So at a high level, we all know that a CIO can add value to the way a business is run. We know that by managing the IT department and motivating IT staff, the CIO can keep the email system up and running and the network up and running. However, that is not good enough. How can the CIO really transform the company? What do you need to do to make a difference? Turns out in Ascend One, they know the answer to this question …
Who is Ascend One and what do they do?
Ascend One is a company that works with consumers who have accumulated a lot of debt. As you can well imagine, a key part of the service they provide is the agents who speak to clients who are drowning in a sea of debt.
Ascend One had a problem. Their contact center and staff were both a critical part of the business and a significant expense. In 2000, this part of the company occupied two buildings and was located near Baltimore, Maryland.
One of his biggest challenges was trying to keep the computers used by the 600 employees in his call center up-to-date. Every time the software they were using was updated, it was necessary for the IT department to shut down and spend its time trying to send 600 software updates to the 600 workstations used by the staff.
To make things even more challenging, the workstations used by staff weren’t getting any younger – as the software got more demanding, the end-of-life date got closer and closer for this expensive corporate asset. .
What did Ascend do?
Ascend One’s IT department knew they had to do something and do it fast. What they decided to do was bite the bullet and create a virtual desktop environment for their call center staff. What this meant was that the old call center agent PCs would no longer run their desktop applications, instead all the heavy lifting would be done on the backroom servers and only one browser would be needed to display the results on each PC. .
The ultimate goal of this transformation was to allow client agents to stop worrying about upgrading their PCs and allow them to spend more time credit counseling with their clients. Centralized storage and management of all their applications on virtual desktops enabled them to do this.
What about security?
You might have guessed it by now: An added benefit of desktop virtualization was that it meant that Ascend One’s call center staff no longer HAD to go to a fixed location to get their work done. There was only one problem: how could they securely access the virtualization servers from their homes?
It turns out that Ascend One didn’t want to have to send staff to each remote worker’s home to set up its bewildering array of different types of computers. Instead, what Ascend One did was sit down with Dell and explain exactly what the minimum configuration they needed was and then they created a disk image that allowed a computer to access their back office safely. Now every new call center employee is shipped a brand new Dell PC and it works right out of the box.
This has had the added benefit for Ascend One that they have been able to hire workers on the West Coast. This means they can run their call center for an additional three hours each day without having to work multiple shifts.
What does all this mean to you?
In the end, each CIO is judged based on the value they have been able to bring to their company. It’s not enough just to keep things running – you need to do things that actually make your business run better.
Ascend One’s IT department has shown how to do this. They faced a challenge in that their front-line staff were spending too much time on IT work and not enough on working with clients. The IT department implemented a desktop virtualization solution and it paid off.
As a CIO, you will have to keep an eye out for opportunities to add value to your business. It won’t always be the big CRM implementation projects that will advance your career, sometimes it can be as simple as finding something else to virtualize …