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Building a dynamic Digital Workplace that will address today’s challenges and stand the test of time

In today’s environment, companies are scrambling to build out or shore up the remote work functionality of their digital workplace environments. We need to do this in a way which makes sense today and works tomorrow once the clouds lift.

A Digital Workplace is a reality for many businesses today. This is simply a work environment that is constructed using a combination of physical and cyber elements. It may include physical office spaces for employees to work and interact in, while providing digital tools such as email and chat applications for them to collaborate. (See digital workplace definition.) In today’s world, the cyber and physical components of these workplace environments are starting to converge, with the physical office space heavily digitized with sensors, and the digital world often taking into account physical-world attributes such as the availability of a conference room in which a digitally scheduled meeting needs to take place. This is a paradigm that more and more businesses have been getting used to lately with true digital workplaces becoming very commonplace.

HPE Pointnext Services Digital Workplace.jpgThe COVID-19 pandemic has created a new dynamic in the digital workplace arena. Short term, it is about shoring up remote work options and keeping operations going in the face of widespread lockdowns brought about by the pandemic. Longer term, this new dynamic is the beginning of what may be a new normal, in which a more flexible and dynamic digital workplace environment would need to become the norm in order to address ongoing disruptions or concerns about such disruptions. This blog describes a suggested path you can take to make that transition to this new dynamic and flexible digital workplace that addresses the urgent challenges posed by COVID-19 today, while continuing to make sense in the new post-COVID-19 normal.

Key Attributes of a New Dynamic Digital Workplace Environment

We need to build more flexible and dynamic digital workplace environments that can accommodate not only challenges posed by these large-scale disruptions but also be effective tools for our businesses to thrive in the new normal as we emerge from COVID-19 – a new normal where businesses need to take these disruptions in their stride. The new, more flexible and dynamic digital workplace environment we need to build is characterized by the following key attributes:

1. Scalability and Flexibility. Given the large-scale disruption posed by a pandemic such as the one we are faced with today, it is critical that the digital workplace environments and the solutions running inside them can scale quickly and to the full extent where they are able to sustain the end-to-end business.

2. Security and Risk Management. With the increase in flexibility comes a larger and more diverse attack surface that can be exploited. Effective security and risk management in the new expanded landscape is a key attribute of this new digital workplace environment

3. Flexible Business Processes. A more dynamic digital workplace is only good if it continues to maintain an effective linkage to the business processes as it flexes to accommodate a fast-changing landscape. A key attribute of this new dynamic digital workplace environment is a set of business processes which have been modified in such a way that they are more flexible and remain intact as the digital workplace flexes to accommodate changes.

4. Culture and Change Management. A key attribute of this new digital workplace environment is effective change management in such a way that the new, more flexible way of working gets ingrained in the culture of the organization. This is perhaps the most critical attribute tied to the success of building such an environment.

Building the New Dynamic Digital Workplace Environment

It is important to keep all of the above aspects in mind as we transition to a remote-work-heavy digital workplace environment. Speed is of essence in these situations, so it is important to assess these issues quickly but thoroughly in order to create a seamless transition back and forth – going in, and also going back to the new normal, post-COVID-19.

With these aspects in mind, here are the steps to transition your digital workplace into an environment which effectively addresses remote work challenges.

1. Conduct a Business Requirements Analysis to Pick the Right Solutions. Conduct a rapid assessment of new business requirements such as the need for a larger number of employees to work remotely and the need to safely expose regulated assets across the Internet, etc., with an eye on how these business requirements will evolve as the new normal, post-COVID-19, emerges for your business. This should help you identify the right solutions that will not only address the short-term challenges but also avoid stranded assets and business disruption as we emerge from the current scenario.

2. Conduct Capacity Planning to Ensure Sustainability. Sufficient and well distributed network, compute and storage capacity is key to sustaining a new, more dynamic digital workplace environment. Conduct a rapid capacity assessment to ensure that the digital workplace is able to sustain end-to-end business function. Keep in view last-mile challenges as well as the need to distribute more compute and storage towards the edge of the digital workplace to ensure that essential but ‘heavy’ business applications run effectively. From a networking point of view, this may lead to arranging new contracts with service providers and allowing critical employees to enter agreements with their home service providers that ensure minimum SLAs required to keep their applications effectively connected.

3. Undertake Rapid Security and Risk Assessment. It is imperative to take stock of the key business processes and the assets that are attached to these in the new and expanded digital workplace paradigm. A risk assessment around these, keeping in view regulatory constraints, is essential to ensuring that your business is able to address the immediate challenges without creating larger and more critical challenges. Conduct a rapid Security and Risk Assessment exercise to understand how your security profile will change with the new, more dynamic digital workplace environment in place and how to mitigate threats.

4. Execute: Build or Expand the Existing Environment into the New, Dynamic Digital Workplace. With the above factors in place, the next step is execution to build or expand your digital workplace environment. This can be challenging given the limitations that a locked-down environment poses. This is where an execution strategy that leverages a good mix of current assets that can be redeployed, reducing supply chain dependencies and using cloud functionality to reduce time to value, is key. All of this needs to be done without jeopardizing the principles ascertained in the preceding steps.

5. In Parallel, Conduct Organizational Change Management Exercises. Perhaps the most critical work that you will do in ensuring the success of this new digital workplace environment is around helping employees learn, adjust and become comfortable with doing their work in it. This has to be done cross-organizationally and keeping in view challenges employees may be facing outside of their work, in their personal lives, in a situation such as the one we are living through right now. It is entirely possible that not everyone in an organization can adapt to the new way of working, which would require adjustments to the organizational structure to keep the business going. This change management is an integral part of operationalizing the new digital workplace.

6. Work Towards Refining the Short-Term Implementation into a Long-Term Solution. If you have executed your short-terms plans keeping in view the longer-term elements as described in the preceding sections, this should allow you a smooth transition once the new normal emerges beyond the current disruptions. However, it is critical to keep a strong feedback mechanism in place to understand how your organization is adjusting to the changes you have implemented, and at the same time keep an eye on how the business environment around you is evolving. It is entirely possible that you may have to refine your plans to adapt to changes that require an overhaul of portions of your new digital workplace.

If done right, the current challenges can help you position your company and your workforce for a brighter, more prosperous future once the clouds lift. As we work quickly to address our immediate gaps, the time to prepare for that future is now.

We’re here to help

You don’t have to take this on alone. As part of HPE’s Networking, Digital Workplace and IoT portfolio of services we have the Digital Workplace Services organization. This organization has some of the most experienced people in the industry on its staff, who build and run some of the largest and most complex digital workplace environments around the globe. These people help our customers build dynamic and hybrid digital workplace environments leveraging HPE’s compute, storage and networking products as well as products from Microsoft, Citrix, VMware and many other partners. These are the people you can rely on to dramatically speed up all of the steps I have shared with you above, so not only are you able to fix the immediate issues but also do it in a manner that stands the test of time.

I am proud to share with you today that HPE was named a Leader in the IDC MarketScape for Worldwide Digital Workspace Services 2020. IDC developed this report after speaking to several of our customers and conducting an extensive assessment of our strategy and capabilities.

IDC graph.JPG

I am humbled every day by the enormity of the challenges humanity faces today. At the same time, I am confident that by working together, we can overcome these challenges and come out stronger than ever before.

Please do reach out and let us know how we can help. You will find us ready and willing to engage quickly in your hour of need.

Stay safe,

Saadat

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Saadat Malik
VP, IoT and Intelligent Edge Services
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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About the Author

SaadatMalik

As VP for IoT and Intelligent Edge Services for HPE Pointnext Services, Saadat Malik leads an organization focused on developing solutions and services for customers that are looking to transform their businesses by leveraging Networking, Digital Workplace and IoT capabilities.