Understanding the Digital Workspace

It seems almost unimaginable that the first generation of personal computers in the workplace were not connected to anything. They were freestanding machines, eventually linked to printers and shared file drives. More than a decade would go by between the debut of the first IBM PC in 1981 and the introduction of the Internet to the office. Many of us now do our work in a digital workspace, connected to applications, data and each another through sophisticated user interfaces—backed by equally sophisticated technology architecture.

What is a digital workspace?

There are two types of digital workspaces. At one level, any computer interface that people use to get their work done could be considered a digital workspace. However, the term has a more specific meaning in the IT field. The industry consensus is that a digital workspace is a technology framework, one that centrally manages an organization’s IT assets. The digital workspace concentrates digital resources into a unified virtual location.

A digital workspace may be a purpose-built solution, but it can also take the form of a collection of products from different vendors. The user accesses resources, such as applications and files, through a digital workspace client app. These may be web-based. In some cases, they are cloud-based consoles.

The workspace decouples physical client devices from the digital resources it delivers. Digital workspaces are typically device agnostic, enabling a uniform user experience (UX) regardless of the end user’s device. The workspace provides anytime, anywhere, any device access to applications. The applications themselves could be deployed on-premises or on multiple clouds

What are the benefits of a digital workspace?

Employee Productivity

A digital workspace confers a number of benefits on organizations that adopt the technology. Employee productivity tends to improve with use of digital workspaces, for instance. Employee turnover may also drop, which helps with organizational coherence and morale. The company then saves on the cost of recruiting and avoids the operational slowdowns that occur when on-boarding new people.

More engaged

A well-designed digital workspace makes employees more engaged, as well. This may result from simple improvements in user experience like single sign on (SSO). When employees do not have to log into separate systems to get their work done, they become more engaged and feel better about doing their jobs.

Work effectively

Operationally, digital workspaces can help customer service people do their work more easily and effectively. The workspace may contain all the data and applications they need to support customers. As a result, the service deliver process is faster and more seamless.

More secure

Security also tends to get better when employees use a digital workspace. When people are remote the workspace must make up for the risk of working outside a secure perimeter. Fewer passwords to remember and the ability to monitor where digital workspace users are logging in from, as well as which digital resources they are accessing also boost security.

Why is the digital workspace important?

Digital workspaces are important to businesses that foster to productivity and teamwork. As systems have grown more heterogeneous and complex, they’ve become a drag on efficiency. Toggling between applications and having to sign in and out of cloud resources slow people down. Digital workspaces solve this problem. This is useful for on-site employees, but particularly helpful for remote people. On a related front, the ability to work anywhere on any device adds flexibility and mobility to the workforce. These qualities are essential for companies that want success with hybrid work.

What are the use cases for a digital workspace?

Digital workspace use cases are many and varied. Some of the most common include provisioning a work interface for contractors and third-party workers, remote workers and sensitive data applications. For third-party workers, digital workspaces make it easier to manage people who are not in the main company directory. The digital workspace enables productivity for these workers while providing simple, secure access to digital resources.

For remote employees, a digital workspace securely allows access to apps and data, regardless of where the resources are hosted. In regulated industries such as healthcare and finance, remote work would not even be possible without a securely defined and controlled digital workspace.

A digital workspace is a good option for handling sensitive data. The workspace can establish that only authorized users have access to the data, even when it’s spread out across multiple applications. The alternative, which is to manage access control lists for more than one system, is prohibitively complicated. The workspace can further enhance security by encrypting the data as well.

Digital workspace vs. digital workplace

The terms “digital workspace” and “digital workplace” may sometimes be used interchangeably. It’s understandable that people can get mixed up about what’s what, but they are in fact quite different things. A digital workspace refers to a virtual space that combines digital resources like data, files and applications. A digital workplace, in contrast, is a physical location. It’s usually an office of some kind, or a co-working space.

A digital workplace, as its name suggests, is a space where people can come and do their work using digital technology such as video conferencing gear, digital white boards and so forth. Also, the digital workplace is usually collective, designed for multiple people, while the digital workspace is for individual use.

Understanding the Digital Workspace_v3
Understanding the Digital Workspace_v3

How do you create a digital workspace?

Most organizations that use digital workspaces deploy it through a vendor’s digital workspace solution. These solutions provide virtual desktop delivery, coupled with abstracted applications and an aggregation of third-party cloud resources. They deliver a unified framework that enables users and IT administrators to access all connected resources.

A digital workspace requires an architecture that supports unified endpoint management (UEM). This is a centralized means of securing and controlling all endpoint devices, including desktops and laptops, smartphones, tablets and so forth. UEM may be part of a broader enterprise mobility management (EMM) or mobile device management (MDM) platform. With this architecture in place, the digital workspace solution typically has the following functionality:

Virtual desktops

Virtualized applications

File sharing/content collaboration

Secure browsing

Pixelated Woman

What does a digital workspace include?

A successful digital workspace will contain as wide a range of business applications as are needed by end users to perform their jobs. Collaboration platforms are usually considered essential for an effective digital workspace, as the goal of the technology is to facilitate meaningful collaboration between team members regardless of their locations or devices. Centralized document storage, often combined with knowledge management (KM) and enterprise search, are also useful, if not essential to success.

Other factors driving digital workspace success include mobility, which allows users to access the workspace anywhere, from any device, at any time. Getting this right means having the workspace integrate well with telecommunications tools like video conferencing and communication infrastructure. Security is also a factor in a digital workspace. Any serious digital workspace solution will include strong security countermeasures. These might span access controls, encryption and endpoint security.

Challenges of a digital workspace

Benefits aside, digital workspaces do present challenges to users and system owners. For example, in some cases, the workspace may lack a centralized notification feature. An alert may not appear on all screens at the same time, as it would on a smartphone. Users may need to check email to find out of it there is a system alert. This is not ideal.

Training is required. Intuitive as the digital workspace might be, users still need to be taught how to use it. This will beget training programs and media, which will then need to be updated. It’s an investment in productivity, but it has to be made.

Security can be an issue, too. Any solution that integrates so many disparate systems and data sources and makes them available on such a distributed basis is going to have many vulnerable attack surfaces.

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