When PCs were first adopted by businesses, a typical workspace was an office (or more likely a cubicle) with a desk dominated by the computer. The PC was loaded with various software programs (including security and antivirus protection), either on its own hard drive or an enterprise server. Although the work was digital, the workspace was still physical.
Today, the proliferation of mobile devices, ubiquitous wireless networks, and cloud computing has freed employees from their cubicles. Increasingly, people work from home, airports, client offices, or even neighborhood coffee shops using a variety of devices from a variety of vendors based on a variety of operating systems.
In fact, fewer and fewer employees are using desktop PCs. Once they start working from mobile devices, they rarely go back. According to Forrester Research, 43 percent of tablet users say they use their desktop PC less often, if at all, since they got their tablets.
Enter the Digital Workspace
In short, today’s work environment is virtual. IT must make it easy for employees to engage anytime, anywhere, on any device. The key to delivering exceptional user experiences is to mobilize everything.
Accordingly, IT departments are building digital workspaces that take advantage of mobile technologies and mobile work styles. In the process, they’re producing a new business environment in which employees can be more effective in communicating with customers and creating competitive advantage.
Unlike the physical desktop of yesterday, the digital workspace is not a single device or location. The digital workspace can deliver anytime, anywhere access to all apps, services, and resources across all devices—desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It represents the environment IT delivers to employees as well as the environment employees leverage to access critical business resources.
While this freedom may be great for the mobile workforce, the approach can be challenging for corporate IT departments if not well managed. The “command and control” method of traditional IT no longer works. Yet IT is still responsible for delivering, managing, and securing applications and services among this plethora of devices and systems.
Ease of use, including enabling self-service capabilities, is a key to increasing employee productivity. Employees are already feeling deluged by always-on information and digital overload. If the digital workspace creates more headaches, it can sap productivity and employee morale rather than improve it. A well-designed digital workspace will increase employee engagement with the company, which can translate into competitive advantage.
According to Gallup, employee engagement is linked to several performance indicators, including productivity, customer ratings, profitability, absenteeism, theft, and safety. However, Gallup recently found that just 32 percent of employees in the United States and 13 percent worldwide feel engaged at work. By raising employee engagement levels, IT can help boost the organization’s overall performance and business results.
Managing Compliance and Security
Many organizations are investing in digital workspaces to enable access to any application from any device. This requires IT to manage corporate policies and compliance (including identity management) across all applications, devices, and third-party services, including cloud and software as a service. Employees are likely to carry a mix of devices from different vendors: a Windows-based laptop, an iOS-based smartphone, and an Android tablet, for example. They increasingly use Web-based and mobile apps, some of which may not be sanctioned by IT. And they are frequently frustrated by having to remember multiple user names and passwords.
All these factors mean IT must assume the mobile workforce is always going into an environment where data and information could be stolen. It’s now about managing the user, not the device, because users can access data and apps from devices unknown to IT.
A well-designed digital workspace delivers a secure enterprise platform by integrating identity and enterprise mobility management along with policy and compliance management across applications and third-party services. As a result, IT can provide a better end-user experience while also battening down the security hatches.
Digital workspaces take their cue from advances in consumer technologies to enhance the end-user experience and simplify IT management. At the same time, they preserve the reliability and security aspects required for business-critical applications and sensitive corporate data. A well-designed digital workspace lets IT:
- Deliver business-critical applications simply and efficiently
- Reduce costs of managing devices and end users
- Increase security
- Support bring-your-own (BYO) initiatives, including self-service
- Offer integration among various devices, operating systems, and applications
- Effectively adapt to changes in the business as well as changes in devices and applications
IT organizations that can strike the right balance in digital workplaces will empower employees to work where and how they want, productively and securely. And the lines of business will have a powerful platform on which they can foster new forms of customer interaction and support digital transformation initiatives. The digital workspace provides a good starting point for organizations looking to mobilize everything, from the data center to the desktop to the device.
Ready to rethink how you deliver business applications? Check out consumer-simple, enterprise-secure digital workspaces from VMware, which include desktop and mobile environments along with critical components of security, identity, and cloud infrastructure. And learn more about VMware’s vision in the article “Introducing VMware’s Digital Workspace Strategy.”