4 Hard Truths About the Digital Workspace Journey

Dec 11, 2017
Kevin Strohmeyer


Kevin is VMware End-User Computing (EUC) senior director of product management, workspace services.

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Part 3: Exploring the Map for the Digital Workspace Journey

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Journeys Can Be Scary

We struggled at VMware to describe the industry movement toward a digital workspace as a “journey.” After all, journeys can be scary.

When I think of epic journeys in books or movies (e.g. “Stand by Me,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” or “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring”) I think of four general themes:

  1. At best, the travelers only seem to have a half-baked plan.
  2. They nearly always encounter unforeseen obstacles.
  3. The destination is not necessarily how they imagined it.
  4. The characters themselves are changed.

Some of you might cynically laugh and describe many IT projects this way, but there are some good truths encapsulated in these stories for your own journey to the digital workspace.

1. You May Have to Start With Half-Baked Plans

It’s easy to make fun of the half-baked plans that come across our inbox, but why do any of the characters in a good journey story even begin despite not having a great plan? There is some sort of shared vision or motivation that they either enthusiastically or reluctantly come to understand: That they can’t just stay where they are.

Throughout this blog series, I’ve discussed the need for building a shared vision for the future of IT. We created the digital workspace journey map to help you begin that discussion.


In the journey map, we illustrate the transition to a digital workspace as a traffic circle. It is designed as a multi-lane roundabout so that teams may begin small in the far left lane and iterate toward their vision in the longer lanes. There is no need to drive off cliffs.

Your entire organization doesn’t need to start off running in a digital workspace environment.

There is no easy plan or orthodox route to follow, but that shouldn’t stop you from starting the journey. The important part is that you create and communicate a shared vision of the future and then compare how investments made today can get you there.

2. You Can’t Avoid Obstacles

What’s a good epic journey if the heroes and heroines don’t overcome obstacles? None of us like obstacles, but this is where you’ll shine: The best IT folks are born problem solvers with a passion for technology and understanding how things work.

The rate at which technology changes is increasing faster than you can plan for. A digital workspace is designed for the unknown.
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On the journey to the digital workspace, many obstacles will be unknowable because the rate at which technology changes is increasing faster than you can plan for. A digital workspace platform, like VMware Workspace ONE, is designed for the unknown. With these technologies, you’ll be able to create a layer of abstraction for both application types and device types so that you can easily add support for new apps and new devices.

Unforeseen obstacles might be new governmental regulations, new workflows from a line of business, a new operating system update, a new device form factor or wearable, a cyber threat or a merger or acquisition. You will come across such obstacles whether you have begun the journey or not. If you have started, you will be able to respond with new tools and processes rather than being forced to spend money on and adding to the weight of old systems.

[Learn more about the integrated Workspace ONE platform, powered by VMware AirWatch unified endpoint management technology.]

3. A Digital Workspace May Not Be What You Imagined

In these classic stories, there’s typically the scene when the travelers realize that the destination may not have been what they thought or expected. Coming back to our beach theme in the journey map, we all may have different ideas about the ultimate beach resort. Looking back at many of the best vacations I’ve been on, the experiences I remember most or liked the best are almost never ones I expected before arriving.

Like the ultimate beach resort, the best digital workspace strategy delivers delightful experiences to employees. Those experiences will differ and evolve over time, so the most important experience to always deliver is the ability to innovate.

Employees should be supported to experiment with new apps, new workflows and new device form factors to discover what truly helps their productivity. The level of flexibility you can provide, however, will depend on the platform.

Don’t rigidly design a digital workspace for one, specific use case that will change by the time you are ready to deploy. Focus on choosing the right platform and designing for flexibility.

4. Your Job Will Not Stay the Same

The characters nearly always emerge from their epic journey somehow changed. On the digital workspace journey, such changes represent incredible growth opportunities for IT professionals.

The center of the traffic circle describes the primary change happening during the transition to a digital workspace. The center of gravity for IT is no longer purchasing, provisioning and managing the lifecycle of devices. Everything IT does now revolves around the user.

The user-centric digital workspace model exercises new skills that make IT more valuable to the business.
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In a digital workspace, IT manages experiences across devices, treating all endpoints as potentially hostile, by creating and enforcing policies for every application and the data stored or access through that app. More than a shift in technology, this is a shift in mindset. Existing tools could support this move toward user-centric IT services but the siloed nature of IT today—between desktop, mobile, SaaS, networking and security teams—makes this a struggle at best.

Because today’s IT systems have so many manual touch points, IT’s time and focus is spent on processes and troubleshooting. The user-centric model of the digital workspace, on the other hand, exercises new skills like empathy and process improvement—skills that make any IT professional more valuable to the business. Most importantly, IT won’t be in the business of saying no, allowing IT to improve relationships and interact more closely with lines of business.

The Moral of the Story

The moral of this epic story is:

  1. You may have to start with half-baked plans, as long as you have a shared vision.
  2. You can’t avoid unforeseen obstacles, but you can prepare.
  3. A digital workspace may not be how you imagined it, but it should always provide great user experiences.
  4. Your job will not stay the same. It will transform, for the better.

Yes, journeys can be scary, but journeys are also transformative processes in which you grow. That’s why it’s the best way we can describe the digital workspace movement.


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