The Future of Work Is Digital Workspaces

We live in a connected age, where we have the flexibility to move around without ever having to be disconnected from our gadgets and devices. This allows us the freedom to access information that matters to us, on the go. In essence what that means is that all our data exists on an interminable network of technologies, ranging from home appliances to cognitive devices. This convergence of interconnected computing technologies is popularly known as IoT a.k.a. the Internet of Things. Gartner predicts that the enterprise and automotive IoT market will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints by 2020, which will further accelerate digital transformation initiatives. While IoT is playing a major part in digitizing enterprises, it is not doing this alone. Another offshoot of technology-enabled initiatives that are modernizing how businesses are run, is the Digital Workspace.

The Digital Workspace is a business transformation strategy aimed at aligning technology, business processes and employees. In more simpler terms, the digital workspace is a more productive alternative to the conventional physical office space. It empowers employees to remain connected to their workspace systems and data, securely, from any location, at any time, using any device. This is also a tectonic shift in the legacy IT policies that businesses were accustomed to, and hence it is all the more difficult to implement. With an eye on the desired outcomes, required investments, and ROI, if an organization does decide to embark on the road to becoming a digital workspace, there are a few things that they need to consider first:

 I.   Need Assessment

The first question organizations need to ask themselves is why do they need to transform into a digital workspace. This one is easy; because it is no longer about a choice between hardware and software, it is about the people behind it – the employees. Digital Workspaces have proved to attract, engage and retain top talent. And not just that, it will also stimulate productivity, cut costs, boost innovation, and optimize IT. These are all important factors for businesses to assess whether they can truly benefit from a Digital Workspace.

  II. Technology Alignment

Once the need has been identified, the next major task for businesses is to adopt technologies that provide the right mix of security, productivity, and profitability. There are various questions that IT leaders within these organizations must address before narrowing down on possible solutions –

  • How can new applications, processes and policies be pushed to employees?
  • Are the applications intuitive enough for the employees to use the first time, with minimal or no instructions?
  • What devices are the employees likely to use the applications on, and what operating systems would they use?
  • How can patches and updates be pushed to user-devices with high compliance rates?
  • What cloud infrastructure/service must be adopted?
  • Which applications can be single-sign on (SSO) enabled, and which ones need to have multi-factor authentication?
  • What measures can be put in place to protect IP (Intellectual Property)?
  • What features can be incorporated into the applications to increase team collaboration?
  • How can the technology architecture be leveraged to benefit data analytics and BI initiatives?

 III. Scalability

Lastly, it is imperative that IT leaders stay abreast of the evolving technology landscape and business practices, so that they can adopt and adapt quickly. A key consideration while deciding on what solutions to implement is to assess if the technologies used are scalable, or at the least easily replaceable. Businesses are very likely to fail if they have to overhaul their systems and processes, every time there is a wind of change in the market.

While there is a lot of talk around Digital Workspaces, there is still a lot of speculation and apprehension amongst IT leaders, around the feasibility and effort required in undertaking such a large-scale initiative. This is where enterprises need to consider service providers who have deep knowledge and experience delivering similar solutions. One organization that has led the digital workspace revolution is VMware. They have in fact identified five critical requirements for a Digital Workspace, which will help businesses build a strategy around digitizing their workspace. These include:

1.  Putting Employee Experience First

Businesses must centre their digital workspace strategy around their employees, providing impetus to employee experience. In order to do this, IT must take a design thinking approach, while considering employee convenience, device form factor, geographic flexibility, etc.

2.  Delivery of Applications – Anytime, Anywhere

It is crucial that IT adopts an ‘All the applications available, all of the time, at any place’ perspective, rather than a ‘Some of the applications available, some of the time, at some places’ view. What this means is that IT must ensure that they make available to employees all the applications that the employees would require to get their jobs done, remotely, through any device that is accessible to them.

3.  Modern Device Management

A unified endpoint management policy helps deliver great user experience. To do this, a device management strategy must be formulated. This will enable enterprises to manage multiple devices that have access to corporate data, and ensure that these devices have all the latest updates installed. By doing this, enterprises can secure access management and ensure compliance.

4.  Manage Experience and Security

If employee experience and security effectiveness can’t be measured, then it is impossible to tell whether or not the digital workspace initiative has fared well. Hence, it is critical that insights from data are pored over using big data analytics, to help spot patterns, trends, and gaps. This will allow IT to make timely recommendations for change.

5.  Automate to Succeed at Any Scale

With more devices and applications thrown into the mix, the complexity of the digital workspace increases as well. If manual intervention is required to resolve issues arising out of these complexities, then the whole initiative will prove to be counterproductive. Therefore, the key is automation. Be it updating a device, installing a patch, or managing records, automation keeps the operational costs low, enables error-free security, and improves the overall employee experience.

The advantages of a digital workspace are abundant as elucidated in this post; however, it is not without its own downsides. For example, a virtual workspace can significantly reduce social interactions between employees, and thereby render collaboration efforts virtually ineffective. It also makes data vulnerable, since almost all of it is hosted in digitized form on remote servers. But the pros far outweigh the cons, and with the right strategy in place, the negative aspects can be minimized. Digital transformation of the workspace is essential to stay relevant in today’s highly-digital world, and businesses must be willing to embrace change. The digital workspace of the future will leverage cutting-edge technology to make their people, processes and systems, even smarter and faster.

(This post was originally published on my LinkedIn profile – view here)

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