A few weeks ago on this blog, we had a crack at defining a digital workplace or workspace. We had a look at a few of the definitions to be found on the Net, and we made the point that, regardless of the precise definition, the aim is to enable employees to use any device – desktop, laptop, tablet, phone – anywhere and to have the experience be as near as possible identical, regardless of device or location.
So when an organisation sets out to create a digital workspace for its staff it needs to bear this in mind as one objective, from the user’s perspective. Management’s priorities are rather different but equally important. The paramount objective is security. An effective digital workplace must inevitably provide access to the applications and data that are the lifeblood and the crown jewels of the enterprise: if staff can access certain highly sensitive data they need to do their job only from their desktop PC – that’s not a true digital workplace.
Security has a large management component: which employees can access which data and applications; from which devices, from which locations; how to ensure that all device operating systems get the latest patches when these devices might never leave their owner’s side.
VMware has a nice definition that encapsulates both management and user priorities: “The digital workspace is the aggregation of all devices and the apps and services required by users, securely managed and unified by common access and identity, taking inspiration from the advances in consumer technologies to enhance the end-user experience and simplify IT management while preserving all of the reliability and security aspects required for business critical applications and protection of sensitive corporate data.
However, PricewaterhouseCoopers adds another dimension, one that considerably increases the challenges of creating an effective, and secure digital workspace.
In its white paper Designing the digital workplace: Connectivity, communication, collaboration, PwC says: “The way we work today demands that employees interact with a wide variety of stakeholders, both inside and outside the traditional organisation.So it is critical in designing the digital workplace that companies keep in mind the many intricate relationships among employees, and between employees and customers, vendors, suppliers, and even the public at large.”
PwC argues: “Only by identifying these key interactions can companies understand how best to design their workplaces.”
One consequence indeed desired outcome of the digital workplace is that it enables employees to work from home at any time. So it’s entirely reasonable for PwC to list as one of the considerations when creating a digital workplace to be: “The lines between personal and work lives have become increasingly blurred, and employees now demand the right to manage their personal lives from work.”
The challenges might seem quite daunting, but the benefits could be considerable. For example, take the closely related concept of business mobility. VMware published a State of Business Mobility Report 2015. It says: “Those surveyed say their business mobility investments are averaging 150 percent RoI,” and “More than half of companies surveyed that have embraced business mobility report they can now more rapidly bring new revenue streams online compared to a single digit percentage of respondents that have not yet deployed business mobility.”
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