Finding internal champions for virtual desktops

The benefits of virtual desktops are too clear for many organisations to ignore, especially ones committed to pursuing cloud initiatives or a cloud-first philosophy. Virtual desktops can help increase cyber security, improve employee productivity, lower organisational overhead, simplify IT management, allow for remote workers and bring your own device (BYOD) programs and, in some cases, even help businesses achieve and maintain common compliance standards like PCI DSS and HIPAA HITECH. 

Since high performing virtual desktops require specifically designed, maintained and updated infrastructure, many organisations are turning to desktop as a service (DaaS) to realise the full range of benefits without complicating in-house infrastructure and hiring VDI experts. A fully managed solution allows companies to reap the benefits of virtual desktops without the added cost and resource drain, giving in-house teams more time to focus on higher value initiatives rather than desktop infrastructure. Opting for an outsourced provider may make the overall project easier, but internal advocates still need to get corporate buy-in to push the proposal through to approval, implementation and adoption.

 Whether it’s a business leader or an IT team leading the push for DaaS, a virtual desktop initiative will never be fully and successfully implemented and adopted without the buy-in of multiple internal project champions across the organisation. While it may be tempting to simply aim for high level champions, it’s important to get buy-in at a variety of levels. Finding the right champion at every level of the organisation will help you build a strong case for the change and push the project through to completion once it’s greenlighted.

Why champions matter

When pushing for a major change in “how things have always been done” it’s not uncommon to meet resistance. As the saying goes, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” But in the case of IT initiatives, being willing to make that leap to the next bigger, better solution can be key to staying ahead of the competition and even gaining a competitive advantage. So you need to overcome that gut-check opposition. The best way to do this is by aligning people to a common goal and getting them to buy into the change.

The reason you need a “chain of buy-in” rather than just one or two internal champions is because implementing virtual desktops is a transition that needs end user adoption as much as it needs corporate approval. It’s clear why you need to get business leaders bought in: If they don’t, your project won’t get the go-ahead. The wildcard comes in as you move down the chain of buy-in to the end users. Users will drag their feet making a change and find every reason to complain if they don’t see the benefit of this new way of working. If they never adopt the virtual desktops, your project has failed. You need both parties – and a few key champions in between – to make sure your proposal is a success from start to finish.

Who to get buy-in from

When building your chain of buy-in for a DaaS project, focus on identifying at least one champion at each of the following levels:

  • C-Level Executive – This champion will understand the business benefits of the initiative and can help convince other top level executives that it’s a worthwhile endeavor. They can be key in getting official approval for your DaaS project.
  • IT Upper Management – While DaaS has plenty of business benefits, when it comes down to it, virtual desktops are an IT project. If you can’t convince an IT gatekeeper that going virtual with an outsourcer is a smart move they will poke holes in your proposal left and right.
  • IT Implementation Team – After approval you’ll reach another critical juncture: Implementation. Even with C-Level and IT upper management support the IT team can drag out implementation if they’re not convinced this change is a good idea. Suddenly its months later and your approved project still isn’t off the ground.
  • Department Managers – You may think once your DaaS environment is implemented that the project can be considered done. Wrong. It still needs to be adopted and embraced to be considered successful. Getting department managers on board can go a long way in helping push adoption.
  • End Users – Even with direct instruction from a manager, end users still may not be happy or excited about the change and may resist and complain. Getting the buy in of at least one end user can have a positive impact on adoption as they champion the change to their peers.

As you can see, there are very specific reasons you need a chain of buy-in. Having the support of a C-level executive who gets the project approved may not do a lot to inspire the end users to adopt the new virtual desktops – and there are plenty of other places the initiative can get hung up between those two points. As part of your research and planning process identify one or two target champions at each level who you plan to approach.

Tailor your business case

Having a list of potential internal champions isn’t the same as actual buy-in. Building your chain of buy in is going to take some work and a very persistent approach.

The key to getting buy in throughout an organisation is to understand who you’re talking to and tailor your business case to their specific pain points and needs. For instance, an end user won’t really care that this change will save the company money, they’re concerned about how it will affect their productivity and day-to-day activities.

As an IT professional it can be easy to get caught up in the tech, security and management aspect of moving to fully managed DaaS. Those topics mean little to nothing to a business leader or everyday end user though. As you build you list of target champions, spend a few minutes brainstorming which compelling selling points are likely to resonate most with each individual. 

Here are a few talking points for each champion to inspire and guide your approach:

  • C-Level Executive – Focus on business benefits like the ability to decrease CAPEX in favor of predictable OPEX, easier scaling to meet predicted growth or known spikes, keeping up with workforce trends like remote working, access to talent outside the company’s immediate geographic area, faster time to revenue, tighter cybersecurity, easier compliance, etc.
  • IT Upper Management – Highlight what the move to outsourced DaaS will allow in-house IT teams to address since their time and resources won’t be spent trouble shooting and managing endpoints. At this level a mix of (IT specific) business benefits plus everyday workload benefits may work best.
  • IT Implementation Team – Here it’s all about how this is going to lighten an IT team’s daily workload. Spotlight what outsourced DaaS will take off of IT’s plate and how it will make it easier to provision and manage desktops. Bringing in the fact that they will be able to have happier end users because updates, upgrades, application deployment and other items can be done without touching individual computers (and thus not disrupting a user’s work day) can also be a compelling argument.
  • Department Managers – One of the biggest benefits of virtual desktops is that they make documents and data accessible from anywhere, anytime, on any device. This greatly increases employee productivity – something department managers care a lot about.
  • End Users – End users don’t want something that makes getting work done harder, so stress that virtual desktops will actually make it easier for them to work. For instance, if something comes up after hours, they can log in from a personal computer at home and access all their work documents – including any files they left open on their desktop at the end of the day. Depending on the company, the solution may make work at home, working remote and things like split shifts possible, increasing work/life balance.

Picking the right argument for each champion is critical to getting them to see the value in the initiative and lend you their support. If you’re not sure how to make the best argument, explain your virtual desktop initiative (in a way that will make sense to whoever you’re talking to) and ask what concerns they might have. Dispelling their biggest concerns can be just as important and motivating as playing up the project’s strengths and benefits.

The path to success

Shifting to desktop as a service can be a big change for many organisations, even ones that have implemented in-house VDI. Big changes require some heavy lifting and are prone to encountering more pushback. The best way to prepare for this is to have a team of advocates that can help you make your case and address any reservations. 

While you’re vetting possible DaaS solutions and preparing to present your proposal, work on building out your chain of buy in so you have internal champions throughout the organisation that have your back and can help you push your project past any roadblocks – or eliminate the roadblocks altogether.

Brady Ranum, VP of Products and Strategy, Dizzion
Image source: Shutterstock/bluebay