26 SPECIAL REPORT: DIGITAL WORKPLACES
Transforming effect Everyone in businesses and organisations around the world seems to be talking about digital transformation and the digital workplace. To begin this special report, Ian McMurray ﬁnds out what’s going on in the office
appy birthday, ENIAC. This year, on 29 July, ENIAC would have been 70 – had the world’s ﬁrst signiﬁcant digital computer lived until now. Instead, it was switched off, somewhat unceremoniously, on 2 October 1955, by which time it has been claimed that it had done more arithmetic than the entire human race to that date. Insofar as ENIAC was the ﬁrst signiﬁcant digital computer, it can be said to have been the progenitor of the digital technologies we take for granted today. Those have transformed our home and personal lives – and, increasingly, they’re transforming both how and where we work. That transformation has a name: the ‘digital workplace’. But: what are its key characteristics?
Mobile lifestyles “Millennials who, by 2020, will make up half the global workforce, are a major driver in the creation of the digital workplace,” notes Michael Helmbrecht, chief product and operations officer at Lifesize. “They’ve got a strong affinity for digitisation, mobility and ﬂexibility. With this, we’re seeing the digital workplace becoming more commonplace – a standardisation of mobile work styles, user-driven BYOD tools and persistent collaboration, in spite of different time zones and locations.” Helmbrecht talks about mobile lifestyles, and certainly mobility is a key element in the digital workplace. “To me, the digital workplace is a place
where everyday devices are more connected and where the physical and virtual environments are merging,” believes Alex Couzins, marketing manager at AVMI, “allowing employees to communicate and collaborate across distributed environments and geographies.” “Broadly speaking, it’s about giving the workforce the tools they need when and where they need them,” says Michele Durban, marketing director at Starleaf. “It also means that there needs to be a way to meet up with colleagues on a virtual basis, over video on any device they happen to have to hand.” “Work is no longer a place, it’s an activity,” adds Neil Marshall, client solutions director at Dell EMEA. “A digital workplace is a digital experience centred on an agile, highly mobile work culture that gives employees the freedom to get more done from anywhere.”
Key Points The digital workplace journey began 20+ years ago. As yet, the end is not in sight – and nor does anyone know what the end looks like The digital workplace is not only being driven from the top down to deliver improved business results – it also reflects new ways people want to work Of all the technologies enabling the digital workplace, the cloud is perhaps the most significant because of how it supports mobility and location-independence The nature of the digital workplace opportunity for integrators is very different from the profile of the traditional opportunity – and will require new business models
Three dimensions “I think there are three dimensions to the digital workplace,” explains Lieven Bertier, global marketing manager for collaboration and meeting experience base at Barco. “It features a lot of open space and ﬂex desking, together with huddle spaces. It’s a new way of working involving BYOD, cloud and maybe even virtual personal assistants. And it leverages the Internet of Things in order to exploit information.” What’s interesting is that almost no-one mentions ‘collaboration’ in their deﬁnition of the
digital workplace. “Collaboration is such a clichéd word,” laughs Birgit Sommerer, commercial director, visual solutions at Sharp Europe – and that may be because, today, that’s a concept that’s already so deeply ingrained that it’s a given; talking about it seems almost superﬂuous. What these digital technologies do, though, is to deliver the mobility, the locationindependence, the easy access to information and the tools that enable that information to be readily shared in real time – and those deliver a