The Land of Lincoln remotely delivers vital state services with digital technology

Industry: Public Sector |  Solution: Business continuity

State of Illinois

The Land of Lincoln remotely delivers vital state services with digital technology

Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.” The COVID-19 pandemic put that statement to the test in the State of Illinois, also known as the Land of Lincoln.

4,500
initial maximum capacity for remote workers

25,000
new remote workers

5th
most populous state

Business challenge

The state government’s IT team has been faced with rapidly transitioning an office-based workforce to remote work in the face of a global pandemic. “With COVID-19, the entire world is going through a culture shift at the same time,” says Ron Guerrier, Illinois CIO and Secretary of Innovation & Technology.

As incidences of COVID-19 exploded in just a matter of days, the magnitude of the looming business disruption became obvious to Guerrier and his team. COVID-19 and the government mandate for social distancing necessitated immediate remote capabilities at an unprecedented scale. Up to that point, the typical remote Citrix user base at the State of Illinois had approached 3,000 employees. The environment had headroom for approximately 1,500 more, bringing the total capacity to nearly 4,500. The pandemic and the subsequent need for the bulk of the workforce to transition to working from home increased that exponentially. The new normal would include as many as 30,000 employees working remotely.

The solution

Fortunately, the team had building blocks in place that would facilitate rapid conversion to a more remote worker-friendly environment; the state had long ago espoused a cloud-first IT mandate. “COVID-19 has placed a demand on IT environments that even cloud providers could not have anticipated,” Guerrier acknowledged. “We talk about elasticity with the cloud, but the reality is that elasticity is built on the idea that not everyone will need all of the resources at the same time. Coronavirus has challenged everything we know.”

Understanding the urgency of the situation, Citrix deployed a team of Citrix Consulting architects to provide immediate assistance. In this way, Citrix offered not only the technical solution, but also, the knowledge and experience necessary to implement the solution on a truncated timeline.

With Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, the team has enabled remote workers to interact with their familiar personal computers and devices. This strategy enabled the largest possible user base to get up and running at home quickly. The reality was that workers’ personal desktops are already set up for their daily duties – most already have the software that they need. The new access method also alleviated worries about interoperability – the kinds of issues that the IT team would expect to deal with if they had tried to re-platform all of the apps onto a Windows 10 virtual desktop image, for example.

In transitioning the IT environment to accommodate remote work, the IT team needed to ensure the security of sensitive data. Remote computers, including employee-owned computers, had to be able to access state resources, but there also needed to be security measures in place. The new environment is a facilitation of the zero-trust strategy that was already in place in the state’s IT environment. “We provide the workers with access specifically to the resources they're supposed to have – on their PCs. It's a kind of zero trust implementation against unforeseeable challengers,” Ford notes.

“Thanks to Citrix and our entire team of suppliers, we enacted a twentyfold increase in accommodating remote workers,” notes Guerrier. “In addition, we were able to immediately support an urgent public safety directive from the Governor of Illinois.” What the team also did was to turn a national crisis into an opportunity to modernize and prepare its environment for the future.

Results

Secure access to in-office personal computers

Citrix Gateway allows employees to securely access their in-office Windows desktop console while staying safely at home.

Enabled large base of remote workers to get up and running fast

Remote workers can interact with their familiar personal computers and devices, enabling the largest possible user base to get up and running at home quickly.

A zero-trust approach against security threats

Employees could do work from their home computers with less risk and without bringing unmanaged computers into the state’s network.

We were able to immediately support an urgent public safety directive from the Governor of Illinois. Thanks to Citrix and our entire team of suppliers, we enacted a twentyfold increase in accommodating remote workers.

Ron Guerrier
CIO and Secretary of Innovation & Technology
State of Illinois

About the State of Illinois

Named after the Native American word meaning “tribe of superior men,” Illinois officially became a state on December 3, 1818. The state is proud to have been called home by four U.S. Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. Today, the so-called “Land of Lincoln” is the fifth most populous state in the country with almost 12.9 million people.

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