The Citrix DaaS solution is supporting the fashion label’s Freedom to Flexwork strategy
Optimal user experience, a high level of security, and efficient cloud-based management: fashion company Marc O’Polo has adopted a digital workspace strategy based on Citrix technology. The solution, which was implemented jointly with IT service provider Provectus, proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic and will also play a central role in the company’s future work environment.
Marc O’Polo is one of the world’s leading premium brands for modern casual wear. Founded in Stockholm in 1967, the fashion company is renowned for its unique style and use of natural materials such as cotton, linen, and silk. The Marc O’Polo brand philosophy values individual personalities. “The freedom to be yourself” is the company’s guiding principle and underpins the corporate culture to this day.
To meet this demand, Marc O’Polo is investing in infrastructure, technical innovations, and a healthy working atmosphere. "Our goal is to create conditions under which our 2,000 employees worldwide can develop their full creativity and work together optimally," says Matthias Holzner. He is responsible for the deployment of applications and collaboration tools at the company's headquarters in Stephanskirchen near Munich and the further development of Marc O’Polo’s digital working world.
To facilitate timely delivery of the company’s eight collections to its retail partners in over 30 countries every year, employees need reliable access to a variety of applications, including, among other things, graphics and creative applications, as well as industry-specific ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software, which controls all production and sales processes. Some of these applications have been deployed with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops for many years. “Citrix technology simplifies the rollout of new applications and updates and enables designers to work efficiently with graphics-intensive applications such as Adobe Illustrator when out and about or when working from home,” says Matthias Holzner.
User experience has always been an important factor for Marc O’Polo’s IT department. After a ransomware attack at the end of 2019, however, security became a top priority. For several weeks, the fashion company’s IT infrastructure was crippled by an encryption Trojan. Following the attack, the decision was made to rebuild the IT infrastructure from scratch and ramp-up security measures.
The IT organization also decided to completely redesign the Citrix infrastructure as part of this. The new environment was planned and implemented with the support of IT service provider Provectus Technologies. A fundamental decision was the complete relocation of management of the environment to Citrix Cloud with only servers with virtual applications operated on-premises. “This ensures that all updates and security patches are installed automatically and that the environment is always up to date,” explains Matthias Holzner. Provectus specialists also recommended Citrix Analytics Services for the continuous monitoring and optimization of the security and performance of digital workspaces.
Planning for the new workspace strategy had already begun when COVID-19 struck, prompting further adjustments. Within days, large parts of the workforce were forced to work from home, and the IT department had to ensure that business processes could continue without interruption.
"With Citrix technology and the excellent support from Provectus, we were able to adapt very quickly to the new situation," reports Matthias Holzner. The infrastructure, originally designed for six servers, was expanded to 25, all thanks to scalable Citrix architecture. Provectus also used its expertise to map all user requirements and integrate all applications into the new digital work environment. From the user’s point of view, therefore, the transition was quite smooth. Essentially, the only change for the employees was the web address used to log in to their workspace.
All access to the new Citrix infrastructure is fully secure. The Citrix Gateway service encrypts all communication between the end user and the servers in Marc O’Polo’s datacenter. The IT department is not required to administer the access solution itself: the Citrix Gateway service is also provided via Citrix Cloud. “This gives us the benefit of maximum availability and a flexible pay-as-you-grow model,” says Matthias Holzner. “What’s more, the global architecture with globally distributed points of presence ensures optimal performance. Our team in Hong Kong, for example, is automatically connected to the nearest access point in Asia, meaning that, today, they have much faster access to all applications.”
Identities and logins for the digital workspaces are now managed via Azure Active Directory. This allows the IT department to implement security standards regardless of whether users access applications in the Citrix environment or cloud services such as Microsoft Teams. In addition, secure multi-factor authentication is also supported, which makes working from different locations even more secure.
Today, Citrix Analytics for Security plays a central role in Marc O’Polo’s security strategy. The service, which is supported by machine learning technology, continuously analyzes user behavior when accessing the resources of the digital workspace. In the event of suspicious activity, appropriate security measures can then be initiated automatically. “If, for example, a user who was registered in Stephanskirchen during the day logs in from an address in Asia a few hours later, the account is immediately blocked and our team is notified,” says Holzner. “The Citrix Analytics for Security dashboard gives us a complete overview of potential risks and uses traffic light colors to see where intervention is needed. Many actions can then be automated via policies.”
The new Citrix environment relieves the IT team of much of the ongoing IT administration work. Infrastructure components, such as delivery controllers, databases, and the management interface, are now managed and kept up to date entirely by Citrix. "We used to spend an average of one hour a day checking each system. Today, we can simply rely on the environment to be available and up to date," says Holzner.
The user helpdesk relies on Citrix’s cloud-based monitoring console to access comprehensive real-time data on the status of the environment and swiftly assist users experiencing performance problems. The Citrix Analytics for Performance service is also supporting Marc O’Polo in this. By aggregating and presenting all relevant performance data, the tool provides valuable insights and concrete troubleshooting suggestions.
"Analytics for Performance has optimized our user support,” asserts Holzner. “We can use it to find out very quickly why application response times are not satisfactory for individual users. In one specific case, for example, we found outdated software clients on the user’s end devices, which were significantly slowing down login times.”
Especially during the pandemic, the Citrix high-performance and secure digital workspace solution in place at Marc O’Polo has been integral to meeting employee requirements. In an internal survey, 89 percent of employees reported that remote working has helped to improve their work-life balance. This prompted the company to introduce a new workplace strategy entitled "The Freedom to Flexwork.”
With this strategy, employees will continue to have the opportunity to work remotely from any location two days a week. At the same time, work on-site at the newly established company headquarters in Stephanskirchen will also change. Marc O’Polo wants to focus even more on a matrix organization with cross-team networking. The aim is for the company campus to become a venue for meetings and agile cooperation.
“With the Citrix infrastructure, we are perfectly prepared for any configuration of the hybrid working world and can optimally support our flexwork strategy,” sums up Matthias Holzner. “In the future, thanks to Citrix, employees will be able to log in and work creatively from anywhere.”
The IT managers are already thinking about expanding the Citrix strategy even further by also integrating Marc O’Polo’s stores into the digital workspace infrastructure. The operation of virtual applications and desktops may then be completely relocated to the cloud, which will allow an even more agile and flexible provisioning of IT resources for employees.
With the Citrix infrastructure, we are perfectly prepared for any configuration of the hybrid working world and can optimally support our flexwork strategy. In the future, thanks to Citrix, employees will be able to log in and work creatively from anywhere.