The Evolution of the Digital Workspace
Optimizing mobile and collaboration technologies can break down the barriers that hamper efficiency and productivity.
- by John Edwards
- Veteran Business Technology Journalist |
Today’s workspace is no longer confined to offices and meeting rooms. Rapid advances in mobile and real-time collaboration technologies are helping managers and staff work more effectively in more places.
New digital workspaces allow users to reach the systems, tools and people they need from any device — smartphone, tablet or computer — regardless of their physical location. The digital workspace is rapidly evolving, becoming increasingly mobile and easier to use, which improves the user experience, notes Steve Wilson, Citrix vice president of products for cloud and the Internet of Things. “For example, you can walk into a conference room that will automatically recognize you and connect you to the audiovisual devices to serve up the apps and data you need to get work done.”
The digital workspace also helps staff and managers form closer ties with business partners and customers, many of whom have already launched their own digital workspaces. “Customer expectations are changing,” observes Jon Arnold, an independent technology analyst. “The business has to be more responsive to its customers, and all of that points to employees having better tools that allow them to work the way they work and ultimately support what the customers want.”
More organizations are encouraging users from various departments to collaborate on projects. Encouraging these users to leave their long-established silos isn’t easy. The digital workspace provides a collaborative virtual environment that enables users to become more efficient and productive, leading to a more satisfied workforce and a more effective organization.
Collaboration offers multiple benefits, including knowledge-sharing across the organization, enhanced responsiveness, greater innovation and problem-solving, and more efficient use of time and resources. “Mobile devices have enabled employees to become truly untethered from their desks, unlocking the full potential of today’s open workplace,” notes Alan Ni, director of vertical marketing for Aruba Networks.
The percentage of organizations that say digital workspaces help them bring new revenue streams online more rapidly
Fitting BYOD into the Digital Workspace
While some organizations continue to resist the BYOD trend, most now understand that allowing employees to use their own mobile devices to accomplish various work-related tasks actually boosts collaboration and productivity at relatively little cost.
An integral part of the digital workspace revolution, BYOD gives users convenient access to applications and data anytime, anywhere on their own devices. Allowing device choice is a key factor in improving worker satisfaction and productivity, notes Alan Ni, director of vertical marketing for Aruba Networks. “With the profound demographic shift toward more digital natives in the workforce, specifically millennials and Gen Z, workers want to utilize tools they are most experienced with, and their employers are becoming increasingly supportive of this,” he says.
Many organizations have been reluctant to authorize BYOD due to concerns about security. For years, IT departments warned that BYOD created a direct threat to the control of sensitive information, potentially opening the door to data thieves and attackers. But mobile device management tools and, more recently, enterprise mobility management solutions have largely addressed these concerns, giving IT teams the ability to encrypt mobile data, containerize threats and maintain control over lost or stolen devices.
The challenge of cross-platform compatibility has now also largely faded away. Mobile devices operate on many different platforms, including iOS, Android, macOS and Windows. Most major business app providers now configure their offerings for cross-platform compatibility and provide automatic updates to eliminate possible versioning headaches.
Creating a Digital Workspace
Mobility tools and services are essential elements of the digital workplace. Devices such as phones, tablets and notebooks liberate users from their offices and cubicles, raising the frequency of both personal and digital interactions. “In the modern office, employees increasingly have a range of space types to choose from, each optimized for a specific purpose,” Ni explains. “Mobility allows users to effectively work in these settings for longer periods, unencumbered by the lack of a physical Ethernet wire that for so long locked employees in cubicle farms.”
Collaboration apps and services, deployed on both mobile and fixed devices, complete the digital workspace. “Collaboration solutions directly impact productivity,” Wilson says. “Document-centric tasks and workflow capabilities are examples of the types of tools that are needed to remain productive.”
“With the shift toward more group and collaborative work, employees depend on solutions that keep them connected with their peers,” Ni says. “The ability to support instant messaging, voice, video, group chat, screen sharing and whiteboarding seamlessly across laptops, mobile devices and room-based audio-visual systems — whether at home, on the road, or in the office — is key to a high-performance, next-generation workplace environment.”
Full-featured, flexible and compatible workspace solutions, such as Microsoft 365, VMware Workspace ONE and Citrix Workspace, allow documents to be easily shared, annotated, updated and revised with coworkers. Advanced collaboration technologies, such as Cisco’s Spark Board, seamlessly link users and their mobile devices to large interactive room displays. The system enables users to participate in videoconferences, presentations and whiteboard brainstorming sessions locally in a meeting room — or remotely anywhere — with no need for wires, dongles, adapters or PINs.
Safer and Smarter
Beyond its many productivity and efficiency benefits, the digital workspace also offers another key benefit: enhanced IT security. A key component is desktop virtualization, which moves processing operations from a device to an enterprise data center. This provides IT staff greater control of valuable information while preventing data from being compromised when a device is lost or stolen. The digital workspace also provides enterprise mobility management tools that enable IT staff to control endpoints (including the ability to wipe data or lock devices) and oversee access to applications and content though features such as access controls and customized app stores. “Today, enterprisewide security must span a growing number of endpoint platforms and legacy tools that are deployed in silos creating management complexity and overhead,” observes Renu Upadhyay, VMware director of product marketing for end-user computing.
As offices continue to grow progressively “smarter,” the digital workspace revolution appears to be unstoppable. Collaboration is becoming incrementally easier, seamless and more natural. “We are constantly working on ways to make the workspace easier to use and to integrate it into the physical environment where people are working through interactions between people, technologies and spaces,” Wilson says. “This can include using technologies like ubiquitous connected devices, location-based services, speech recognition, computer vision, biometrics and even augmented reality.”