Citrix Workspace delivers secure remote access to 1,800 employees in just one week
Regione Veneto governs a diverse and vibrant area in Italy that includes more than 600,000 businesses and almost five million people. The current administration views technology as a fundamental element in serving companies and citizens in the best possible way. The decision was made to take on the role of ‘Polo Strategico Regionale’ [regional strategic hub] to support all other organizations through the challenging process of digital transformation. Naturally, the ultimate aim was to provide services to the region, citizens and businesses in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible.
While smart working was already on the organization’s agenda, Regione Veneto’s IT department had never used Citrix technology and no-one had expected to have to tackle a problem as serious and impactful as the global COVID-19 pandemic and the associated national lockdown.
“Like everyone else, we found ourselves managing a crisis,” explains Idelfo Borgo, ICT and Digital Agenda Director of Regione Veneto. “We had to equip 1,800 workstations remotely, with all the necessary haste and security. Basically, we had to provide home access to almost all of our employees.”
Regione Veneto immediately called Citrix, who responded immediately, making use of the infrastructure in the region’s data center but relying primarily on the cloud to resolve the situation with emergency measures.
“The idea of providing our users with a virtual remote desktop was something we had been discussing for a while and we had already carried out a few tests,” recalls Idelfo Borgo, “but then the pandemic hit, and the process was rapidly accelerated. I was named head of a task force charged with coordinating the implementation of services and technologies. Within a few hours, we solved the problem using the most immediate tools, including VPN technology.”
Regione Veneto faced some initial challenges, partly because the users and their hardware were all so different, and partly due to difficulties linked to setting up remote communication and support. “With support from Citrix and our partner, Infonet Solutions,” explains Idelfo Borgo, “we managed to resolve these issues and take our first major step in responding to the emergency.” In just one week, all of Regione Veneto’s employees were equipped with remote access.
While the VPN solution provided a rapid solution in the short term, it was unsustainable in the medium term due to obvious security issues (for example, the users used to ‘pass on’ the log-in details needed to turn on the desktop computers in the offices and activate the remote desktop protocol), as well as the inadequacy and diversity of the employees’ hardware.
“Fortunately,” recalls Idelfo Borgo, “we already had some practical experience of smart working as part of the European VeLA project [smart working for public administration] and the POLA plan [organizational plan for smart working], and we had chosen Citrix as our technology provider. Consequently, after the initial emergency phase, we started to plan the transition from VPN to the smart desktop.”
With Citrix Workspace, there is one single interface where staff can access all of their SaaS (Software as a Service) tools and web apps, making them easy to manage and deploy when needed. Additionally, all corporate data and files that users need to run a productive workday are accessed through Citrix Workspace, regardless of their location or device choice, with no compromise on security. This way, Regione Veneto was able to simultaneously resolve issues linked to security and those related to workloads, not to mention the difficulty of those working at home with a less than optimal connection.
“We tried to communicate the closure of the VPN and the transition to the new platform to employees in the best possible way,” explains Idelfo Borgo. “After some initial confusion, the level of satisfaction among users (and our IT specialists) is very high: now they wouldn’t give up their new virtual desktop for anything.”
Working side by side, Regione Veneto and Citrix succeeded not only in creating a user-friendly and efficient environment, but also in integrating several legacy applications into Citrix Workspace that were essential, especially for the work of the management team: remote digital signatures and financial management.
There are two lines along which the future of smart working is being developed at Regione Veneto: the implementation of Citrix Analytics tools to help improve the performance of the service and security, and the use of the cloud to lighten the load on the data center and make the entire infrastructure smarter and more flexible.
On the end-user side, there’s a strong demand from staff for a simple, unified workspace. Moreover, there is an effort to reduce the amount of time employees have to spend logging into many different applications to retrieve information and action tasks throughout the day.
With this regard, “We are already working with Citrix,” concludes Idelfo Borgo, “to integrate a series of microapps within the environment, and to have its technology communicate with Google services. We want to continue using the smart desktop to improve our efficiency, and to lead the way for all the other organizations that rely on us and our digital agenda.”