“The workplace is the physical location where someone works” says Wikipedia, whereas Merriam-Webster defines the word workplace as “a place … where work is done”. Personally I think if you consider both definitions you have a perfect description of the evolution of the workplace. For a majority of us the workplace is no longer a single physical location but the environment in which we find ourselves when we need to attend to a work-related task.
Additionally, as the workplace has evolved, so have those services that support the user in doing their work. Traditionally the ‘one size fits all’ locked-down desktop in a single physical location was the support platform that provided all the necessary tools, applications and processes. The computing environment that supported users in getting their job done was very much dictated by IT to such an extent that even changing the desktop background picture was often disallowed since this would make support harder.
That was when users had no choice since they could only get their IT from the IT department – but that situation has now drastically changed. Nowadays it is the user that drives the IT agenda and required tools are provisioned and consumed using a plethora of methods and devices in constantly changing environments. From cloud-based software as a service to virtualized desktops and from browser-based applications to native applications the user will call upon whatever they can easily access at point of need to get the job done.
Workplace management is no longer simply about managing the desktop – it’s about ensuring that users can easily connect to appropriate tools, applications and services wherever they may be. The workplace, like users, is now truly peripatetic and whilst mobility has up until now been addressed by merely providing mobile access to common IT services such as mail and calendaring it should now be seen as a first-class citizen. Indeed the mantra of “mobile first” is something that I am a great fan of.
A “mobile first” attitude doesn’t simply mean giving access to legacy tools and applications on mobile devices – it’s about delivering services in an appropriate way which more often than not means either providing new services or transforming existing services for new environments.
A real-life example will help explain what I mean here. Audio conferencing is not new – and all you need is a phone in order to participate – so taking part using a mobile phone as opposed to a desktop phone is most definitely feasible. However most audio conferencing systems that I have ever used were not designed with the mobile user in mind – they assume the user is in a position where they can locate and type in a conference code in order to join the conference. Given that most invitations to audio conferences are achieved via meeting requests or email this involves some form of multi-tasking.
Now I am a man and so multi-tasking doesn’t come naturally to me but picture me trying to join an audio conference on my mobile phone whilst driving. I had planned to be at my desk to participate in the call but had unexpectedly been delayed and I had not anticipated taking the call whilst mobile. Sure I have a quick dial that calls the normal conference number but remembering to have previously located and remembered the ten-digit conference code and typing it correctly into an onscreen keyboard whilst driving is not the safest of things to try and do (and I managed to spill my cornflakes whilst trying to do so). So the existing audio conferencing system does not cater well for the mobile user who oftentimes can’t predict where they will be or what device they will have to hand. Even if I was not driving the ease of use on a mobile device is not, well, easy! Re-design is required to ensure appropriate access to the service.
As discussed in part one of this blog series today’s users expect universal access to people, applications and data. Considering all the environments in which they do their work is required as you transform from the workplace of the past to the workplace of the future – a place that is designed from the perspective of the user rather than the device and allows them to easily connect to the services they need to achieve their goals. In the next post I’ll be considering the importance of connecting with people and how unified communications is a powerful way of enabling such capability.
Kevin Laahs is a technology strategist in HP’s Enterprise Services CTO Office. With a focus on Enterprise Mobility he helps to align HP capabilities to customer business and IT strategies.