One of the most frequent conversations we've been having with legal sector IT Managers recently is how will the desktop evolve over the coming years? We all agree that from a user’s point of view the actual desktop itself will still be the familiar Windows 10 style interface for a good while yet. So the focus is more on how will that desktop be delivered? How will it be managed and by whom? How will user the experience change?
The driver behind these conversations is not only the ongoing process of firms and vendors embracing the cloud and the increasing mobility of users, but also software vendors moving to deliver their next generation applications via SaaS models, often built on public cloud platforms.
By software vendors taking control of their own platform, rather than relying on the clients’ own IT solution to house applications, firms have started to rethink not only what the desktop experience could be like, but also what a traditional corporate network looks like.
Currently firms are either operating via on-premise infrastructure delivering a traditional “fat client” desktop experience with the users’ own PC helping to provide the necessary computing power, or a “thin client / virtual desktop” experience that relies purely on servers to provide the compute power.
The recent and ongoing trend is of course for firms to move towards a Citrix Virtual Desktop solution. This is delivered from a cloud server stack incorporating the hosting of Domain Services, Applications, Data storage, Print service etc. Plus of course Email via Microsoft Office 365 or a Hosted Exchange service.
However, with most legal sector focused software providers now developing a SaaS offering – thus taking the need for application hosting away from a firm's requirements – organisations are questioning whether the legal desktop of the future will require a Citrix session to deliver the remaining services.
The future legal desktop
If your firm were to implement a comprehensive SaaS Document Management System to sit alongside a SaaS Practice Management System and a SaaS Dictation product, then with email already in the cloud, only your Active Directory (AD) services need to be considered and delivered separately.
In this scenario, a cloud AD service combined with a good device management tool that enables the IT management provider to install and remove app links and security services remotely, would be sufficient to ensure a fully functional and secure desktop experience.
In a manner similar to powering up a new tablet or smartphone, users would simply power-up a new laptop or PC and the required links to access the SaaS applications would be automatically downloaded. This process would run in parallel with the download of Active Directory configuration details, so that your users can quickly get up and running. This means no complex set-up is required, no desk side engineering needed, no multiple log-ons and no new user training to deliver.
Citrix would not be needed to deliver a Windows Virtual Desktop on top of the laptop Windows Desktop, thus both costs and issues would reduce, due to a more simplified IT architecture. The obvious name for this solution is simply the Managed Desktop – as apart from the cloud AD and domain and print services, only the user’s desktop needs managing.
Making the transition
So the benefits of a vastly improved user experience and much easier management of the desktop are hopefully clear with the Managed Desktop approach. But depending on your starting point, it may not be a straight-forward transition. In time it will be easy for most firms to adopt, as application stacks are simplified with a single PMS and a single DMS.
However, for many firms in the short and medium term, this nirvana of the desktop experience will be complicated by the presence of legacy applications that do not have a SaaS offering as yet. Or those that have recently been invested in or are being phased out by the software vendor.
For these firms it will be a case of moving slowly toward this simplified Citrix free future, via a Hybrid Desktop solution. This would allow your firm to simplify the user experience (and some of the support challenges) by removing the need to go into a Cloud Virtual Desktop. Instead, the delivery of legacy apps to the desktop would be achieved by other means. We're calling it Hybrid, as it mixes SaaS applications with Citrix-delivered applications.
By using Citrix technology, your legacy apps can be delivered in a style mimicking the newer SaaS applications by streaming each legacy app into a dedicated icon. This icon is presented directly on to the PC or laptop desktop of any user that requires it. For example, a legacy dictation product can be delivered straight to your users' local desktop, as an icon alongside new SaaS PMS and DMS solution icons.
So, as described above in the Managed Desktop scenario, your users would simply open a laptop and start working without logging on twice – firstly to the local desktop and then to a Virtual Desktop. 'Plugging and playing' a new device in this way will significantly benefit your central IT management team. They would simply use a device management tool to deliver the Citrix legacy apps along with the new SaaS apps, with no deskside or even live remote engineering needed.
The smallest firms will have a mix of up to 8+ applications supporting differing elements of the business, some of which will be legacy and others maybe SaaS. So, it is going to be a transitional process for firms to move to the 'Managed Desktop' and leave Citrix behind.
A phased approach to modernising the legal desktop is possible by first exploring a hybrid solution that will bridge the gap between the old and the new. Above all, this will still give your all-important users a desktop that much better reflects a modern, consumer-like experience of engaging with your key business applications.