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While the term "digital workplace" can be used to describe the sum total of all the tech your business relies on to function, many organizations are now looking to put it in one place. Having lots of different apps cause problems: not only does it create silos but locating information becomes a job that takes minutes rather than seconds, slowing team productivity.

Workplace Integration

As a result, Nigel Davies, CEO and founder of UK-based digital workplace software developer Claromentis told us, one of the core elements of the digital workplace needs to be software integration. It needs to act as one place to call "home" where apps and tools are accessible to all, and information across all those apps is instantly searchable. “The digital workplace today needs to be a virtual place where teams collaborate, leaders lead, colleagues talk, people are trained, files are accessed, projects evolve, decisions are made, vacations are booked, career progress is monitored, social events are planned, and meetings are held,” he said. “Think of the digital workplace as your office, where culture thrives, people chat, things get done, and yet no one needs to commute to work.” 

So what is driving the evolution of these workplaces and what should companies be doing? Iain Scholnick, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Braidio said he believes this decade is the beginning of some news in the digital workplace, one where technology will continue to shape the way businesses adapt and transform.

Related Article: Office 365: 9 Baked-In Productivity Tools That Workers Are Using

'Adaptive' Not 'Smart'

Yet while the digital transformation will continue to play a huge role in the years to come, it has become increasingly clear that the key to survival is ‘adaptive’ not ‘smarts’. “It is essential for business leaders to embrace an agile mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, in order to create the right environment for innovation and transformation. Know-it-alls are more apt to stick to the status quo, leading to stale business plans and eventually subpar results. …Staying adaptive, embracing technology, and focusing on experience will help businesses get a leg up as we enter a new decade,” he said.

The purpose of introducing digital solutions should be to streamline and simplify processes — not create extra work and/or slow processes down. So, generally, digital workspaces should fall on the positive side of four factors said Matt Erickson, marketing director with Los Angeles-based National Positions. The four factors include:

1. Accessibility

Can everyone use this tool from anywhere, on any device? This usually means having some sort of cloud-based solution that is available anywhere regardless of browser or device. A perfect example would be Google's G-suite. It is completely cloud-based and as long as you are online, you can access it.

2. Functionality

Does your digital toolset perform the functions you need better than your current solution and also have room to scale with your company? Don't plan for tomorrow, plan for five years from now. Will the functionality be able to grow as quickly as your brand does?

Related Article: Why Your Digital Workplace Needs a CCP

3. Usability

This is a big one. Is the system you are considering user-friendly for your team? If not, you are far more likely to get pushback from your team, and the system may go to waste. In turn, you will get no value from it.

4. Integration

Can your new tool or system provide compatibility with other systems you may use? If you are trying to go digital to make your life easier and you end up with a bunch of digital tools that don't work together then you are just going to end up with one
huge mess.

Hosted Digital Workplace?

If access to corporate resources and technology is one of the key promises of the digital workplace, they providing that access is key. A hosted desktop solution can make corporate resources available anywhere, from any device, for a fully digital workforce, Maureen Gilreath of the Boston-based Leostream Corporation told us.

Moving user desktops off of their desks and into a data center or cloud offers an opportunity to redefine how users work, what they use, and to optimize resource usage to minimize the cost associated with your digital workplace. There are a number of questions managers need to ask and answer before doing this:

  • What tasks are workers completing, and can you define tasks that are
  • Common across your user base?
  • How compute-intensive are their tasks? Are they watching videos, doing
  • 3D rendering, using a word processor, or performing other tasks? What applications are they using, and do they have applications on their desktops that are under utilized?
  • What data are they accessing, and where is it located?
  • What type of personal devices do they have?

Depending on the answers to those questions, Gilreath suggests some resources to consider using when building a digital workplace will include the following.

1. Full Virtual Desktops

This is standard Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and gives users access to individual desktop operating systems. Even in traditional VDI, there are different workflows you can satisfy. You can give some users a dedicated, persistent desktop, as if you moved their workstation into the data center. 

2. Shared sessions

The most common example of a shared session is Microsoft Remote Desktop Sessions, or RDS. In this case, multiple users log into sessions hosted on a single server operating system, and the sessions share the underlying operating system and installed applications. For task workers, particularly for those that need access only to a particular application, shared sessions are a good solution.

3. Physical systems

For users or applications that require significant compute resources, consider switching from workstations under their desk to rack mounted blades or workstations in a data center, or to a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).

4. Applications and containers

Often, it’s not the operating system that users care about or need access to. It’s the application. Moving some workloads into containers can increase the density of your hosted solution. From a wider perspective, Richard Godfrey of UK-based Syncity pointed out that, as with all digital strategies, the core elements of a digital workplace strategy will center on the companies ambitions or wider business strategies. IT has in general forgotten that’s it’s a service to the business. There are too many IT and digital strategies that are focused on the tech or how it improves the IT service, which is the wrong approach, according to Godfrey.

They are also predominantly looking at large scale across the business solutions. “In today's workplace, the real way to understand the strategy is to speak to employees and then look what is already in use in your business and in other businesses both related to your industry and those that aren't,” he said.

Final Thoughts

From these conversations and discovery you can start to plan an effective digital strategy that covers all needs and that includes those of individuals and small team right through to corporate solutions. Helping staff become more efficient in the work they do is more important than transforming the work you do. By understanding this you'll be setting yourself up to succeed in rolling out new tools and the adoption of them.