How would you describe your workspace? Is it primarily a desk with a computer in a business office? Is it your car, your home, any public place with a secure wireless connection, or all of the above?
It wasn’t too long ago that work could only be completed, logged, and invoiced by machines and applications housed in a physical office. IT would focus on endpoints, such as computers and printers, to keep employees productive. Now, though, attention has shifted to applications themselves; the where, when, and how they can be accessed as more and more devices are user-owned, not under corporate or IT control. How can IT increasingly manage the demands to enable virtual “workspaces” across office, mobile, and home devices?
First of all, enabling virtual workspaces does not necessarily imply that users should have free rein to whatever they want, whenever they want it, or on just any connection. Some may joke about the days when IT would deny user requests saying “because this is just how it is” with little or no further explanation. With IT responsible for the security of work applications and data, however, some things are better kept off-limits from mobile devices or outside office walls. Another consideration is that when some mobile applications require fast connections, IT may also determine that these would be too frustrating for a user to try to access over slower connections, such as an extended cellular network.
With more and more businesses moving to Cloud services and applications, though, fewer and fewer work tasks will fall into the above ‘lockdown’ categories. To better enable remote, mobile, and traveling employees, many teams are adopting workspace aggregators. Workspace aggregators give users easy single sign-on access to the various applications and content they individually need, while appropriate to the device they use and location.
An important facet in the development of an aggregator or ‘virtual workspace’, as recommended by Gartner research, is allowing users to test and weigh-in on its usability, whether on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. If employees don’t buy-in to this method to access critical work applications, the potential losses to a business cannot be ignored. For example, if a manager is required to digitally review and approve an order, invoice, or SOW but fails to access these application modules effectively, especially when traveling, any delays could be costly to the business.
Another factor to keep in mind for workplace applications to be effective across the board is that the applications should be independent, not reliant on one operating system. Some users work best on Windows, others on Mac. Some work best on Android, others on iOS. And as users settle more and more on their preferred OS, cooperation will be lacking for applications that are not independent. If the application is accessed through a web browser, it should not need to rely on a specific plug-in or Internet browser either.
The development of a virtual workspace does not aim to distinguish mobile as a ‘lesser’ endpoint, but rather see all devices as equally important endpoints. By accommodating multiple platforms, but holding down the access when the time and place is impractical, the virtual workspace can become a unified one for your diverse team.