The time to reimagine the digital workspace is now

The global health crisis has triggered one of the biggest experiments in remote working that we have ever seen. As a result, governments have been rushing to legally define remote and flexible working, and we are seeing Italian enterprises who previously resisted the idea embrace the concept.

Digital dexterity is critical to building a resilient and agile workforce that can cope with any future disruption and support rapid change. Italy started 2020 with one of the lowest rates of remote working of any country in the European Union at less than 5%. However, the recent pandemic lockdowns increased the number of remote workers around 14-fold from 570,000 to eight million, according to the Polytechnic of Milan’s unit on smart working. This has marked a turning point in the work culture in Italy.

The nature of the workplace isn’t just changing for knowledge workers. Traditional blue-collar roles are also going through a transformation. Industries such as manufacturing are benefiting from a convergence of humans and machines that are improving efficiencies, reducing costs and increasing business value. A robot arm, for example, might carry out heavy lifting on a production line, while humans carry out complementary tasks that may require personal judgement, such as quality control.

A new way of working

The pandemic has put home working to the test. However, moving forward, businesses are reimaging the digital workspace. Enterprises that can create a sustainable, flexible working approach have an unmissable opportunity to reap the benefits of the digital workspace. These include increased flexibility, improved productivity and efficiencies, and reduced operational costs. In addition, a more flexible work environment improves the employee experience and enhances employer attractiveness: an important way to help companies recruit and retain valuable talent to grow their business.

According to IDC, organizations can be stronger and more resilient by enabling workers with an intelligent digital workspace. The analyst firm sees the smart digital workspace as “a personalized, federated, secure, and device- and location-agnostic environment that provides workers with the resources required to effectively do their jobs, including frictionless access to data, technology, and collaborators.”

In the so called “new different” that the pandemic has created, we will see more and more companies adopt hybrid working – a flexible working model that allows employees to work as and when they want from their preferred locations. An intelligent digital workspace will be essential to enhancing productivity, resilience and the user experience.

For a digital workspace to be successful, it must provide a unified, secure and consistent user experience. Yet, by 2023, Gartner predicts that fewer than one-third of digital workers will select the corporate office as their preferred place to work.

Current and future demand for digital skills

Technology is revolutionizing the workspace. However, putting digital workspaces in place is just the beginning. To show a return on investment, users must have the skills to use the applications and want to use them. It is critical, therefore, that employees have access to robust training, including when onboarding staff.

Digital skills have never been so important. The Italian Government has already implemented its ambitious “2025 strategy for technological innovation and digitalization of the country.” Part of this initiative is to promote technology and provide workers with the digital knowledge they need for future jobs and train new generations.

Last year, the Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digitalization set up a digital coalition to prepare everyone for the digital era. The idea is to boost digital skills to all citizens by providing them with learning and self-development tools. This includes several initiatives for digital skilling, upskilling and re-skilling. More than 90 organizations, including businesses, municipalities and other public entities, have joined the coalition. The EU is now home to 24 such national coalitions to promote digital skills.

Italy appears to have got off to a good start. The EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index puts Italy in second place for mobile broadband and third for 5G readiness.

Creating the digital workspace

A well-thought-out digital workspace enables new, more effective ways of working, improving employee engagement and agility, according to Gartner. It is based on the concept that engaged employees are more willing to change and embrace new technologies to enhance productivity and deliver better business outcomes.

Emerging technologies are making collaboration via the digital workspace easier. These include cloud, digital experience platforms, video, artificial intelligence (AI), insight engines and data analytics. Gartner refers to these capabilities as the “new work nucleus.”

It is important that your digital workspace strategy aligns with enterprise business outcomes. Work closely with all business unit stakeholders and human resources to work out the best tools and picture how new processes will work. Interoperable technologies are the key to a seamless user experience.

As employees will be using this technology, it is essential to get their input in the decision making. Without employee buy-in, your digital workspace will fail.

Note, however, that workspace initiatives cannot be treated exclusively as an IT initiative. There is a big cultural change project to manage alongside it.

Virtual desktops are a key part of your digital workplace portfolio

Virtual desktops play a crucial role in well-executed digital workspace strategies. Utilizing cloud virtual desktops allows organizations to present applications, data and collaboration tools securely to their staff wherever they are working. It’s true agile working.

At Orange, we have developed a scalable consumption-based solution that allows your organization to flex on actual usage each month, as you expand or contract your workforce. There are three key elements to this consumption-based solution: the hosted desktop, the workplace portal and the device itself. This is a game-changing solution.

No two enterprises are the same, however. To ensure enterprises have a VDI solution that suits their specific needs, our teams work closely with the enterprise through the business unit and application assessment. This includes the proof of concept (POC) and implementation process, service management capabilities and security parameters. The production platform is fully optimized and artificial intelligence (AI) and self-service technologies deployed to reduce service desk calls and enhance end-user experience. A people-first solution.

Designing a unified and secure digital workspace

The digital workspace offers the promise of flexibility, increased productivity and improved collaboration, among others. But to be successful, digital workspaces must not forget the human element. Therefore, an organization’s approach to training and continuous learning is central to transformation efforts.

Learn more about how digital technologies can enable the digital workplace.

Francesca Puggioni
Francesca Puggioni

Francesca Puggioni is the Managing Director of Orange Business for Southern Europe. With an extensive international business background, she is a champion of cultural diversity in the workplace to inspire creativity and drive innovation and favors a dynamic and innovative management model. She is a great supporter of socially responsible initiatives, especially where technology can have a positive impact on society as a tool for social, economic and environmental development.