The way we work has changed dramatically over the past decade. We are no longer tied to 9 – 5 hours or the office desk. The lines between when and where we work have blurred, requiring collaboration platforms across locations and time zones, which has resulted in the birth of the ‘digital workspace’.
What exactly is a ‘digital workspace’.
Analyst firm Gartner describes it as “a business strategy for promoting employee effectiveness and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment”. It is made up of all the digital tools we need to get our work done securely from anywhere and on any device – ranging from collaboration and communications to CRM, ERP and vertical applications. Cloud computing is essential for this delivery to any device, anywhere.
What are the benefits?
It can motivate us, make us more collaborative and ready to take on lead roles, resulting in a rise in both productivity and innovation. But, this new approach means re-thinking business processes.
“Re-engineering such processes requires a careful analysis of how employees currently work and engage each other, and adding new tools and adapting outmoded processes,” explained Gartner, which champions eight building blocks to producing a digital workplace initiative. These include having a workspace vision, a comprehensive strategy, employee buy-in, transformation plan, on-demand and on target tools, metrics, and management as a key enabler. Finally, mobile, social, cloud and information must converge and support the creation of this ‘digital work grid’.
People are key to the process
Enterprises need to look at technology as a way of enhancing people’s experiences. For example, giving employees ‘consumer style’ applications similar to the ones they use in their personal lives can dramatically reduce the learning curve.
The digital workspace brings with it great transformation, impacting internal processes, skills, and departmental structures, which requires a behavioral change to succeed. Gartner advocates encouraging a corporate culture of autonomy, accountability and empowerment to win over employee engagement.
The blueprint for a digital workspace starts with understanding and supporting the different needs people have, including increased mobility, technological expectations, and the tools required for optimum performance. In the US, for example, IDC estimates mobile workers make up nearly three quarters of the total US workforce.
"Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology…has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work," explained Bryan Bassett, research analyst, mobile enterprise device solutions at IDC. "This expectation will be supplemented by new solutions specifically intended to manage the challenges associated with the growing needs of the mobile workforce.”
Flexibility and security
Extensibility is great, but enterprises need to be safe in the knowledge that they are secure, whilst giving their people the dexterity they need to drive the business forward. A digital workspace makes it easier to centrally manage and control information and automate policies to ensure continuity and performance, while retaining the highest levels of security.
A major benefit of the digital workspace is business agility, but the mobile infrastructure must be built with security and scalability top of the agenda. Adequate support services must also address people’s personalized experiences.
A digital workspace that works
The design of a digital workspace isn’t without challenges. Some enterprises make the mistake of investing in productivity technology, but do not sufficiently integrate them with business applications, underpin security or look at the way people actually work to create a framework going forward.
It is imperative to listen to employees. They are the people using the technology and need the flexibility to choose the most effective way to access applications wherever they work.
Deploying digital workspaces can drive revenues, attract and retain talent, increase productivity and gain an edge over the competition. But to see results, enterprises must ensure people are at the very epicentre of the digital workspace. To do this, they must focus on individuals, tailoring business process and work around each employee, their requirements, role, and location. Only then will the digital workspace start working for the enterprise.
Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.