Deploying a digital workplace

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Today, the evolution of business technology is being fuelled by the speed of innovation in the consumer world.  People want and expect to have access to apps from anywhere and from any device, and to enjoy a high-quality user experience.  Now they are increasingly bringing these expectations with them to work.  Office workers today demand to be connected to other businesses and employees through a complex layer of technology—Internet, email, cloud storage, desktop computers, telephones or VOIP, and mainframe systems.

IT teams face a significant challenge: how do they deliver the flexible access to applications and content on the corporate network that their employees are increasingly demanding, together with the enhanced connectivity that they need, while at the same time meeting the business imperative of ensuring the highest possible levels of security, control and compliance?

These twin drivers, ostensibly in conflict, are increasingly coming together to fuel the evolution of the digital workplace, defined by Paul Miller, CEO and founder of the Digital Workplace Group as: “the technology-enabled space where work happens - the virtual, digital equivalent of the physical workplace.” Key to its appeal is its emphasis on the preferences and needs of employees. To be successful, the digital workplace requires a technology layer, designed around business strategies and ensuring security and compliance, but also focused on the needs of staff who use or manage information and giving them what they need to achieve optimum levels of efficiency and productivity.

Introducing the digital workspace

Today’s companies must re-design how they work to meet this growing need and to accommodate the consumer technology expectations of their workforce. In turn, this helps them react quickly to customer and market needs, while maintaining high levels of security, keeping control of processes and meeting regulatory demands. It’s a difficult balancing act, but the end goal of digital workplace transformation must be to make it work for all parties.

That’s why we are today seeing the emergence of the concept of the workspace – a key element of the digital workplace. The workspace is about managing all the things the user needs to do their job effectively from any location, at any time and from any device.

Workspaces must be role-based, intuitive and customisable. Take a financial services organisation, for example. A bank teller may spend most of his time utilising the same core banking application to serve his customers. The branch director requires a much more complex set of standard and banking-specific applications, while the CFO needs another mix of applications, data and documents. In short, each staff role has different requirements in terms of the software, data, content and devices that need to be provided to optimally support their working day.

Scoping the benefits 

The great news is the technology to deliver this vision of the workspace is available today. Intuitive, web-based access to applications, services and content are prepared and presented to employees across business departments and roles. Workspaces can then be modified to meet individual user requirements and preferences and end-users can customise them to become even more productive. Integration with an enterprise service store enables users to search for an app or service to be automatically added to their workspace.

Dynamic, engaging and customisable workspaces yield significant benefits:

Advantages for IT - The IT department gains mainly due to the workspace principle that no longer focuses on the management of the operating system, but on delivering the required applications, data and services directly to a browser-based dashboard in a targeted manner.

Central governance - Configuration drift, often caused by end users installing their own unapproved software (shadow IT) can result in dramatic security concerns and even legal liabilities. Workspaces – in combination with enterprise IT service stores – provide central governance by enabling end users to add their favourite approved SaaS and local applications to their workspaces. This eliminates the incentive to go around IT and placing confidential documents in their private file sharing account or using unsanctioned project management software that does not appropriately protect intellectual property. This type of central governance also enables IT to monitor user behaviour in terms of which groups typically leverage what software applications. Users can then be encouraged to free up software licenses that are mostly unused.

Storage Cost Savings - Virtual desktops mostly consume expensive tier 1 SAN storage to ensure optimal performance and reliability. In addition, capacity planning is difficult, as the daily “boot-storms”, experienced when multiple users log onto the system at the same time must be negotiated and software patches and other specific performance requirements must be accommodated also. Workspaces reduce storage demands because instead of managing and delivering operating systems, they enable access to apps, content and services from browser-based dashboards.

Consistent delivery across devices - Delivering the same set of SaaS, mobile, virtual and locally hosted applications to any device, depending on user role, location or device type dramatically reduces management effort. When applications and data are delivered via HTML5 - without the need for a local client – workspaces will ensure a consistent user experience, no matter the device type or operating system.

Flexible maintenance and high availability – Workspaces enable a much more granular approach to maintenance, failover and disaster recovery than could be achieved through traditional desktops or VDI. During scheduled or unscheduled maintenance windows, individual apps can be repaired, replaced or updated, without affecting other parts of the user experience. High availability can be configured for individual applications or at the workspace level, ensuring optimal SLA compliance.

Reaping the rewards 

Ultimately though, beyond the benefits above, the concepts of the digital workplace and digital workspace remain focused on employees. After all, the well-architected approach to software and technology that the digital workplace supports transforms both the work environment and the capabilities of people performing that work, making work easier for them and driving up productivity at the same time.

The digital workplace is about breaking down the traditional barriers that limit employee productivity to help companies increase agility, better serve their customers, and compete globally. ASG Workspaces provides IT staff with centralised control to deliver a consistent, secure, role-based user experience across the enterprise while giving employees the freedom and flexibility to be productive and creative regardless of where they’re located or which device they’re using.

Jordi Suner, Vice-President of Product Management, ASG Technologies
Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional