Defining the digital workspace of the future

There's a lot of talk these days about the hybrid workplace. But what comes next after that?

Empty corridor with a series of glowing doors [options/ alternatives/ opportunities/ future/ next]
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A while back, I wrote about a new company at the forefront of the cloud desktop effort — Cameyo, which has emerged as a better alternative to Citrix. It continues to impress, putting together a Digital Workspace Consortium focused on defining what the cloud office of the future should contain. It is an initial effort, and I can see where components are missing. But we likely can build out the components of what the coming digital workspace will need. 

Given how the market has taken a significant turn since the COVID-19 pandemic, this workspace of the future will likely depend on one thing: flexibility. 

Let’s explore the idea and see where things might be evolving.

An ecosystem in 8 parts

The Digital Workspace Consortium defines the coming digital workspace in 8 segments. 

The first segment involves virtual desktops that are cloud-connected, increasingly terminal-like devices that look like laptops or tiny desktop PCs but are just a front end for a cloud-hosted desktop.

The second includes the virtual applications that will run on that cloud desktop — providing the tools needed for remote or on-premises workers to do their jobs. 

The third envisions Secure Endpoints that assure integrity and protect both the user and the company from hostile (remote or local) cyberattacks.  

The fourth expects new collaboration tools to keep individuals — whether remote or in an office building — connected and functioning. 

The fifth focuses on Policy & Management issues, which are needed to assure a unit’s optimal functioning and consistent rules across the related organizations.  

The sixth relies on employees’ critical analytics and their monitoring and testing to ensure skills remain current and any interpersonal problems are identified and addressed. 

The seventh calls for “print management” to better assure security for printed material and make sure  printers remain up and running when needed. 

And the eighth and final segment is security (which basically is a superset of secure endpoints) and addresses both electronic and physical security. This would include securing company sites and assuring that remote employees are also safe. 

These eight components seem pretty complete, though I’d suggest a few more: site management, including auto-provisioning of the workspace; consumption management and reporting (monitoring utility and resource usage to contain costs); employee monitoring; and management efforts to bolster employee productivity and work/life balance. Finally, virtual space management ensures the consistency, compliance (safe workspace), and effectiveness of virtual collaboration spaces as those come online. 

What the result looks like

From an employee’s standpoint, the result would be a consistent, remotely managed experience allowing people to work any place they need while retaining the current state of their work efforts. When in the office, they would get a dynamically provisioned workspace.  When collaborating, the tools would be consistent regardless of team or location (remote and local employees would be treated equally).  And employees would get the support they need, regardless of where they are working (this comes from instrumenting the employees).

At some point, I expect houses will come with virtual offices that allow people to collect dynamically in  flexible working relationships based on projects that never require them to leave their homes. (I doubt that will emerge much before 2030.)

Wrapping up

We are moving towards a more virtual workspace, and we have already seen a dramatic shift to embrace remote work due to the pandemic. But, while we have smart offices that use digital technology, there isn’t a great deal of consistency in the tools or how we talk about them. 

This Digital Workspace Consortium should help drive that conversation, but it is limited by one significant omission: a path to market. There is no doubt the group is looking for a services partner such as Dell, Lenovo,or Accenture that could drive this collaborative vision of the future to market.  (Disclosure: Dell and Lenovo are clients of the author.) Whichever gets there first could have a ringside view to the future of the digital workspace.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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