Not-for-profit property management and development company Places for People has virtualised its workforce with a desktop and mobile working plaform from Citrix.

Founded in 1965, Places for People has over 5,000 employees and assets worth more than £3 billion, owning or managing 143,000 properties across the UK.

When the organisation decided to reduce the number of its offices from 35 to 21, head of IM&T Jon Thomson saw an opportunity to review the company's IT.

"It was imperative that we had an IT system that would support our mobile workforce," said Thomson. "With a quarter of a million customers and 143,000 properties, they don't have the time, nor should they need, to travel to use technology."

Places for People moved to a Citrix XenDesktop environment to enable and secure efficient mobile working. The cloud-based, virtual desktop environment best met the business, operational and employee needs of the company, said Thomson.

"We worked with our IT partner Open Reality to establish the best virtual environment for us and that was a solution based on Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp."

Following a successful proof of concept, Open Reality delivered a full implementation that included Citrix Receiver, enabling Places for People to launch a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.

A single, secure virtual desktop - tailored to the specific needs of each workforce - is managed centrally, significantly reducing management and administration time whilst enhancing data security.

The IT team can now quickly and flexibly provision additional desktops and virtual applications across the company's sites.

The Citrix solution also improves Places for People's disaster recovery capability. In the event of any outage, the IT team can quickly redirect virtual machines to a back-up server ensuring recovery.

Replacing an ageing PC estate with thin client devices resulted in an initial capital saving of £550,000. As a result of this change Thomson said the organisation was also able to reduce annual support costs by £55,000, and that energy costs have been reduced by £120,000 per year.

Field staff can now log issues as they work, using smartphones or tablet devices. Removing the need to visit a physical office has not only made staff more productive, but has also increased the speed with which responses can be made.

Logging issues and checking information in the customer or tenant's presence has further improved customer satisfaction.

"Feedback from the field has made it clear that technology is now aiding, and not hindering, day-to-day functionality. In the two years since introducing the virtual IT infrastructure, customer satisfaction levels have never been higher," said Thomson.

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