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Creating a Shared Vision of the Digital Workspace: Are We There, Yet?

Part 2: Exploring the Map for the Digital Workspace Journey

Click here for Part 1 and Part 3.

IT organizations might have something quite remarkable in mind for the digital workspace, but if they can’t share it with colleagues, build excitement and align goals and objectives, they’re just left tinkering by themselves.


I began this series talking about a shared definition for the digital workspace. Building on the transportation theme from the rest of the digital workspace story map, any endeavor worth doing requires a shared vision—whether it’s leading a Formula 1 racing team, designing the next supercar, planning a mission to Mars or creating a high-speed rail line to connect cities.

[Read Part 1: Is Standardization IT’s Friend or Foe—or Both?]

What are the goals? What does success look like? The digital workspace story map was designed just for this purpose: To help the champions of the digital workspace revolution build a shared vision of the digital workspace within their organizations.

Many of the customers I talk to rally around the digital workspace as a movement within the ever-changing, end-user computing (EUC) environment, characterized by the following goals:

  1. By focusing on user experience and employee satisfaction, IT can better secure corporate data and resources by curbing the need for shadow IT.
  2. Self-service automation and cloud-based (i.e. works anywhere) management tools establish an operational cost structure that scales.
  3. IT can promote an environment of experimentation with new device form factors and new apps to better support innovative improvements to business processes and quality and to reduce costs.
  4. IT (representing the employer) and employees reach a new social contract, maintained through technology—protecting IP and company resources, as well as protecting employee digital privacy.

To help me explain, I’m going to walk through the “Digital Workspace Beach Resort” on the Digital Workspace Story Map. (Everybody wants to go to the beach, right?)


Welcome to the Digital Workspace Beach Resort

It’s All About Delivering Experiences

I can’t say I’m experienced in running a beach resort, but I certainly appreciate a good one. At the top of the list of elements of a great vacation spot is the environment it is set in. When looking for a place to go, I want to see the gorgeous beach, warm water, great amenities, quiet seclusion when I want to relax, great energy and maybe a nice bar and good nightlife when I want to have some fun. In other words, it’s all about the experience.

Perfect service means I’m not hounded by staff, and housekeeping isn’t cleaning the rooms at 9 a.m. In fact, I may not even notice the staff is there, unless I want to.

Having a concierge desk is nice, but in the age of TripAdvisor and Yelp, it isn’t as useful or powerful as simply having my needs and wants anticipated. Maybe there’s chocolate with the turndown service, a bucket of beers at the beach bar, sailboats rigged with lifejackets and complimentary sunscreen and sunburn lotion at the ready.

IT_Experiences_Digital_Workspace_Story_MapIt’s always the little things that make great service. It means someone invested time to put themselves in my shoes and think about how they could make my stay more enjoyable, or productive.

Perhaps the translation to the digital workspace is obvious. I don’t need IT to tell me what devices they recommend for me to use. I don’t need IT to recommend how I should get my emails, how I should communicate with peers or how I should take notes during a meeting.

I have preferences, and those preferences change over time. Most likely, I will use multiple tools that basically do the same thing, simply because of the different teams I work with or because of slight nuances that make an app or device form factor particularly useful.

This doesn’t mean that IT has to open the floodgates. Instead, it means that IT needs the ability to support a wider diversity of apps and devices than ever before and invests in integrations that embrace as many options as possible.

[Related: 2017: The Year of the Digital Workspace & User Experience Technology]

Pay-as-You-Go? All-Inclusive? Just Keep Customers on the Property

Device_Bar_Digital_Workspace_Story_MapAlthough the story map doesn’t show how guests pay their bar tabs, it is an important part of the story. Most are probably happy to partake in complimentary services—like preselected drinks on the house (the kind that are just OK, on a budget)—but they also want choices—a full cash bar so they can choose whatever they want. And they are willing to spend, in the moment, to get them.

That doesn’t mean unlimited choices and limitless everything, but a wide selection of food, drinks and entertainment should be available. For the resort, keeping customers happy and on the property is a financial incentive to offer more variety.

I’m really talking about “shadow IT.” Budget considerations and chargeback models are part of the implementation story, but what is more important here, for IT, is the security story. By keeping users “on the property” and in sight of that lifeguard stand, IT keeps them safe.

That means IT embraces users’ needs and wants by increasing choices and catering to preferences like never before. IT doesn’t have to offer all-you-can-eat services when lines of business are willing to pay for the apps they prefer or when users are willing to pay for their preferred devices.

[Related: Enabling BYO With VMware Workspace ONE]

Enable Experimentation to Drive Innovation

IT_Trusted_Partner_Digital_Workspace_Story_MapSo the device bar and app store in the story map represent choice and self-service. These elements are critical to user satisfaction, but perhaps just as important is IT’s ability to be relevant to the business in an increasingly competitive climate—at IT Trusted Partner beach.

Putting the resort metaphor to the side for a moment, the most compelling thing I’ve heard from a customer is, “There is no innovation without experimentation.” In an effort to make IT relevant to lines of business in any company or institution, people must be able to experiment constantly with new apps, devices, device form factors and workflows in an effort to iterate and improve.

“There is no innovation without experimentation.”

So often IT is only able to tolerate experimentation, without offering support, in an effort not to be obstructionist. However, if IT is so strapped fulfilling standardized, cookie-cutter, no-frills services that they can’t afford to support and encourage experimentation, then it’s critical to challenge this status quo.

Responding to rising security threats will remain a priority, but if IT doesn’t actively support rapid experimentation, guests leave that beach and the sight line of the lifeguard. IT loses the ability to protect anything.

[Related: The Domino’s Effect: Why Innovation Begins by Taking a Wrecking Ball to IT Silos]

Reach a New “Social Contract” with Employees

Security_Digital_Workspace_Story_MapThe bubbles of security surrounding resort-goers in the story map is one of the more subtle, yet complex, topics in the digital workspace.

The concept of the “social contract,” borrowed from Western political philosophy, is increasingly relevant to today’s digital life. The social contract deals with the individual’s willingness (rationally and consciously, or not) to give up their natural rights, to do whatever they please, in exchange for a perceived benefit. Everyone constantly makes decisions in their personal lives about what information they’re willing to give up in exchange for the convenience or value of the services yielded in return.

At work, antiquated “acceptable use” policies put pressure on the digital relationship between employee (or contractor) and employer. Many IT policies govern the ownership of intellectual property (IP) on corporate assets, using ownership of the means of getting work done as grounds for owning or controlling the rights of the organization. This might be the issuing of a desktop, a phone or access to a corporate network.

Unfortunately, many of these conventional forms of protection are challenged when employees mix cloud-based services between business and personal use, regardless of ownership of devices or network access. For example:

  • Employees conduct personal business from work devices, and vice versa, conduct work from personal devices.
  • Employees are just as likely to use public networks as private networks.

Work requires a new form of social contract, one that can transcend device, application or network and relies on the digital identity of each employee as the root of protection. Organizations will approach these new contracts very differently based on culture, local laws, industry regulations and prior practice. Many may simply codify these contracts on acceptable use policy documents (checkmarked and rarely read as new workers onboard).

However, there is an opportunity to build these contracts into the IT platform. In the new social contract, privacy rights are digitally protected, just the same as the company’s protection of IP.

[Related: Redesigning the VMware AirWatch Privacy Policy]

Take the Next Step

The digital workspace is not technology. It is enabled by technology. It represents a cultural change in the way IT engages with employees and lines of business.

Take the next step on the journey to the digital workspace:

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