The Digital Workplace: What New Challenges Does It Create For IT?

What Is This Article About?

Clearly the last few months have seen a huge acceleration in the adoption of the Digital Workplace; we are all working in different ways, whether that’s sitting on video calls in our kitchen or realising how hard primary school maths is now-a-days! However, what exactly is the Digital Workplace and what new challenges does it create for an IT department?

As the CPO & MD of CloudM, a Digital Workplace platform that looks to solve a lot of these problems, I thought it would be useful to share some of the common trends that we see across our customers (without it turning into a sales pitch!)

What Is The Digital Workplace?

AKA cloud, AKA productivity suites, AKA SaaS, the Digital Workplace spans various areas of IT, but in a nutshell covers any end user facing application that isn’t on premise. In the real world we mean applications like Microsoft 365, G Suite, Dropbox, Slack and Zoom slotted into the following categories*:

  • Email Authoring
  • Cloud-Based Conferencing
  • Social Collaboration
  • Content Collaboration
  • Workstream Collaboration
  • Workforce Analytics
  • Cloud-Based Telephony & Messaging
  • Insights Engines

*Source: Gartner

So if you are managing any element of the above then you are probably managing (at least part of) a Digital Workplace.

What Challenges Does The Digital Workplace Create For IT?

When implemented properly, the flexibility of a Digital Workplace allows both employees and employers to be more agile, which in turn should improve overall productivity of your organisation. It should also improve employee engagement by providing the right information and collaboration tools at the right time.

There are still tonnes of benefits for the IT department specifically, such as fast deployment, lower maintenance overhead, decentralised security, scalability and dozens more. However, like everything good in life there are a few challenges. CloudM has over half a million users, as a result we’ve started to see common themes across all organisations managing the Digital Workplace, some of which I wanted to share with you.

Vendor lock-in

Cloud's dirty little secret is that vendors don’t want you to leave them. They want to lock you into them for as long as possible, and you can’t blame them, it's good business sense! However, as the person responsible for your company's Digital Workplace you need to think about how you would handle a sudden price increase or sudden change in your strategic direction. Where is all your data? How would you move to another provider?

Integration of multiple business applications from various vendors

Microsoft doesn't take Google seriously, Google thinks Microsoft is out of date and none of them like Slack; that’s just the way it is. Unfortunately, none of this helps you deliver a fantastic IT service to your end users even though none of them want to work together.

Managing costs for multiple vendors

A renewal here, a renewal there, Marketing spending your IT budget. Managing all of these costs isn’t easy. Oh and by the way, they are all subscription based and the CFO wants to know how you can save some money.

Configuring SaaS applications for security and compliance

Most organisations deploy the bulk of their Digital Workplace through Microsoft 365 or G Suite, but what about Finance using SalesForce and Expensify, Marketing using Hubspot and Adobe Cloud, development using JIRA and BitBucket. Before you know it you have a mish-mash of applications with no standardised security or compliance policies and as the IT department you are still responsible for it.

Robust security capabilities e.g. SSO, DLP

One of the greatest advantages of the Digital Workplace is the ease of collaboration and the users’ ability to access data at their fingertips. However, with this come threats of insider data breaches and loss of data. In the on premise world you had more control, hence more confidence in your security capabilities, but keeping on top of this sprawl of data in the cloud can be almost impossible.

More bulk/repetitive tasks

Whether it’s Powershell or Google App Script, a Digital Workplace means you have more stuff in more places and as a result need to create your own toolbox of scripts to perform bulk or repetitive tasks. The problem with this is the reliability and scalability of these scripts and the high reliance on skilled engineers that would rather be doing something else. What would happen if they left your business?

Designing and executing data backup and recovery

Before the Digital Workplace it was easy; backup your servers every night onto a DAT tape, rinse and repeat. Now you have data in the cloud, on multiple cloud systems and you still need to provide your end users and stakeholders (compliance and legal) with confidence that should the worst happen you can restore all this data. But can you?

So What Should I Do About It?

Now that you are thoroughly anxiety ridden and depressed about the Digital Workplace, what should you do about it? Well the first thing is don’t get too down, the Digital Workplace is great. It’s the present and the future and will ultimately transform the way that we all work for the better. However, as the IT department you need to acknowledge some of the new challenges it has created for you, get out in front of them and change the way you work.

You’d expect me to say it, but there are products out there like CloudM (and others) that have been specifically designed to help solve the challenges highlighted in this article. One thing is for certain the Digital Workplace isn’t going anywhere, so it’s time to get prepared!

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