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Defining the Digital Workspace

Noun: Digital Workspace
Digital – Involving or relating to the use of computer technology

Workspace – A place or environment where people work

The unified interface where users engage with people, knowledge & their environment with the sole purpose of getting their job done.

Digital Workspace V Digital Workplace
One of the key areas of confusion is the difference between workplace and workspace. We see the key difference being that the ‘Digital Workspace’ spans any part or multiple workplaces and frequently will not be physically connected.

History / Evolution
Intranet : All about Knowledge : 1990’s – 2000’s

In the early days we found that the structured systems we used for lines of business such as finance or booking systems could not handle the unstructured information that flows around our organisations. This was a hindrance to day to day operations. To solve the problem we came up with the Intranet and it became the dumping ground of everything that did not have a defined structured home.

Key aspects of the Intranet:

Basic content management

Widgets to display content

Revisions of information

Basic Search

Workflows

Navigation management

Data import

Analytics

Social Intranet : All about People : 2010 – 2014

As social networks became more prevalent and people got used to interacting online, we began to realise the benefits of these social interactions. Leveraging them was a popular way to drive engagement among employees within organisations. So began, the Social Intranet where we replicate relationships and interactions in our private lives with those within organisations and teams. The familiarity of these interactions are commonplace, thus proving popular with the masses.

Key aspects of the Social Intranet:

Discussions

Commenting

Productivity tools

Following / Voting

Org Charts

Profiles

Groups

Layout control

Digital Workspace : All about Things : 2014 – 2016
Suddenly we recognise that it’s not only ‘people’ and ‘knowledge’ that are relative but also the workspace environment and everything within it. The era of connecting all the dots was born with the arrival of the Internet of Things (IOT). The Digital Workspace combines the IOT concept with the traditional Intranet and Social Intranet.

Key aspects of the Digital Workspace:

Building Information (bim)

Location-aware

Contextual

Spaces

Sensors

Spaces

Environmental

Ambience

What are the key drivers of Digital Workspace evolution?
Organisational Engagement
A need to instantly engage and communicate with everyone in your organisational network has intensified over recent years with the use of multiple communication channels. Enabling and consolidating the channels is a key driver for the development of the digital workspace.

There is an increasing drain on everyone’s attention with a constant flow of new inputs from social and environmental sources, that is making it ever more difficult to engage and then maintain people’s engagement with organisations.

Ambient work environments
Smartphones with GPS are helping people be more efficient in their travel. We are gaining additional ways to make sure our work environments are not only more supportive but safer and more efficient.

We can now support our employees by leveraging the ‘things’ in their environment in countless ways. New opportunities are available to organisations that believe in early adoption of innovative workplace technologies. Your digital workspace is the nervous system for your organisation.

Micronisation of communications
The relatively recent explosion in smaller communications & notifications has proven to be a significant driver in the way we ingest information and how we expect to send and receive information.

The move from complex infrequently changed communications that had long life spans to smaller more frequently updated communications has proven to be dramatic driver of our working environments.

Accelerated velocity
Organisations are now being designed for a state of constant change, rather than a steady state.

Increased complexity in existing organisational models driven by external social and technical market forces making changing business models the norm. We are seeing organisations rapidly change direction and doing so in timescales that were previously not possible.

Time as a commodity
Organisational resources are now more often temporal and fungible. We have always had an element of this in organisations, with short-term leases on equipment or hiring contractors. Now we are seeing this becoming micronised in every area of the business.

Organisations are hiring people and resources for minutes rather than days or weeks. As more and more things and people become connected this just becomes more ubiquitous.

What are the key enablers of a digital workplace?
People
At the core is the need to engage people with each other, ‘knowledge’ and ‘environment’ at the time they need it. To this end, you have to ensure that the system provides them with the ambient support they need to find each other, as well as comprehensive ways in which to surface ‘knowledge’ in a contextually intelligent manner based on the patterns of operation within the organisation.

To do this successfully we must leverage every opportunity to consume knowledge into the system from all available resources and understand if that ‘knowledge’ is temporary or lasting. From this we can then apply context, patterns and governance to orchestrate the interactions to best effect.

Knowledge
In order to work, the systems must understand the semantics of the information and the context of the interaction and have the ability to surface ‘knowledge’. Delivering to the right people at the right time is the underpinning key to success.

This necessitates the input of rich content be it as simple and comprehensive as possible, as the volumes required is vast in the majority of cases the inputs should be coming from other specialist systems. Understanding of the patterns which necessitates its exposure and then having the ability to deliver this knowledge in the right way to enhance the user experience is the basis for success.

Environment
The evolution of the working environment is becoming truly ambient in its ability to support your operational activities and as such a rich source of ‘knowledge’ and context that you can surface. Building information passed from BIM sources through to ‘things’ with sensors and ‘things’ that have been enabled with the likes of RFID stickers. You now have a vast array of information that you need to surface to your users in useful contextually sensitive ways.

This enables organisations to become responsive to people’s needs in ways that previously were impossible or to expensive.

Messages
Messages come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, from emails to notifications from devices, which in the main are becoming micronised. Your systems have to recognise and handle this evolution.

The volume is growing at an exponential rate and it’s critical that your digital workspace allows for both organisational and personal control over these. Not only the quantity and type, but the knowledge needs to be contextually controllable.

Digital workspace must focus on only delivering what it needs and interface to existing messaging systems, where it can to ensure that the organisation and people don’t get overloaded with messages in different systems.

Time
In the way that ambient environments recognise time, the digital workspace must have a knowledge of time and react accordingly. This goes from basic scheduling or publishing through to surfacing ‘knowledge’ differently based time contexts for example historic knowledge should not be displayed in the same manner as current. Context is heavily time based at its core, so for the system to be truly contextually reactive it must have an inbound concept of time through every layer of the system.

Relationships
Everything within the system needs to relate to something else in order for the system to make sense. If they don’t have any relationships then they don’t belong in the same system. The digital workspace needs to overlay a layer of relationships over different systems. Sometimes these relationships can be obvious, like a user is the author of a policy or responsible for a fire extinguisher or manager of a building. Other relationships can be more nebulous like sender or receiver. It’s critical that the workspace understands and handles this broad set of relationship types and reacts accordingly.

Governance
Enabling rapid evolution and application of governance models sits at the core of the concept of the digital workspace. The application of governance is critical to operational success and ensures risk reduction during ever evolving organisational structures. You must ensure implementation of governance across a wide range of areas including : Legal / Standards / policies / rights / commercial obligations / Auditability / regulatory / transparency. These can be implemented in a variety of ways and frequently will need to be a combination of areas where relationships are a major factor.

Patterns
The necessity to leverage all an organisation’s resources means understanding what’s happening all the time across the entire organisation, its connected resources is absolutely critical to overall success. The full meaning of an interaction in its totality (context) can only be achieved through extensive use of analytics. Feedback loops driven by statistical analysis should be used to develop the overall mechanical surfacing of interactions. These patterns become the lifeblood of the organisation and rapidly identifying them and reacting accordingly is critical to attaining the levels of velocity needed by modern organisations.

Context
Establishing the full meaning of an interaction in its totality in order to deliver back the right interaction is key to making the system truly efficient and usable. Targeting responses based on context in a personalised manner is at the core of the digital workspace concept. Statistical interactions can also be used to drive contextual reactions in order to become truly responsive to the greater organisational context. Context should take as many inputs as is feasible, but as an absolute minimum, you should consider time, relationship, interaction model, location and personal attributes.

Orchestration
Organisations need to be able to orchestrate what’s happening, when and by who with significant velocity. This orchestration of all available resources needs to be fluid and responsive while adhering to the governance set out. Both centralised and decentralised orchestration is necessary to allow your organisation to respond to the individual user needs. Centralised orchestration allows you to rapidly evolve by deploying new major resources, while decentralised orchestration allows you to respond at a local or user level to their personal context.

Polymorphism
Facilitating interactions between ‘people’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘environment’ enable your organisation to be contextually optimised. From simplistic messages telling you a plant needs water to complex knowledge-based reactions, like changing an organisational alert status based on inputs from internal and external systems, all need to be handled.

Fundamentally you need to have a system that recognises and handles different multiway actions based on a variety of inputs from different sources, probably the most important of these being actions based on knowledge-based variable analysis combined with contextual filters. With this volume of actions, it’s critical that you have established patterns that can be leveraged.

User Experience
In order for the digital workspace to work its must allow you to react to your organisational user needs. As organisations evolve the system must support this from simply changing the branding to restructuring the IA / UI. What really matters is that this control is in the hands of the organisation rather than being dictated to by an agent. To be truly useful the system must give a unified user experience over disunified disparate systems, always giving the user a sense of the overall organisational context.