There’s a new buzzword in town and it’s “Digital Workspace”.
I’m not a great fan of buzzwords and often they serve the needs of marketing hype without any substance, with a tendency to create more confusion and uncertainty than clarity and understanding; at their worst they provide a new bandwagon to people who like to think that they are ready adopters to jump aboard, regardless of the direction the horses are heading or the robustness of their chosen means of conveyance! Nevertheless buzzwords are here to stay and often they foreshadow things to come; we saw it with the emergence of the cloud, and also with the hype surrounding portals prior to that. So maybe Digital Workspace is something we should consider.
As our world activities, both business and personal, become increasingly online there is a transition from the physical to virtual. In the past very much about us and what we did was determined by geography, our where determined our what, when and how. Digital Workspaces are the tools we use (based on software, hardware, connectivity, security, information architecture etc.) to allow us to break the geographical constraints and transition to a new way of working that is enabled by technology to break down the constraint of geography.
What that means is that we should be able to do most of what we need to do regardless of where we are. This doesn’t just mean not going into the office or factory or client site every day; effective digital workspaces are always available, allowing effective work whenever and wherever suits the individual; this might be while walking down the street, waiting for a train, in the gap between meetings or while collaborating in a room with colleagues.
The Digital Workspace encompasses many tools and technologies. In the old days we might have thought about these activities being confined to a set of applications on a single PC or, somewhat more recently within an intranet portal, for example. Today the concept is more inclusive and should include tools and solutions for:
- Content – finding, creating, publishing and managing information in all forms.
- Collaboration – working with colleagues, internal and external, to achieve some common purpose; both in real time (simultaneous editing, chat, voice and video conferencing) and non-real-time.
- Communication – delivering and receiving important messaging, news and announcements and supporting 360° feedback mechanisms across organisations and operational networks. Try this and let me know if you want
- Process – structured activities that manage or deliver required outcomes and often involving electronic forms and electronic workflow.
- People – ensuring team members, colleagues and collaborators can find each other effectively based on the needs of the moment and form effective teams.
The movement to always on, always accessible Digital Workspaces is a tangible element of digital transformation. Of course that’s another buzzword so perhaps I should attempt the definition:
Digital transformation is the profound transformation of personal and business activities, processes, competencies and ways of working to effectively adopt and be enabled by a full range of digital technologies, effective digital transformation is managed in a strategic and prioritised way and takes account of their impact across society as well as within the confines of an organisation.
Meanwhile Wikipedia states, “Digital transformation is the changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. Digital transformation may be thought of as the third stage of embracing digital technologies:
digital competence→ digital usage → digital transformation”
As Wikipedia also states, the transformation means that digital usages “enables new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhance and support the traditional methods.” This is important as it’s not just about doing the same things more efficiently but about doing some entirely new things which are only possible as a result of the digital transformation. My previous comments about being able to work regardless of geography is part of that. Meanwhile be going paperless is not digital transformation unless new models and ways of working emerge from being decoupled from paper-based processes. An example of this, that we use routinely, is being able to work on the same document at the same time from multiple different locations and often involving people from multiple organisations.
It’s relatively easy to be focused on solving discrete business problems with individual digital technologies. It’s not even that hard to putting in digital platforms spoken address multiple business needs. However transformative digital workspaces should have the ability to allow organisations to become different, freeing their staff not only from location, but from other aspects of physical interaction and constraint, operating in joined up ways across devices, applications and people and able to be rapidly moulded to the changing needs of the organisation.
The current state-of-the-art in technology is beginning to deliver this, joining up generic technologies such as the extensive range available within Office 365, Azure, Amazon Web services etc. with personal applications on smart phones and tablets and taking advantage of hyper scale cloud-based services for things like machine learning, augmented reality and more.
True digital workspaces are not an application or even a suite of technologies, they are suite of platforms, sufficiently integrated that people, teams and organisations can achieve new things and evolve at the new speed of business.