What does industry research say about the digital workspace?

25 January 2017 | Chris Marshall

The emergence and evolution of the digital workspace is one of the most profound workplace trends in a generation. But you shouldn’t just take our word for it. That’s why in today’s post, Part 4 of our Fresh series, we explore what industry research has to say about the digital workspace.

For those jumping straight in with the series, we suggest catching up with the other blogs to get you suitable prepared.

A collaborative space, tailored to the individual

Before we look at the digital workspace through the lens of the experts, what do people actually mean when they say “digital workspace”?

As the name suggests, the digital workspace is the virtual equivalent to the physical workspace. What this means becomes increasingly apparent as more and more of the physical workplace is being replaced or augmented by digital tools. Document storage in the Cloud has made the once-standard filing cabinets seem particularly archaic, for example. As digital technologies grow, business and working methods change – a digital workspace takes that change and turns it into a modern hub for productivity, communication and collaboration.

“There was a moment (I think around 2001 or 2002 for me) when the workplace went from being centered on offices, meeting rooms and desk phones, to being focused on the computer on the desk, or indeed the train, the airport or the kitchen table…we didn’t really notice it happen – one day it was a machine on a desk, the next it was work. We didn’t organize ourselves in the right way to manage the change.”

Chris Tubb, Digital Workplace Group.

The majority of companies are now home to masses of digital work – data, documents, apps and communications services on multiple devices – PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets. An ideal digital workspace accommodates this – combining applications, information and collaboration and hosting all the resources someone will need to get their work done.

Understanding the digital workspace

However, research reveals that many companies – 84% – believe email and social media alone constitute a digital workspace. So is this right? While employees accessing emails on their smartphones or connecting with co-workers on social media are indeed examples of the digital workplace in action, the reality goes much further than this. To gain a continued advantage in productivity (and in turn a competitive advantage overall), more significant changes to the way your employees work are required. MIT Sloan Management – the business journal arm of the world famous school in America – groups these technologies into the following acronym; SMACIT (social, mobile, analytics, cloud and Internet of Things).

Through looking at relevant research, this post will explore two aspects of the digital workspace – its current state and the lengths it can go to – as well as the benefits companies can expect.

The time is now

A 2015 global study of 500 C-level and IT executives across 7 countries aimed to establish the current nature of the digital workplace. The study brought two core issues to light: misunderstanding about the digital workspace, and time-constraints.

Widespread confusion

84% of companies believe that email and social media capabilities make up a digital workspace, but this could not be further from the truth. The digital workplace enables employees to access the information and resources they need, regardless of time or location, to do their jobs more effectively. It’s important to note that a digital workspace is a constant; it will change and evolve in tune with the modern working environment.

Time constraints

Creating a digital workspace is much more of a step-by-step process. Half of the survey’s respondents (48%) explained their route to a ‘fully’ digital workplace would be a 4-year journey. Not only does this mean that a digital workplace is not a quick and easy fix, but it means companies need to act quickly, as the digital landscape will have undoubtedly changed once again in 4 years’ time.

However, for companies that have already adopted a true digital workspace, the benefits are clear to see. The bottom-line impact of a digital workplace delivers significant value in the following areas:

In all 3 areas, the results are extremely impressive. So, what exactly is responsible for these improvements?

Benefits to the business

After analysing the results from their 2015 CIO survey – which found a number of legacy systems still in place – Gartner list 3 reasons CIOs should seriously consider the move towards the Digital Workplace.

1. Expand IT planning horizons

You can never be guilty of doing too much planning. The CIO survey found that 84% of planning is still based on a 2-year horizon, yet extending this planning stage can enable IT groups to become a more strategic factor in long-term business success. Identify your desired outcomes and determine the skills, attitudes and expectations of your company and employees.

2. Invest in post-nexus technologies

The Nexus of Forces is made up of social, cloud and information, and CIOs should be looking to pursue post-nexus technologies – the biggest of which being the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and robotics.

3. Focus metrics on employee engagement

For CIOs, IT cost and service levels are two metrics most used to judge their performance. For a digital workspace, these stats should be a thing of the past. Goals should be focused less on the financial output and more on the promotion of metrics around employee engagement; the contribution of your IT people towards business outcomes, the willingness to help achieve objectives and being an active community member.

Where will you be in 4 years?

When considering the improvements technology has seen from 2012-16, we can be sure that by the time we reach 2020, there will be even more technology at our disposal. The time has come, therefore, for companies to begin transitioning to the modern digital workspace – the sooner, the better.

Next in our series, we’ll be covering how a digital workspace aligns IT with business strategy. For more information on the digital workspace and how you can begin your move, contact us today.

Need help?

We’re happy to help with whatever questions you have.

Get in touch