How SMEs should harness mobility and the digital workspace for a modern workforce

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Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) (and its forerunner, Enterprise Mobility Management – EMM) has been a hot topic with SMEs for some time. Integrating mobility and desktop management into a single solution, it’s an evolution of a variety of capabilities that have been building over a long period. However, the shifting definitions of these technologies is now giving way to what seems to be the final destination of this evolution; the Digital Workspace.

Today’s modern workforce incorporates employees who work in a variety of different settings. For example, approximately 1.5 million people work remotely in the UK. A big requirement for systems management in this regard would – at first glance – appear to focus around mobility and security.

However, while security may be the starting point, where UEM really comes into its own is the ability to deliver a true digital workspace to employees. This not only allows greater management and control, but the extension of IT resources to any device, in any setting. This allows mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to be much more than a companion device to the desktop. UEM promotes these devices to be first-class citizens, delivering a fully-realised digital workspace.

The advantages are clear; huge benefits for productivity across the business, enhancing mobile working performance, delivering more fluid access to applications and data, and doing it in a manner where security is an enabler, not a compromise.

The three pillars of the digital workspace

Enabling mobile workers to be as effective as those in the office is challenging, but it’s useful here to focus on what people actually need to get things done. The focus here is primarily on software.  People don’t use computers, smartphones, tablets – they use software.

Software is king, and your staff need access to your applications, be it CRM and ERP applications, finance tools, corporate knowledge software, and of course the usual stablemates of productivity: Office and Email applications.

People want to gain access to this software in different ways. Accessing it from a desktop or laptop is well understood. However, extending that to everyone, regardless of setting was previously a major challenge.

The delivery of a full suite of software tools to every device, in any location is now easy, thanks to UEM and the Digital Workspace. These solutions bring together three key elements;

  • Streamlined device on-boarding (even for Windows PCs, where ‘imaging’ is finally being banished as a legacy technique)
  • Simple and easy application deployment (in a cross-platform, secure manner)
  • Robust data security (including DLP controls, EMM profile management, and robust compliancy engines)

These three elements alone deliver tremendous benefits, but when tied together with the fourth; the Digital Workspace, the overall solution becomes more than the sum of its parts.

No longer does a road warrior need to wait for the next train-table top, internet café or pit-stop in a hotel to pull out a laptop and get productive. Instead, their smartphone or tablet is on hand, not just with calls and email, but with a full suite of productivity applications with the power to do it all.

Personal space

A key element of any good solution is to extend the Digital Workspace to people’s personal devices.  Where people choose to use their own devices (be they personal phones, tablets or home PCs), delivering access to corporate applications without compromising security is vital.

At the same time, however, it’s just as crucial for users to feel that their privacy is being respected.  Few individuals would want to enrol their personal smartphone into corporate management if they felt their camera roll was open to inspection, or their location always tracked.

Therefore, the best UEM solutions provide powerful privacy controls to enable robust BYOD Digital Workspace delivery, whilst at the same time inspiring trust. Employees feel more comfortable using these solutions if they know their own data is safe and private.

Finding a path forward

Delivering a Digital Workspace that users will embrace can seem like a big project, but in reality, it can be easy to identify some key focus areas;

How do your employees want to work? Where do people spend their time?  Do you have users in different work locations? Do you have field staff, office workers, a mix of both? Do people want more freedom to work from home, or keep non-conventional hours? Do you have contractors or seasonal employees?

What devices are people looking to use? What hardware do people prefer to use? Do you already have smartphones and tablets, and are you utilising these to their full potential? Do you have other non-Windows devices like Macs and Chromebooks?

What software and apps do people need? Have you carried out a software utilisation assessment?  Are people able to gain access to all your software, in every common ‘work context’, in the office, out of the office, from every device they might use?  Do you have a mix of software including modern apps, SaaS & Web applications, Legacy Windows software?

Like many technology solutions, there is an abundance of EMM, UEM and Digital Workspace technologies to choose from. Whatever you decide on, a successful UEM and Digital Workspace deployment can offer transformative changes to the way you enable productivity through technology. The future of work is changing, but with change, comes great opportunity.

Mark Lomas, technical architect lead, Probrand
Image Credit: Perfectlab / Shutterstock