It is now a fact that the traditional workspace has evolved and has taken on a new connotation, transforming itself into a digital workspace. An important impetus towards this transformation indeed came from the need to adapt to the situation created following the pandemic; however, the process was already underway.
Various realities were rethinking workspaces, giving them an increasingly digital appearance. Agile working, or smart working, as it is more frequently called, was already a consolidated reality in many companies before Covid-19.
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Digital workspace or workplace?
Clarification is a must. By digital workspace, we mean the space where you work, including all the digital devices you need to run your business. This includes not only a computer (laptop or otherwise), a mobile phone, or a tablet but also all communication tools, software, and any other digital devices. A digital workspace has a personal connotation, and for this reason, there can be multiple digital workspaces in the company, even if the goal is to satisfy similar needs.
Conversely, a digital workplace has a collective connotation and implies a digital environment that is created for all employees. When everyone in a company is working remotely, the digital workplace is the virtual place where people meet to work collaboratively. The main goal of a digital workplace is to help employees work together seamlessly, even when they are not physically present in the same office.
Digital workspace and digital workplace, therefore, define two different but closely connected concepts. Indeed, a digital workspace is part of a digital workplace.
Greater comfort with consumerization
Like a normal desk, a digital workspace is a place where there is a tendency to have a high level of customization in order to work better and feel at ease. And since employees are also users accustomed to a certain level of convenience with their consumer digital devices, they would like to be able to take advantage of the same convenience in their digital workspace as well. Thus was born the phenomenon called consumerization, which Gartner defines as “the specific impact that the technologies used by consumers can have on businesses.
It reflects how businesses will be impacted by (and can benefit from) new technologies and models that are born and developed in the consumer space rather than in the corporate IT sector. In practice, workers get used to a certain degree of ease of use, choice, freedom, flexibility, and experiences, and they also want to have it in the applications they use at work.
There are many drivers in the consumerization of IT – from cloud to mobile and beyond. Gartner states that “consumerization is not a strategy or something to adopt. It can be embraced and must be addressed, but it cannot be stopped.”
Digital beyond the control of corporate IT
According to the canons of consumerization, the best solution is BYOD (bring your own device), i.e., using your own digital devices for work. A solution which, moreover, was the one most frequently adopted when in 2020, there was massive use of smart working. However, this solution means that many users use cloud apps or cloud services within the corporate environment without the IT department’s knowledge or consent: this is shadow IT. Some apps and services may be harmless or even useful but still, create new risks for corporate IT security.
This behavior has important consequences in terms of costs and safety. In a study before the pandemic, Gartner identified that between 30 and 40% of IT spending in large enterprises went to shadow IT. Everest Group has even brought this value up to 50%.
According to Core, shadow IT has exploded by 59% due to Covid-19, with 54% of IT teams considering themselves “significantly more at risk” from a data breach. Forbes found that 21% of organizations have experienced security attacks due to an unauthorized IT asset but also found that 60% of organizations do not include shadow IT in their threat assessment.
What challenges for IT?
But then, how to make corporate users feel at ease without making them resort to shadow IT, even if they often do so with more than legitimate intentions? We need to improve their digital workspace by understanding what drives them to resort to shadow IT. Often the solution is to be found in user experience problems. As consumer users, we are all used to advanced, simple, and fast technologies. And the same we expect to have in the company. If the IT process is slow, patience decreases. If an application doesn’t do what we want, we are tempted to use the one we know will allow us to achieve the desired result.
IT must take on a more strategic role and shrug off the image of a world somewhat detached from the business context, and it must work alongside the business to become a process enabler rather than unilaterally making decisions about which services should be implemented.
An effective way to embrace consumerization and shadow IT is to understand what users really expect and then try to implement it. Only in this way can it be provided with the best possible experience, giving corporate IT the idea of a real business support tool.