The Kelly Group is the parent company of a group of businesses in South Africa engaged in the provision of comprehensive staffing solutions, effective and efficient workforce management and productivity solutions and skills development services.
In a fast paced, dynamic and highly competitive employment market, the strategic objective of Kelly Group’s IT team was, and continues to be, ensuring that the IT infrastructure delivers high performance for users around the clock, providing a “work from anywhere” environment, as well as ultimately reducing IT maintenance costs. To help its various operating companies become even more efficient, The Kelly Group implemented a virtual computing solution underpinned by a number of Citrix® technologies, including Citrix XenDesktop®, XenServer®, XenApp® and Receiver™, enabling staff to work more flexibly – at home, work, or wherever they may be –with desktops and applications delivered to each user, whatever the device they’re using.
Transforming user experience with virtual desktops
André Gross, Kelly Group’s group infrastructure manager, outlined the strategic goal behind the company’s planning: “We knew virtual computing was the best way to deliver flexible working environments. It would also help us gain a better return on our existing investment in what was a very sound underlying IT infrastructure.”
With a nationwide network of 75 offices in South Africa and a substantial operation in the USA, the group needed a strategic approach to harness the full potential of flexible working. By adopting virtual computing technologies, including desktop virtualisation based on XenDesktop, Kelly Group was able to transform its IT into an on-demand service, offering desktops, applications and critical data to over 600 office-based staff and 200 mobile workers mainly using laptops – across different locations.
Using XenDesktop, Kelly Group now manages delivers operating systems (OS), applications and data securely and centrally from the group’s data centre, rather than updating staff devices individually. Instead of managing static desktop images as before, the Kelly Group IT team can manage and update the OS and applications while delivering customised desktops and applications to meet each user’s performance, security and mobility needs, all from one central location. Devices and environments can now be tailor-made to suit a range of user needs – from task workers to fully mobile workers.
Kelly Group chose the Citrix® platform on application performance and resilience grounds. Working with its technology integrator, Integr8 IT, André Gross’ team virtualised all staff desktops, using XenDesktop 5.0 and XenServer 4.5 service pack 2.0, backed by XenApp® for application delivery.
As part of the transformation programme, Integr8 IT and Kelly Group consolidated the server infrastructure from 40 servers to eight machines running Citrix XenApp® for on-demand application delivery to all staff. Integr8 IT’s expert team ensured that key business tools such as Microsoft®Exchange 2010 and all dependent applications were delivered to each user’s end device in high definition. In another breakthrough for Kelly Group, the implementation also used standard granular policies for centralised management and secure and fast data access from any point on the network.
To allow staff to work flexibly from anywhere, on any device, at any time, Kelly Group implemented Citrix Receiver™. Installed by each user on their chosen device, Receiver ensures they can access system data and applications easily and securely via any device, allowing mobile and home-based working.
As well as giving all Kelly Group users a better user experience and greater flexible working options, the Citrix virtual computing solution has greatly simplified system administration. IT staff can set up an administration console from anywhere to monitor the network or respond to any user support issues. Gross commented: “It’s all very simple now – we set up the IP connection and the user is in.”
Benefits – workplace transformation and cost savings
The programme has centralised users’ desktops and applications and transformed performance and reliability, whilst IT maintenance time and costs have been reduced by as much as R2.5million per year. The Kelly Group workforce is more flexible, collaborative and productive. Whether recruitment consultants, project managers or back office teams, staff can now work from any device, anywhere on the network. While many work teams had previously operated in ‘silos’ that were limited in their ability to share data, they can now swap information as inter-company collaborations or work deadlines demand.
Whereas different group offices had to go through a process when carrying out tasks like printing documents, this area is now totally streamlined. André Gross and his colleagues can standardise permissions on printers, boosting performance and reliability. Gross explained: “We print thousands of invoices and statements every year. We’ve had zero issues since XenDesktop went in, which is quite a feat.”
Users also enjoy a better experience when using core business tools. Group teams that depend on collaborative meetings or interviewing candidates via video have higher quality applications through their desktop environment, despite bandwidth being at a premium. Applications like K-log (Kelly Group’s powerful people resource planning tool) runs smoothly over virtualised desktops with real time updates, giving users greater reliability and flexibility.
André Gross said: “We’re also running YouTube and animated PowerPoint from anywhere and the quality is a sight to behold. We have fulfilled the goal of applications provided on a standard basis to different office-based and home workers working on any PC device.”
Group-wide system maintenance can now be carried out through automated sessions on Saturdays. The IT team finishes group-wide software updates in a single weekend, rather than phasing them over months as before. Monthly helpdesk calls have plummeted from between 7,000 and 8,000 to between 1,200 and 1,600 calls per month. This transformed system control has delivered operational cost savings of R2.5 million in the last 12 months, with R7.5 million cut over the last three years.
Gross says: “Our workforce is more productive and experiences a better work-life balance through desktop virtualisation. This, in turn, has enabled us to be far more attentive to our stakeholders’ needs.”