Why VDI projects fail

First, I’m using VDI as a catch all term in this post for all Desktop Virtualization choices…I despise the term VDI, but I’m using it here because it’s the term I hear from customers most.

I wrote a post earlier this year that was quite popular, “How to Fail at VDI”. The first reason I listed was, “Start desktop virtualization not knowing the business problem you’re solving”. Now this list wasn’t necessarily in order of importance or frequency but in this case this is the #1 reason I see VDI projects fail. Failure comes in many ways, stalled projects, cost overruns, or all out failure delivering what users want and need. In my job I’m often brought in early on to discuss VDI or desktop virtualization initiatives with our customers and I’m quite frequently accused of hating on VDI in these meetings.

In order to learn about my customer’s motivations and expectations for VDI I frequently play devil’s advocate in my customer meetings to get to them to express the reasons they want to use and benefits they expect to receive from VDI. The reason for this is simple…many times the customer reasons for wanting to do VDI are bullshit, non-existant, of no substance…and are doomed to probable failure. In some cases what we all learn is that the customer doesn’t need VDI, they just need to virtualize some desktops on a hypervisor and use RDP to connect to them to solve the problem that they have.

So what questions do I usually ask to begin this conversation?

  • What benefits do (you, the business, the user, the financial decision maker) expect to receive from VDI?
  • What problems (you, the business, the user, the financial decision maker) do you expect VDI to solve?
  • How long do you expect this project to take? (pilot, user acceptance testing, production rollout)
  • What project costs have you budgeted for?

Then I just dig in to their answers and ask more questions, not to talk them out of VDI but rather to fully understand the problems that exist in their environment, the ones they’ve already identified VDI might help with and ones they might not even be aware of that could be solved or helped by a VDI solution. We typically talk about strategies other than VDI, whether that be continuing to do what they’ve been doing with a few minor tweaks, or other solutions in the stack like Application or Profile Management (depending on the customer). What hopefully happens is a discussion about all of the options that are available to them, a more complete understanding of the complexities of each solution, and ultimately a joint discussion about what our next steps should be.

Yeah, it doesn’t seem like VDI hating but in a world where vendors and VARs push product on customers it probably throws a few people off.

Recap – VDI projects fail because the there wasn’t a business reason to have a VDI project in the first place, not because there wasn’t one, but because nobody spent time figuring out what problem they were solving before they started.


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