Intelligent digital workspaces for the total workplace ecosystem

 In |

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The 21st century economy requires new levels of employee agility. A dynamic workforce with anywhere-access to productivity tools and data are must-haves for this new operating model. However, it’s difficult to get this off the ground when a new hire has never met their team in person, the VPN is down again, or newly delivered PCs and mobile devices take hours to set up and configure for work use.

Getting IT to seamlessly support workers in a new hybrid model — where significant percentages of employees work from home, while others toil in an office environment — requires a new platform for delivering, supporting, and managing the entire end user computing experience. IDC calls this model the “intelligent digital workspace.”

The intelligent digital workspace and its benefits

IT teams should stop thinking about user provisioning – physical device delivery, OS installation and configuration, application delivery, and granting of access rights – as a series of piecemeal steps or separate processes.

An intelligent digital workspace framework allows businesses to deliver all these aspects in the context of a larger solution  — one aimed at improving end user experiences while automating and integrating multiple tasks that previously spanned three or more software tools and  IT support teams (e.g., desktop support, security, systems, and apps specialists, among others).

PC lifecycle management and mobile device management (MDM) platforms have been around for over a decade, and they have operated in silos for most of this time. Specialists worked in these systems, configuring Windows laptops or iPhones and Android tablets on separate platforms, without considering how the end user would be working with all these tools together. The emergence of unified endpoint management (UEM) is helping IT teams tie together the disparate device setup and management tasks, which can make users’ experiences across device form factors more seamless and productive.

But UEM itself is not a workspace platform. Application delivery and provisioning is part of the UEM remit, but delivering applications, content and data, and other services to end users within the context of their work is where workspace platform solutions add additional value.

An intelligent digital workspace knows all the components of a worker’s “digital day-to-day.” It can anticipate what actions or tasks are coming and which IT resources are needed for the job. In the past, end user computing provisioning mostly involved giving workers a PC with installed apps and login credentials, then letting them find their way. A workspace surfaces the digital tools right to the user, cutting down on time spent hunting for the right app, data source, or cloud service.

However, an intelligent digital workspace goes beyond simple app launchers, portals, or user dashboards. This new  workspace integrates user identity and role with the underlying context and conditions of the computing environment to deliver the right workspace interface for the task.

Another aspect of the intelligent digital workspace is customization and workflow creation. This ranges from making apps work better for users to creating whole new applications, or microapps, required for bespoke workflows or tasks. Repetitive tasks, workflows, or functions — often involving other, larger enterprise software platforms or systems of record — can be streamlined this way. For example, creating an “easy” button for approving employee time off, expenses, or purchases might help a worker save minutes of time in a day, which adds up over weeks and months.

The emergence of intelligent digital workspaces

Some intelligent digital workspace solutions are coming to market now, with varying degrees of breadth, customization, and capabilities.

Many of these offerings play to the strengths of the provider: App-centric workspaces come from purveyors of enterprise business software platforms (ERP, CRM, etc.), with extensions downstream to device and OS configuration layers. Meanwhile, system infrastructure providers are introducing intelligent workspace tools centered around devices, applications, and settings configurations, with upstream ties to software platforms.

How to choose the right intelligent digital workspace for you

Organizations looking to streamline end user computing experiences should pick an intelligent digital workspace platform that covers the broadest set of use cases, while ensuring deployment and support are in the wheelhouse of the enterprise IT organization. Start by considering the end user and what his or her “digital day-to-day” looks like, relative to their role and responsibilities. Identify the technology-related impediments to getting work done, whether these are poorly configured devices, clunky systems software, or unusable apps. Then, map the features and capabilities of an intelligent digital workspace platform to these pain points.

Digital workspace deployments can be complex, requiring help from external sources. While choosing the right technology vendor and product is important, sourcing workspace technology from key partners that understand the use cases and customer needs, such as integrators, value-added resellers, or managed service providers, will be just as important to a successful workspace rollout.

About the author

Phil Hochmuth is the Program Vice President on IDC’s Enterprise Mobility team. His research provides insights into how enterprises deploy mobile devices and applications, as well as management and security platforms. Key markets he covers include enterprise mobility management (EMM) and enterprise mobile security, including mobile data and threat protection, and mobile device security technologies.