The Transformation of the It Workplace in the Digital Era

May 27, 2016 Focus area: Digital Transformation

Imagine you on your first day at your new job. Walking into the office building and after you get in touch with some of your new colleagues, you walk towards the IT support department in order to get your new IT workplace[1]. You receive a brand new state-of-the-art device, which might be even more modern then the device you have at home. Next thing, you start up your device and you automatically receive the applications that are provided by the company. After that, you personalize your device by amongst others installing some applications of your own choice. This IT workplace offers the best of the enterprise as well as of the consumer world; The enterprise tools ensure you of secure storage, back-up, and access to licensed applications, while on the other hand you are still able to personalize your device in such a way that you can do your work in your own efficient and comfortable way. Sounds pretty good and logical right? Then why is for most people their IT workplace at home more modern and personalized then the one at their work?

Why change is needed

While digitization is progressing, many organizations are lagging behind with regards to the IT workplace they offer their employees. The often seen conventional centrally managed IT workplace, supported by a traditional service desk, does not fit within this era anymore. It is no longer enough for the IT department to be just satisfactory when an organization is aiming to sustain or improve their position in digital development. IT needs to be able to be delighting in order to contribute to this development. Moreover, employees should be encouraged to become more tech savvy in order to work efficient, independent and explore new possibilities. Besides, when more tech savvy employees do not have any degree of freedom regarding their IT workplace, it is likely that a sprawl of “Bring Your own Devices” and shadow IT workplaces will rise. Because of this all, the IT workplace is ready for a transformation, which starts with changing the two basic principles as described below.

Change two basic principles

Principle 1. Centrally versus local

In the 90s most organizations supported local IT workplaces. This way of working, however, led to high maintenance costs, due to all the necessary manual actions with regards to software updates. Therefore most organizations shifted towards a centrally managed IT workplace in the 20th century. In this concept updates and releases are forced upon the end user, which lowered the local maintenance cost. Downside, however, is that the end user is provided with a standardized, non-personal, IT workplace. The concept of a virtual IT workplace perfectly follows from this line of thinking. The local computer is powered by a virtual desktop, based on a standard format. This centrally focused IT workplace will provide the IT department with some extent of control and employees with a basic, functional IT workplace.

In my opinion, such a centrally managed workplace is getting outdated since it does not challenge your employees to become more tech-savvy nor does it speak to the imagination of already tech-savvy employees, who are 24/7 surrounded by technology.

Moreover, nowadays, the concept of a local workplace is possible, since the need for local maintenance is decreasing thanks to the rise of cloud applications en app stores. Therefore the concept of a local workplace does not have to lead to high maintenance costs anymore.

Because of these reasons a transition towards a more locally oriented IT workplace should be expected. The focus should move from a centrally managed enterprise point of view, towards more personalization and consumerization. In this concept organizations can still push certain policies, like security standards, but part of the power and control is moved to the end user. The employee must be able to customize his/her IT workplace in a unique way that fits his or her needs, e.g. by being able to download applications of their own preference from an open app store. Employees will be able to personalize their IT workplace like they are used to do with their devices at home, and therefore they will use the real power and possibilities of their device.

Principle 2. Traditional service desk versus self-sufficiency

As multiple researches showed, like for instance the research from Forrester in 2015, nowadays the majority of people prefer to solve their issues via self-service methods. However, from my perspective the number of IT incidents at work solved through self-service seems rather low, while at home, most people hardly ever call a professional service provider. Clearly, a lot of improvement can be made here, but organizations need to concentrate on the creation of an environment in which self-service or even self-sufficiency is stimulated.

Both the employee and the employer have a role in changing the way of working and facilitating more self-sufficiency. The mindset of the IT service desk should change towards a service provider who will not only provide a solution to your problem, but also tries to educate you and your co-workers how to solve issues by yourself. Actually, the service desk should not only reactively support employees to solve the issues they encounter, they should also proactively stimulate employees to explore new possibilities, which enables them to work more efficient and increases their productivity.

In order to create such a self-sufficient environment, it is essential that the right tools are used. A tool that can play an important role in both the transformation and the sustainability of this environment, for instance, is an attractive self-service site.  When the self-service portal is proficient it will not only be able to decrease the number of calls to the service desk, but it can also educate employees and provide a platform for stimulating discussions and exploring new possibilities. The advantages of these changes from the traditional service desk towards a self-sufficient environment are numerous: e.g. Employees will become more advanced users, they will be able to solve most of their problems also during time slots when the service desk is not available, and the service desk employees have more time to focus on innovation and optimization instead of dealing with tickets and problem fixing.

Organizational change is needed

In order to implement these principles in a successful way, organizations will need to make technical and organizational changes. On top of that, a change in culture is needed for the implementation of these principles. Employees need to be provided with better tools regarding their IT workplace and should take more responsibility. Moreover, the way the traditional service desk is operating needs to change tremendously. By changing the role of the IT service desk, IT can move from problem fixer to coach. They can deliver value by providing and proactively communicating new features and possibilities with regards to the productivity and creativity of employees. This approach will make IT more delighting and IT will contribute to making the organization digital proof for the future.

The above should have made clear that involvement of both your employees and the IT service desk is required. In other words, the transformation process cannot be imposed unilaterally but will require the involvement of the end users as well. Only then, an organization will be able to let the IT workplace overtake the modern and personalized one that their employees use at home.

[1] Definition of IT workplace in this article: A workplace consist out of the hardware (a device and its peripherals) and the related software and Operation System, that enables someone to do their work digitally. 

Used sources Brief: Focus On Three New Service Experiences To Thrive In The Age Of The Digital Customer, Ian Jacobs, Stephen Powers & Danielle Geoffroy, April 16, 2015