Wayne Homes is a residential construction specialist based in Uniontown, Ohio. The company builds custom homes from its portfolio of 1,100–3,600-square-foot plans on its customers’ own properties. Established in 1973, the company employs 170 people and serves customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia, through 6 regional divisions with 9 sales offices. Wayne Homes is a two-time winner of the National Housing Quality Silver Award (2010 and 2013).
In 2008, an employee group bought Wayne Homes from its parent company, Centex Corporation, and struck out on its own—just as the housing industry toppled into the Great Recession. Among the challenges facing the new management team was the requirement to immediately vacate the parent company’s network and datacenter. They needed new servers and workstations, and most of their PCs were at least five years old. In addition, the firm urgently needed to deliver better productivity tools to its highly mobile workforce. Its builders were in the field up to 70 percent of the time, and more than half the firm worked remotely at least part time.
What the firm did have was hands-on experience with Citrix XenApp, which it had successfully used for more than eight years to deliver a database application to its division offices. “I suggested we pull out all the existing servers and PCs and replace them with XenApp and thin clients,” recalls Mike Trumpold, director of information systems. “People looked at me like I had two heads; but then we ran a demo with a thin-client laptop and a 3G phone doing network communications back to our infrastructure. We ran a PowerPoint presentation and let everyone think it was running on the laptop. When we showed them it was XenApp, we suddenly had their interest.”
Ultimately, Wayne Homes deployed Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop running on a small Citrix farm at its headquarters. Most applications are delivered through the virtual desktop environment. XenApp provides an alternate platform for applications whose licensing models don’t yet fully support virtual desktop delivery. Thin clients and zero clients replaced all but a few PCs and workstations and have been supplemented with Apple iPads and iPhones.
“We are currently using XenDesktop 7,5 and XenApp 7,5 because we wanted the flexibility to deliver systems and apps to the locations where our users want to work,” Trumpold explains. “A home office user may want to access his desktop at home to catch up on his work, while a field manager may want to use his scheduling application on a tablet at a job site. Both want their tools and do not want to return to their offices to use them. XenDesktop delivers the home worker’s corporate desktop directly to his home PC, and XenApp delivers the scheduling application to the field manager’s iPad. IT has one place to go to manage both environments.
“We are about 85 percent virtualized with XenApp and XenDesktop,” Trumpold continues. “The remaining physical workstations are our CAD systems and a couple of IT systems. Everything else is either a zero-client or thin-client endpoint.” Citrix XenMobile, a more recent addition to the Wayne Homes environment, adds remote management capabilities for mobile and user-owned mobile devices that are mostly on job sites.
Trumpold and his team compared budgets for a conventional server and PC refresh versus a Citrix-based virtual desktop environment with thin clients. “The potential savings were so compelling nobody believed them,” he says. “With new servers and PCs for all our divisions, we were looking at more than $300.000. With Citrix, we budgeted $120.000 and said we would pay that back within two years. We paid it back in 18 months. We projected $20.000 in annual savings on electricity, and we actually save about $18.000. We said we would increase the operational efficiency of our IT department and we have. On our first major software rollout, we saved about $18.000 compared with our old environment.”
The Citrix-based mobile workspace solution, which includes both a virtual desktop environment and enterprise mobility management, has dramatically reduced the workload and increased the productivity of Wayne Homes’ IT department. “Now we’re not fixing user-caused issues,” Trumpold points out. “When a user gets a virus in a traditional environment, he’s done. With XenDesktop, most client issues can be resolved by shutting the machine down and starting up again fresh. It doesn’t mean we aren’t still fighting viruses, but we’re not continually rebuilding machines.”
The addition of XenMobile is extending IT efficiency even further. “We’ve been supporting iPhones for about two years without a management product,” Trumpold says. “If we wanted to push out an update or add an app, it meant everyone had to come into the office to sync up their devices. Llevaría semanas. We’ve just demoed a new app push to the entire phone fleet in three minutes. When our team saw that, jaws dropped.”
Perhaps the most important impact of Wayne Homes’ Citrix environment is reducing the drag of time and distance. “The first thing I tell people is that we’ve killed our geography problem,” Trumpold says. “We typically build at sites within a 75-mile radius from our sales offices. That puts a lot of geography between us and our builders. Our guys can easily drive 150 miles a day between job sites. We want them out there running jobs, not coming in for meetings or to make reports.
“We did a 2020 vision exercise some time ago, and our vision was to give our people what they need to work wherever they need to work. With the environment we now have in place, we can put every tool we have at the office in the hand of a builder at a job site. As a company, we are really excited about the innovation this is going to drive and the customer experience it enables us to provide.”
The greater flexibility and lower costs of its Citrix-based mobile workspace solution are helping Wayne Homes respond more quickly to new business opportunities. “If we want to set up a new office, all we need now are a couple of Chromebooks from Best Buy and a MiFi hotspot from Verizon, and we have a new division up and running,” Trumpold says. “That agility and mobility give us an operational strength that we really needed. I’m confident now that we can do anything we need to do.”
Builders at remote construction sites aren't the only employees who benefit from Wayne Homes' virtual workspace solution. Sales representatives, architectural designers, construction planners, purchasing specialists, marketers and customer service personnel all enjoy flexible access to the applications and data they need on their choice of convenient mobile devices. The result is a significant improvement in the responsiveness, accuracy and completeness in customer and partner communications at every stage of the sales, construction and support cycles.
Wayne Homes’ Citrix-based mobile workspace apps and delivery infrastructure have given employees greater flexibility to balance their professional and personal lives. “It’s true that people don’t work the way they used to,” Trumpold says, “especially the young people coming into our company today. They’re used to multitasking, to splitting up their professional and personal time in very different ways than old-school types like me. If they want to check their work email at home, I want to give them the tools to do that. Giving them that ability gives us a leg up on our competition.”
The next item on Wayne Homes’ mobile workplace agenda is expanding the data input capabilities of its iPad fleet. “You generate a lot of paperwork building a house,” Trumpold says. “Something happens on the job site and suddenly you need a schedule change or a new purchase order. Collecting that data from the job site and getting it into our systems in a more timely fashion is a huge opportunity to improve the way we work. We will be looking at how we integrate those tools onto our iPads, and I’m sure that Citrix will be part of that solution.”
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