an organization to go to desktop virtualization is Windows 7 or 8 upgrade. This by itself is RADICAL CHANGE from Windows XP (now past EOL), or from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Now you can deploy Windows 7 or 8 virtual desktops, but what of the end user experience? Their current desktop might be converted to a thin client, or an actual thin client will be installed. Existing monitors will be used, because they still work. But something is missing, all of those little apps the end user installed themselves are nowhere to be seen. The desktop icons look like a war zone, complete chaos to the end user. Things get worse, as there is a whole new interface that is completely foreign.

What does the end user think now about the virtual desktop deployment? Remember perception is everything, and you only have one chance to win over the end user, and that is the first time they have to log into their virtual desktop.

Now you can see why a POC is important right out of the gate before a production deployment. It helps vet out a lot of these underlying user issues. There are always tweaks to the new environment, but remember the old adage, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”.

The next step is to take virtual desktops to the cloud. The biggest hurls, Microsoft licensing and user experience. Stay tuned to additional articles on Desktops-a-a-Service. 🙂


To read more blog posts by Michael Fraser please head over to VDI Space’s blog.

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