Cloud technology is becoming more utilised than ever as business leaders are committed to creating a modern digital workspace for employees. Mark Gwynne, IT Director, Severn Trent, tells us how the leading water company implemented Citrix’s technology to deliver a consistent, high-performance experience that would keep its employees engaged and productive while working from home.
As part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, Severn Trent must always be on. So when the global pandemic hit, the water company quickly moved to keep things flowing. In the face of work-from-home mandates, Severn Trent knew it would need to provide its employees with a simple, secure and reliable way to access the systems and information they need to do their jobs from anywhere, using any device. And it turned to Citrix Systems and its partner, Microsoft, for help.
“As soon as the lockdown happened, the majority of our office workers, wherever possible, were sent to work from home,” said Mark Gwynne, IT Director, Severn Trent. “And we had to ensure we could deliver a consistent, high-performance experience that would keep them engaged and productive.”
A modern digital workspace
Severn Trent decided to move to the cloud and with the help of Citrix Cloud Services enabled a modern digital workspace running on Microsoft Azure with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops at its core.
Delivered as part of Citrix Workspace, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops enables organisations to serve up personalised access to the systems, information and tools their employees need to do their best work in one unified experience and dynamically apply security policies based on a user’s behaviour and environment so they can work when, where and how they want with the confidence that their applications, information and devices are safe.
A productivity boost
The solution is delivering results. “What stands out across the organisation is the personal productivity improvements that have been enabled by Citrix – especially the optimisation for Microsoft Office tools like Teams that help people work and collaborate virtually without feeling isolated,” said Sam Roberts, Cloud Team Leader, Severn Trent. “In our current circumstances, that has been absolutely key.”
A familiar face
Also critical is the familiar experience Severn Trent is able to deliver through Citrix, regardless of where an employee is working. “Our staff use exactly the same desktop as they used in the office and it performs consistently,” said Roberts.
Severn Trent joins more than 400,000 organisations around the world that are using Citrix digital workspace solutions to transform the employee experience and deliver the future of work.
We caught up with Mark Gwynne, IT Director, Severn Trent, to find out more about the implementation and how it has transformed business operations.
Can you give an overview of your role and the scope of your responsibility at Severn Trent?
I am responsible for all operational services across the technology function for first, second and third line support activities. As a result, I look after the underlying infrastructure and applications used across the organisation – spanning all of our business operations and the specialist providers we work with on a regular basis.
No matter the unexpected business disruptions, Severn Trent needs to stay operational to continue serving our 8 million customers with fresh water and waste-water services. As such, a major part of my role is handling all the technical issues that occur across our 8,000 user bases, including both employees and the third-parties using our applications from our extended partner network, to ensure business operations run smoothly.
Why did you select Citrix as the technology vendor?
We have worked with Citrix for more than 15 years and always had a very positive experience. In this instance, Microsoft also recommended working together with Citrix on our desktop strategy – providing further validation that Citrix was the right partner for us.
The commitment from Citrix was evident from the strong consultancy, engagement and proactivity which it brought to the table. You know you’re in safe hands in terms of what you’re doing, the speed at which you can do it and the level of support you have once it’s operational.
How does the Citrix solution enable you to deliver a consistent, high-performance experience to your employees?
To improve our agility, performance and employee experience, we undertook a major migration project to move our existing Citrix desktop environment to the Microsoft Azure Cloud. We worked closely with Citrix Consulting Services and Microsoft to ensure a seamless migration.
Our strategy has been to provide one common desktop and, importantly, a consistent and positive user experience for all employees. With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops – delivered as part of Citrix Workspace – all staff use exactly the same desktop they used in the office. They can access the systems, information and tools they need in one unified experience, from anywhere and on any device.
The agility we achieved with Citrix and Microsoft Azure was a godsend when COVID struck. Employees could continue working as normal from home, using any device with a browser so they could install Citrix Workspace. Like with any major change programme, there were some challenges for us to work through at the beginning of the transition, however, we are now in a great place. Even with staff relying on home broadband, we are seeing a noticeable difference in speed and login times which are much shorter now compared to when we started the engagement. From a usability perspective, desktop performance has improved massively.
Where staff didn’t have a device at home, we sent out low-cost Chromebooks and were able to quickly get them up and running with the same performance they had in the office. The Citrix Consulting team was incredibly helpful and even ensured our virtual desktops were optimised for more specialist demands, such as engineers working on CAD and geographical information system (GIS) applications.
Working with Citrix to migrate our desktops from on-premise to the cloud enabled us to provide our colleagues with a consistent, high-performance experience that would keep them engaged – even during such a turbulent time. With Citrix, we can also now dig deeper into user experience, even monitoring the user experience of each individual on their desktop. That visibility will enable us to keep offering staff the best possible experience.
How would you describe your current technology posture since the implementation?
Moving to the cloud and enabling a modern digital workspace with Microsoft Azure and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops has transformed our technology posture in terms of security, scalability and speed of innovation.
As well as deploying the solution, Citrix is providing us with an ongoing managed desktop service. As a result, we know we have a stable, reliable and secure system which will always be on the latest version with security patches applied. With Citrix, we have more stability for our tier zero, critical service than when we managed it ourselves, which is vital for us as a provider of critical national infrastructure. Switching to a managed cloud service with Citrix also removed a lot of the admin tasks we used to do ourselves, enabling the team to dedicate more time to innovating and improving processes.
Additionally, migrating to Citrix on Azure has given us the agility to respond quickly to changing business needs. Deploying more servers into an on-premise estate is a pretty lengthy process, but doing that in Azure with Citrix Cloud services is seamless. We can scale up and down whenever it is needed. We don’t have to anticipate what the business might want to do next, because being in the cloud cuts lead times from months to minutes.
Our technology posture has evolved hugely and all with substantial annual savings. We’ve closed down a data centre and removed racks we managed in our colocation facility. Beyond the benefits to our technology posture, there’s a definite cost advantage in switching so we only use what we need when we need it.
What do you believe is most important in the vendor-end-user relationship?
The best vendor-end-user relationships are seamless and involve total trust. There should be no ‘them’ and ‘us’. Instead, we want to work with vendors as if they are an extension of our workforce. We achieved this with Citrix Consulting Services and continue to view Citrix as a core part of the team that keeps Severn Trent up and running.
How do you plan to evolve in the future?
Severn Trent is moving to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) first model and we have some big plans. For instance, we are pressing forward with ‘contact centre as a service’ and everything that involves, such as moving our telephony platform to the cloud. We’re also moving to an SaaS approach for SAP Success Factors, Ariba and others – delivering all of them through the Citrix desktop at the core. Ultimately, we want to keep innovating and creating an even better experience for colleagues.
How confident are you that the solution will allow for scalability as Digital Transformation takes hold?
Severn Trent is constantly innovating to provide colleagues and customers with the best experience possible. Citrix Cloud services provides us with the agility and resilience to respond quickly to changing business requirements and customer needs. We’ve removed the guesswork and no longer need to estimate when planning for the future. Instead, the platform will dynamically scale at a moment’s notice. I’m very confident that this will set us up for success as we continue our Digital Transformation initiatives.Click below to share this article