InsightaaS: Within the financial services sector, Michael Loftus is well-known as an expert in client technology, and in connecting users with IT-based systems through the effective deployment of client technology. After guiding workspace and infrastructure planning, design and client services functions at two major FIs, Loftus moved to create Hyper T, a new consulting firm focused on Microsoft, Citrix and OpenStack technologies.
The LinkedIn post featured today does a good job of reflecting the knowledge and passion that Loftus brings to client technology issues. In it, he examines the reasons why client-side Outlook is both a critical productivity tool and the key impediment to making client infrastructure more agile, less costly and easier to manage. Loftus recognizes the importance of Outlook (referring to it as "the most important and heavily used application in many firms"), but views the application - the "the "fattest" of fat clients" - as an impediment to the introduction of non-persistent virtual desktops ("the best bet for reducing desktop management cost and complexity") and as a significant factor in managing security and other issues connected with local client data.
Loftus urges use of browser-based email access systems - Outlook Web Access or the non-Microsoft option available from Google. The reliance of many users on Outlook plug-ins complicates use of these tools, but Loftus believes that the benefits gained through reduced IT support costs are compelling enough to prompt a change. He advocates a strategy in which OWA is the primarily mail client, and where IT uses other approaches to manage mobile devices such as smartphones. Loftus states that "there will be some loss of functionality" with this approach, but that "agility MUST be a key goal for all enterprise IT teams," adding that "this feels like a geek discussion but it needs to become a strategic dialogue," and closing with the admonition "Free your desktop! Free your IT staff!"
Ok ok I admit it. The title for this post is way too long and maybe a bit overblown. But I really believe it.
Outlook for Windows is the email client most people inside the enterprise use, and in some ways the "fattest" of fat clients. It packs a ton of functionality and features into one package, and when you couple that with large mailboxes, email and calendar management practices that seem like they were set in stone in 1999, and the fact that there are a myriad of third party integrations using Outlook plugins, you get the productivity application most IT support pros hate the most. Why?
- Outlook invariably becomes one of the top incident call generators in all firms. It is a very rare end user indeed who is not grumbling about performance issues/slowness. Now to be fair, although Outlook is a heavy user of local processing power and often impacted by PC configuration or state, a lot of the issues are caused by server side issues (few firms have aced running Exchange well) and the fact most people maintain massive mailboxes with tens of thousands of items. Oh, and a towering pile of calendaring practices and challenges rooted in an application Microsoft bought in the early 90's called "Schedule+" (sigh)
- Which then leads into the invariable morass of determining if users should be configured in something called cached mode (where email is downloaded from the server to the local PC) or operate in online mode (where email is accessed directly from the server). This then drives all sort of drama about email responsiveness versus message delivery times. and consumes a lot of IT energy...