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Forming a Digital Workspace Strategy: Where to Begin

To deal with technological chaos, organizational growth and employee expectations, three IT leaders each formed a digital workspace strategy. Here’s their advice for taking the first step.

Brian Lancaster can’t wait to work with new technologies. Like any IT leader, he wants others at Nebraska Medicine, an academic health system where he works as vice president of IT, to get excited about the technology he helps deliver.

Instead, he found that sometimes physicians feel like data entry clerks while using difficult-to-access work technology. “It’s hard to get them to love technology when they don’t like doing a task,” he said.

This isn’t uncommon in the healthcare industry, bound by strict regulations for handling sensitive data. Regardless, Lancaster wanted to give students, faculty, staff, physicians and patients—Mac and Windows users alike—better digital experiences.

“How do I manage that chaos?” he wondered, considering the various types of users and devices involved. “I think the digital workspace is really the answer.”

With a digital workspace, Lancaster’s team would be able to secure and support any device on any platform from a single pane of glass, no matter where users are. “As a technologist, it’s really cool, but then at the same time it’s really challenging to do any device, anytime, anywhere if we don’t have a strategy,” he said.

Having a strategy upfront can be the difference between moving forward and getting stuck on the digital workspace journey. But getting started is always the hardest part. Here’s how Lancaster and two other IT leaders took the first steps towards forming a digital workspace strategy.

Digital Workspace Strategy

3 Simple Steps to a Digital Workspace Strategy

Step 1. Observing People and Processes

Where should IT leaders begin the digital workspace journey? Not with the technology, Lancaster said: “It’s also about embracing the people and processes. Understanding the needs was the first step before exploring the technology that delivers those needs.”

At Nebraska Medicine, for example, that meant examining the typical day of students, professors, patients, and staff. Then, Lancaster’s team brainstormed digital ways to make those experiences more efficient and enriching.

“Instead of carrying around a bunch of books, why not give students an iPad with digital curriculum on it?” he says. “But how many medical school professors have digital content? Zero. So how do we change that process? Then, how do we change the patient experience process? At the hospital, you’re given an iPad that walks you through your stay, that tells you exactly when the nurse is coming when the physician will see you and when you can have family members visit you.”

“How do I manage that chaos? I think the digital workspace is really the answer for that.”
—Brian Lancaster, Vice President of IT, Nebraska Medicine

Step 2. Prioritizing Use Cases

When deciding which of the identified use cases to start transforming, Senior Systems Engineer Patrick McGraw recommends the low-hanging fruit: obvious use cases with urgent needs and immediate ROI. His were five-year-old computers with the wear and tear of hundreds of daily lab and classroom users at Western Carolina University.

These devices were not only in need of replacing but also of more efficient, centralized management. The University expected 50-percent growth over the next five years, and McGraw’s team couldn’t continue taking weeks to prepare labs as IT’s overall workload multiplied. So as they replaced computers, they also moved to a desktop virtualization platform to make university resources more accessible, secure and manageable.

With components of the digital workspace in place, McGraw’s team had newfound visibility into application usage and user behaviors, and they expanded on use cases from there.

“That was kind of an eye-opener for us,” McGraw says. “We’re paying for all these licenses for seats of the software, and they’re not using them. One of the other things we were able to do is drive down our license costs because we’re on more of a concurrent license basis instead of a seat license, which was a huge gain for the University. We saved tons of money just by doing that.”

His team also found out when many students prefer to work: in the middle of the night. “We see huge spikes at 3 o’clock in the morning, which is when students are working,” McGraw says. “So how do we make it more available to students? How do I keep this lab open until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and not have to pay some student to sit in the lab to monitor it? Now, we can do all that. Our labs are open 24/7.”

“Ultimately, you hear those buzzwords: ‘Think mobile-first;’ ‘think cloud-first.’ We ended up getting to a model where it was more about ‘think user-first.’”
—Brian Link, Senior Director of User Experience Strategy and Engineering, Capital One

Step 3. Considering Security, Identity, and Privacy

Of course, no digital workspace strategy is complete without considerations around mobile security, identity management, and user privacy. “We recognize that the landscape has changed, from a technical perspective. The demand for consumer experiences is very real, and it’s immediate,” said Brian Link, senior director of user experience strategy and engineering for Capital One. “How do we get to this digital landscape in a way that’s meaningful for them and that doesn’t sacrifice our corporate posture?”

After identifying the who and the what of the strategy, Link said his team considered foundational questions like, “How do we start to think about things like BYOD or CYOD? How do we think about adaptive capabilities, allowing people to step up and down from the point of management and understand what trust models need to be built? How do we think about privacy in the right way?”

With a strategy in place to protect the company and the users, his team could then expand the conversation around the heart of the mobile user experience: applications. “What are the apps we should deliver? How should we deliver those apps? Do we deliver native apps or web apps?”

As mobility continues paving the way for new work experiences, Link’s team confidently moves forward with users at the center. “Ultimately, you hear those buzzwords: ‘Think mobile-first;’ ‘think cloud-first.’ We ended up getting to a model where it was more about ‘think user-first,’” said Link. “The tools that we provide our users, tell them how much we value their work. I really believe that. Everything we do is in service of our associates, of the brand. That’s been our journey thus far.”

Continue reading about these IT leaders’ digital workspace journey at VMware Radius, and find out how the platform drove employee empowerment initiatives.

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