The im­por­tance of build­ing a dy­namic dig­i­tal workspace

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - Report On Business - MICHAEL MUR­PHY

Vice-pres­i­dent and coun­try man­ager at Citrix Canada

The dig­i­tal workspace is no longer “the workspace of the fu­ture,” it’s re­al­ity. Many com­pa­nies have adopted mo­bil­ity and flex­i­ble work poli­cies, mean­ing mo­bile tech­nol­ogy is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of to­day’s workspace.

While it’s easy for com­pa­nies to talk about com­mit­ting to mo­bile work, how far have busi­nesses come in tran­si­tion­ing to a dig­i­tal workspace?

Ac­cord­ing to Build­ing the Dig­i­tal Work­place, a study con­ducted by Ox­ford Eco­nomics for Citrix, Cana­dian com­pa­nies take the lead in many as­pects of pre­par­ing for dig­i­tal work. Seventy-five per cent of Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tions sur­veyed make data se­curely avail­able to all users us­ing file shar­ing, com­pared with 59 per cent glob­ally, and 77 per cent pro­vide train­ing to all em­ploy­ees for tools, soft­ware and ser­vices. And it’s ex­pected that even more progress will be made over the next three years both in Canada and glob­ally.

At the same time, while com­pa­nies have in­vested in tech­nol­ogy, many have not made the broader changes nec­es­sary to fully adopt the mo­bile move­ment. In fact, just one-fifth of Cana­dian ex­ec­u­tives sur­veyed said their com­pany has a co­he­sive, in­te­grated mo­bile strat­egy in place.

Max­i­miz­ing the value of dig­i­tal workspaces is more than just of­fer­ing em­ploy­ees a day to work from home, giv­ing them a smart phone to work on or in­creas­ing the IT bud­get. Com­pre­hen­sive mo­bile strate­gies are cru­cial to cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the new way of work­ing and re­quire the col­lab­o­ra­tion of de­part­ments beyond just IT.

So, what needs to be con­sid­ered when build­ing an ef­fec­tive dig­i­tal workspace?

Firstly, com­pa­nies must re­think core pro­cesses and poli­cies around dig­i­tal work to ac­com­mo­date new ways of work­ing. This re­quires an over­haul of the cur­rent busi­ness model, se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures, em­ployee work flow and ex­pec­ta­tions and even the phys­i­cal lay­out of the of­fice. In de­vel­op­ing mo­bile-first busi­ness pro­cesses re­lated to en­abling off­site en­vi­ron­ments, flex­i­ble work sched­ules and mit­i­gat­ing burnout of con­stantly con­nected em­ploy­ees, com­pa­nies can max­i­mize the dig­i­tal workspace. As a re­sult, they are also likely to see an im­prove­ment in em­ployee per­for­mance, pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pany prof­itabil­ity.

The sec­ond key to build­ing an ef­fec­tive dig­i­tal workspace is to em­brace a flex­i­ble, dig­i­tal cor­po­rate cul­ture that main­tains open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between man­agers and em­ploy­ees and clearly con­veys ex­pec­ta­tions around af­ter-hours and re­mote work.

While an in­creas­ingly con­nected work force can raise the con­cern of em­ployee burnout with the blur­ring of lines between per­sonal and pro­fes­sional time, it is im­por­tant that com­pa­nies en­force a cul­ture that pro­motes healthy work-life bal­ance.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions should be en­cour­aged to al­low em­ploy­ees to choose their own hours and lo­ca­tion (when and where they can be most pro­duc­tive), or to con­duct per­sonal busi­ness dur­ing work hours, as long as reg­u­lar work is com­pleted. Busi­ness lead­ers can en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to dis­con­nect af­ter work hours and set the stan­dard by dis­con­nect­ing them­selves.

Com­pa­nies can even use the phys­i­cal of­fice as a ve­hi­cle to pro­mote ef­fec­tive cor­po­rate cul­ture. For ex­am­ple, through open­lay­out of­fices that are ac­com­mo­dat­ing to on-the-go work­ers and in­clude qui­eter spa­ces for in­de­pen­dent work, busi­nesses can sup­port a cul­ture that is flex­i­ble and col­lab­o­ra­tive with­out sac­ri­fic­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Busi­ness lead­ers can also iden­tify new met­rics to as­sess em­ployee per­for­mance. This means shift­ing away from a fo­cus on the num­ber of hours clocked while phys­i­cally in the of­fice, to­ward a more holis­tic eval­u­a­tion of his or her con­tri­bu­tion.

Fi­nally, but most im­por­tantly, se­cu­rity needs to be at the top of the pri­or­ity list.

With the in­creas­ing preva­lence of cy­ber­at­tacks, com­pa­nies need to im­ple­ment ev­ery safe­guard pos­si­ble to pre­vent a po­ten­tial breach. A dig­i­tal work en­vi­ron­ment can re­duce se­cu­rity risks dra­mat­i­cally. Re­mote ac­cess of com­pany data can pose con­cerns for IT pro­fes­sion­als; hav­ing the proper, se­cure IT in­fra­struc­ture and poli­cies in place can safe­guard in­for­ma­tion.

For ex­am­ple, com­pa­nies can host all com­pany apps and data through vir­tu­al­iza­tion so­lu­tions while pro­vid­ing vir­tual ac­cess to em­ploy­ees re­gard­less of their lo­ca­tion or de­vice they’re on. This al­lows com­pa­nies to avoid se­cu­rity threats in case of lost de­vices or virus-in­fected de­vices. This also re­moves the bur­den from in­di­vid­u­als to en­sure they’ve ap­plied se­cu­rity up­dates and patches on their de­vices, apps and OSes, since all up­dates can be vir­tu­ally done from the data cen­tre.

Over­all, dig­i­tal workspaces de­liver unique ad­van­tages for both em­ploy­ees and or­ga­ni­za­tions. The Ox­ford Eco­nomics sur­vey found that dig­i­tal work helps em­ploy­ees solve problems more cre­atively (96 per cent), pro­vide bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice (87 per cent) and col­lab­o­rate more ef­fec­tively (90 per cent). Process ef­fi­ciency, cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and prof­itabil­ity are also iden­ti­fied as top pay­offs of dig­i­tal work. Not to men­tion, it can help com­pa­nies ad­dress tal­ent gaps and widens the pool of avail­able work­ers from dif­fer­ent ge­ogra­phies or other lim­i­ta­tions.

With dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion touch­ing all as­pects of the busi­ness world, it is the com­pa­nies that are fo­cused and strate­gic in their ap­proach, where C-Suite, IT and HR work col­lab­o­ra­tively, that will be­come lead­ers in the mo­bile move­ment. Ex­ec­u­tives, ed­u­ca­tors and hu­man re­sources ex­perts con­trib­ute to the on­go­ing Lead­er­ship Lab se­ries. Find more sto­ries at­reers.

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