Understanding The Desktop Application Landscape

When we discuss end user computing and the desktop we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the whole point of these things is to provide end users with access to applications and data. So, in order to deliver a truly effective end user computing experience we need to pay close attention to the application landscape of our enterprise. It is important to understand  the overall application landscape, so that we can make the best decisions about what end user technologies to deploy and how best to deploy them.
The worst thing that you can do is to assume that IT know what applications users need. IT folk have a bad habit of thinking that what is important to them – what looms large in their life of IT support – is what is important to the wider business. They therefore tend to think of desktop applications in terms of office productivity tools and big line-of-business applications. They don’t really know what applications are important to the business, and will therefore give a very partial and limited view of the application landscape.
The next worst thing you can do is to ask managers what applications their staff need. Mangers (as much as IT staff) tend to over simplify the desktop environment, though for different reasons. They will focus on what applications cost them the most, and which require the most management attention. In general this will also lead to them mainly focussing on office productivity and expensive line-of-business applications. They will ignore the multitude of small desktop apps that their staff see as essential and often don’t understand what their staff do on a day-to-day basis. If you rely on managers you will find a multitude of business critical applications have been overlooked.
The best way to understand what applications people need is to look at the applications they currently have. If you have a well-ordered software asset management system (and corresponding processes) then this will be a piece of cake. You will have this information at your fingertips. If, like most organisations, however, you don’t have good software asset management then you will need to perform some sort of discovery process.
Once you have figured out what applications are installed (or used) then you can go through the exercise of analysing what the applications do and what they are used for (not the same thing!) and, most importantly, who uses them.
All of this then forms the application landscape which will in turn inform and constrain the overall design of your end user computing environment. It can do this in several ways:
If any business critical applications are windows based, then you will need to deploy Windows as part of your environment.
If applications are browser-based they may require certain internet browsers (older applications requiring IE6 is a common issue faced by desktop modernisation programmes).
If most business applications are browser-based then this may weaken any dependencies on particular operating systems.
If applications can be virtualised then this increases your options around types of desktop deployments.
Conversely, if some applications cannot be virtualised then this will constrain your desktop deployment.
Some applications will require more powerful end user resources, perhaps more memory, faster processors or specialised hardware.
All of these factors will need to be taken into account before you can design the full end user computing solution set. If you can marry your application landscape analysis with an analysis of your end user use cases (such as I have outlined previously) then you will be well on your way to developing a comprehensive end user computing architecture.
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