Is it a printer? Is it a car? No, it’s a digital workplace!

lan622 is it a printer is it a car no it s a digital workplace

According to an article on CMSWire in December 2014 What a Digital Workplace Is and What It Isn't,” There are as many definitions of the digital workplace as there are organisations.” OK, but surely that doesn’t include cars and printers, does it? Well, in a way it does. Here’s why.

Genesis of the term as we understand it is claimed by Paul Miller, author of the book The Digital Workplace – How Technology is Liberating Work, published in 2012. He started using the term in 2009, but traces its origins to 1998 when, he says it was “coined by Hewlett Packard as the name for a new type of printer.”

And the car? That comes from a white paper Introducing the Digital Workspace that compared a digital workspace to a car in order to identify the essential components of a digital workspace.

Here it is in summary.

  • Cloud infrastructure is the engine that drives the digital workspace.
  • Corporate policies and culture are the steering wheel, determining the direction that transforming to a digital workspace takes a company.
  • The user experience is akin to interior design: if it is a pleasure to use, people will use it.
  • What has traditionally been the corporate intranet is the chassis, holding everything together.
  • Governance, security and processes are the brakes and safety mechanisms: if those are not adequate you’re heading for disaster.

That comparison is useful in that it highlights the fact that all components of the digital workspace must fulfil their individual roles adequately and work together as an integrated whole in order to be effective.

And it’s useful at this point to resolve the distinction between digital workspace and digital workplace. Invotra, a company specialising in digital workspaces, says: “One of the key areas of confusion is the difference between workplace and workspace.  We see the key difference being that the ‘Digital Workspace’ spans any part or multiple workplaces and frequently will not be physically connected.”

But in reality the whole point of being digital is to untether the worker from a fixed location, so to all intents and purposes the two terms are equivalent. (The UK based Digital Workplace Group offers no fewer than eight definitions of a digital workplace).

Here’s how Introducing the Digital Workspace defines a digital workspace.

It’s as good as any. “A collection of evolving technologies that optimise employee experience and engagement with the tools and resources they require, anywhere and on any device, allowing them to be more effective.”

And there’s plenty of evolving technologies in the evolving digital workspace. Like many new concepts/technologies it has caught the attention of Gartner in the form of the famous Gartner Hype Cycle.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Workplace, published in July 2015, runs to 75 pages and covers a “streamlined roster” of no fewer than 37 technologies.  Most of these are crowded together en route to the peak of inflated expectation, and Gartner expects few of them to become mainstream in the next two years. This suggests that any organisation moving to implement a digital workspace might be something of a pioneer.

For any organisation wanting to make a move towards implementing a digital workspace, there is no shortage of advice and information on the Internet. One aspect that has drawn particular attention is the link between digital workspaces and millennials – a generation that is expected to account for 50 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Here’s a few examples: Engaging Millennials in the Digital Workplace; Build a Digital Workplace and Millennials will Come; Digital Workplace - The Magnet That Attracts Millennials.

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