What is a digital workspace?
A digital workspace is an integrated technology framework that centralizes the management of an enterprise's applications, data and endpoints, allowing employees to collaborate and work remotely.
It provides users with self-service, out-of-the-box experiences that scale across platforms, locations and device ownership models, allowing them to work in a digital workplace. Sometimes referred to as virtual workspaces, digital workspaces bring all of a user's resources -- such as operating systems (OSes), files and apps -- into one place and deliver a cloud-based console that allows IT professionals to manage those resources under one roof.
Designed to provide a unified and secure experience for IT professionals and end users, digital workspaces simplify and centralize the overall management of tools, applications and devices. Digital workspaces also provide secure remote access to the end user because data is protected in the data center, the cloud or on the endpoint devices.
Additionally, the delivery of resources through a workspace environment means the endpoints workers use to access resources matter less, which makes for a more consistent user experience. Plus, the digital workspace platform helps IT teams provide capabilities such as single sign-on (SSO) for identity authentication and secure file-sharing across an organization's endpoints.
Benefits of a digital workspace
The benefits of implementing a digital workspace include the following:
- Flexibility. Virtual desktops and other digital workspace technology allow employees to work wherever and whenever they want, on whichever device they prefer. This provides workers with a greater sense of control over their lives since their work life and personal life aren't constantly conflicting. It also reduces recruitment time since candidates are more attracted to companies with remote or flexible work options.
- Productivity. The benefit of flexibility also encourages increased employee productivity. Furthermore, workers are less likely to take sick days since they aren't required to come into an office and can instead work from home.
- Improved collaboration. A digital workspace encourages easy, streamlined interactions between coworkers and supervisors. Links, data, documents and images can be easily shared, and employees can work on projects together regardless of their physical location.
- Higher retention rates. A digital workspace has the potential to strengthen a company's employee experience. The empowerment that comes from increased flexibility also helps workers trust and respect their superiors and feel like they are trusted and respected in return. This increases employee satisfaction and makes it more likely that workers will commit to and remain with the company for extended periods of time.
- Better customer service. The digital workspace often incorporates technologies that offer self-service education and analytics. These two offerings -- in addition to a strong employee experience -- can elevate the level of customer service provided by employees.
- Reduced costs. Since a digital workspace eliminates the need for a physical work environment, companies can benefit by saving on previous expenses like utilities and commercial square footage.
Finally, digital workspace technology is compatible with most other technologies used by businesses. This allows companies to improve user experiences of the integrated software while also lessening the number of logins that employees must remember and easing system management and maintenance practices.
Challenges of a digital workspace
While a digital workspace produces numerous benefits, it also poses various challenges to users. For example, the digital workspace lacks the ability to provide centralized notifications. Unlike a smartphone, where notifications from every application can be seen in one place, digital workspace notifications are spread across various systems and apps. As a result, digital workspace users rely heavily on their email inbox as the primary notification center. This decreases efficiency throughout the workforce since it takes more time and energy to track what's going on and ensure nothing is being missed.
Another challenge involves security. The digital workspace increases the number of applications and systems being used as well as the amount of sharing that occurs. This creates a need for stronger and more scalable security that allows users to collaborate with external partners securely. Unfortunately, securing and managing data produced through this external collaboration is one of the biggest challenges in the digital workspace.
Training and adoption of the digital workspace are other challenges companies face. Users often complain that they are not provided with proper training when new systems are introduced and, therefore, do not know how to leverage the technology to improve their work processes. On the other hand, employees and managers often do not have enough time to provide or attend these training sessions while continuing to manage their daily responsibilities. As a result, users often provide negative feedback when asked about training processes.
Finally, the search interface used in digital workspaces is often inadequate and incomplete. Information within the digital workspace platform is often split across multiple systems without a centralized index. Consequently, search queries may not display all related or relevant material.
For example, customer conversations may not appear in search results because they are frequently held in a separate customer relationship management (CRM) system. Important training and onboarding materials may also be lost or forgotten because they are isolated in a separate learning and development system.
This inability for search results to produce all relevant data, files and information increases risk within the business. Decisions may be made using incomplete records or outdated data if users solely rely on their digital workspace search query findings.
Digital workspace tools
A crucial part of the underlying architecture for a digital workspace is unified endpoint management (UEM), a centralized approach to securing and controlling desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets in a connected, cohesive manner from a single console. A comprehensive digital workspace solution can include:
- Virtual desktops and virtualized apps
- Content collaboration and file sharing
- Enterprise mobility management (EMM)
- Mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM)
- Secure access to software as a service (SaaS) apps and secure browsing
- Single sign-on features
- Advanced analytics and monitoring
Workspace software options such as VMware Workspace One and Citrix Cloud enable IT professionals to deliver and manage flexible workstations that can function on any device, whether the user is local or remote. These options promise complete virtual desktop delivery, seamless abstracted applications and aggregated third-party cloud resources and are designed to provide a single framework where users and IT administrators can access all these resources. This centralizes management and makes the user's life easier.
How to implement a successful digital workspace
A company's digital workspace journey should consider the following factors:
- Vision. Consider how the digital workspace aligns with existing business and digital transformation goals. Is there a clear reason why the entire work environment should be overhauled and recreated? The digital workspace should not be implemented until the company -- including stakeholders and business, HR and facilities managers -- comes to a clear agreement on the purpose and goal of the platform.
- Strategy. A digital workspace strategy should be created to guide initiatives and changes within research and development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, customer support, IT and human resources (HR). This requires a company to understand how their employees are currently working and how they might improve these processes with a digital workspace.
- Employee experience. Consider how a digital workspace can be used to strengthen the company's employee experience; this will, in turn, improve customer service.
- Employee personas. Understand the different technology used by the different roles throughout the company. The systems used by HR are likely very different from the technology used by DevOps. However, personas also include factors such as an employee's mobile use while working, technology consumption, organizational knowledge, collaboration needs and content creation responsibilities.
Key elements of a successful digital workspace include:
- Digital security. The combination of social media, cloud computing and mobile computing technologies increases the risk of data security issues. Digital workspaces must implement technologies and procedures to ensure the protection of data in the cloud while continuing to make it available to multiple devices.
- Business applications. A wide range of scalable business applications should be included in the digital workspace. Each application should help business processes in some way. Knowledge management (KM) and collaboration platforms are two essential applications. They allow users to store project documents in a central location and collaborate in real time.
- Compatibility. A successful digital workspace allows employees to use any internet-connected device to access business applications.
- Mobility. Users can access the business applications from wherever they choose to work and at any time of day.
- Communication infrastructure. A digital workspace must manage simultaneous data, video and voice communications occurring both inside and outside the company's network.
- Telecommunications tools. This includes video conferencing and voice calling services that allow users to communicate in real time.
Evolution of the digital workspace
The concept of a digital workplace is not new. As companies continue to go through a digital transformation, the idea of a workplace perimeter continues to disappear. While modern desktop transformation has IT departments decoupling user data and applications from the OS and its device, users want these workspace components wherever and whenever they need them. Freeing data from the underlying software platform provides workers with the flexibility they need to be more productive and collaborate more effectively.