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Digital Workspace Digital Workspace Strategy
18 minute read

Digital Workspace Priorities for 2022

A roadmap for improving the digital employee experience

In This Research Report

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The need for digital workspace transformation

Prioritizing the employee experience in a new era of hybrid work 

The digital workspace has always been a contributing factor to employee engagement and attracting top talent. Over the last decade, organizations have made small strides toward modernizing end-user software, tools, devices and other technologies to create a better digital employee experience. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, they were forced to accelerate and reprioritize these initiatives to maintain business continuity. 

Many organizations rapidly enabled remote work, for example, so employees could continue supporting the business safely from their homes. In many cases, digital workspace solutions were implemented in weeks instead of years. 

Now, as vaccines roll out and offices reopen, organizations face a new set of digital workspace challenges when it comes to enabling hybrid work. IT, Facilities and Human Resources (HR) leaders are reimagining their physical and digital environments to support employees at home, in the office and everywhere in between. 

To make the right technology decisions, ensure a smooth transition to hybrid work and maintain an accelerated pace of transformation, organizations must prioritize initiatives that will improve the digital employee experience. Only then can they realize the full benefits of flexible working, including increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction, better collaboration and faster innovation. 

In this report, we recap the key digital workspace milestones achieved in 2020-21; reveal pitfalls, caution areas and lessons learned based on our firsthand experience with customers; and offer a ranked list of the top five digital workspace priorities for 2022. 

 

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Major milestones achieved in 2020-21 

The pandemic forced organizations to address weaknesses and gaps in their digital workspace to enable remote operations. We helped many of our customers successfully implement new solutions and accelerate digital transformations, so much so they plan to maintain this pace post-pandemic. 

We witnessed our customers reach these six digital workspace milestones: 

Milestone #1: Enabled a work-from-anywhere model
With no time to develop a detailed plan, many organizations cobbled together point solutions to rapidly enable a remote workforce. While they weren’t implemented under ideal circumstances, these temporary work-from-anywhere models helped pave the way toward a new normal of hybrid work.

Milestone #2: Grew cloud presence 
Traditionally, corporate VPNs connected remote employees to on-premises applications, but this strategy wasn’t built to support an entire workforce. As a result, organizations shifted data and applications to the cloud to improve scalability and meet capacity needs.

Milestone #3: Expanded VDI use cases 
While virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) hit the market more than a decade ago, most organizations only applied it to a few use cases, such as contractor access. That changed during the pandemic. Organizations identified VDI as an easy solution for getting remote workers up and running fast while maintaining control of data and devices.

Milestone #4: Made video calling ubiquitous 
With remote work and quarantine restrictions in place, video calls quickly replaced in-person, face-to-face interactions during the pandemic. Meeting platforms like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom skyrocketed, leading more organizations to embrace a camera-on culture and higher employee proficiency levels with video calling technology.

Milestone #5: Increased adoption of collaboration and productivity tools 
Organizations adopted a plethora of collaboration and productivity tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Mural, Smartsheets and Trello, during the pandemic. Once considered a “nice-to-have,” these tools became an integral part of employee workflows and processes to keep businesses moving.

Milestone #6: Identified digital employee experience critical to business success 
While most organizations were already focused on the traditional components of employee experience, the pandemic turned their attention to the digital aspects. Organizations realized that providing a positive digital employee experience could improve employee satisfaction and potentially reduce costs.

 

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Pitfalls, cautions and lessons learned 

While the pandemic brought accelerated progress to the digital workspace, it also caused several technology failures and mistakes as organizations shifted from enabling remote work to reopening physical spaces. Moving forward, organizations must apply these lessons learned to build a better workplace of the future. 

86% of organizations accelerated digital transformation in 2020-21; 69% of businesses were not prepared for the shift to all-remote work; Only 1/3 of employees say the tech they use is productive, empowering and easy; 1 in 4 employees plan to look for a new job after the pandemic
Source

While nearly every organization accelerated digital transformation during the pandemic, very few were prepared for the increased speed of change. This often led to rushed and uninformed technology decisions. Based on our customer engagements in 2020-21, these were the top five lessons learned in the digital workspace: 

  1. Temporary fixes can create long-term damage 
    While scrambling to implement band-aid solutions, many organizations didn’t consider the long-term consequences of their actions. These temporary solutions created several challenges — a disjointed digital experience, technology sprawl, shadow IT, license management issues, security gaps and more — that some organizations are still untangling today.
  2. Traditional security approaches aren’t enough to protect a flexible workforce 
    Traditional security policies focus on protecting data, applications and infrastructure located within the four walls of the office. When organizations shifted to remote work, many were left vulnerable to attacks. Cloud-based security models, such as SASE and Zero Trust, became key to protecting assets outside the traditional perimeter without burdening employees with cumbersome processes.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of understanding employee needs 
    When reopening offices, many organizations quickly grouped employees into remote versus on-site categories based on organizational charts rather than understanding employees’ individual needs. This has led to employee dissatisfaction and increased turnover rates. In fact, one in four employees plan to look for a new job once the pandemic subsides4.
  4. Adding more tools ≠ increased employee productivity 
    To counterbalance the absence of in-person collaboration, organizations adopted new tools to keep employees connected. But oftentimes these tools were duplicative of each other and created employee confusion when it came to cross-functional communication. Instead, organizations must standardize on commodity tools (like video calling platforms) and differentiate only when it adds business value.
  5. Moving to the cloud requires deep visibility into end-user applications 
    As organizations shifted to cloud to meet capacity demands and provide seamless access, many did so without understanding the interdependencies between applications. In many instances, this created separation between applications and their related data and processes, causing friction in the digital employee experience. 

 

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WWT recommended roadmap 

What should organizations prioritize in 2022?

When working with customers on their digital workspace roadmaps, they often have long lists of projects and initiatives they want to complete to reach their business goals. But tackling them all at once is rarely feasible nor strategic. Based on the milestones achieved in 2020-21 and the lessons learned along the way, we’ve identified these top five items to prioritize in 2022. 

  1. Building business-IT alignment to understand workforce requirements
  2. Optimizing your existing end-user and IT experiences 
  3. Rethinking your physical spaces
  4. Evolving into an evergreen IT model
  5. Creating experience parity across your workforce

Insights based on real-world experience 

Our Digital Workspace practice has helped more than 2,500 organizations — including 78 of the FORTUNE 100 — design, evaluate, test, deploy and optimize solutions to improve their digital employee experience. Our report recommendations are based on real-world experience with customer proofs of concept, engagement with on-demand labs in our Advanced Technology Center, world-class partnerships with leading technology providers and our own experience being named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list ten years in a row. 

We present our recommendations with a simple goal: to help you make the right technology decisions faster. 

 

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Priority #1 

Building business-IT alignment to understand workforce requirements 

Historically, IT and line-of-business leaders have operated in silos, forcing IT to make assumptions — often false ones — about who their end users are and what technology they need to work efficiently. By bringing these groups together, IT can gain insight into what employees need and ensure they’re delivering features and services that drive business value. 

Risks of not prioritizing this item 

  • Greater vulnerability to security threats due to disparate tools
  • Wasted time and investment on projects that don’t meet business needs
  • Shadow IT
  • High employee attrition rates due to a disjointed experience and lack of capabilities
  • Lack of IT credibility

Steps for putting this priority into action 

  1. Identify who will be on your digital employee experience (DEX) team. We recommend starting with a large group of leaders from across the organization — human resources, facilities, marketing, finance, etc. — to gather initial feedback on what’s working (and what’s not) and ideas for future improvements. These discussions can help pinpoint who will be a strong transformation champion and permanent member of the DEX team.
  2. Determine your actual end-user requirements. Many organizations think they know what their employees need without ever asking them or understanding their daily workflows. By conducting employee surveys and interviews, and collecting end-user IT data, the DEX team can identify points of friction and create dynamic personas, or groupings of end users that share common characteristics, services and/or requirements.
  3. Build your business case to secure executive and financial sponsorship. By mapping the workforce requirements identified in step two to high-level business outcomes, the DEX team can present a compelling value proposition to key stakeholders, including how these digital workspace improvements will reduce total cost of ownership (TCO). This is a critical step for securing funding so the DEX team can move forward with an execution plan.

How to drive transformational change 

Simply implementing new technology does not guarantee an organization will achieve digital and cultural transformation. While building business-IT alignment, it’s important that the DEX team addresses end-user adoption and training prior to implementing new tools to avoid wasted investments. 

By pursuing an actively driven change strategy, the DEX team can ensure employees not only migrate to their new technology but that they use it to its fullest.

 

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Priority #2

Optimizing your existing end-user and IT experiences 

Just being “digital” isn’t enough in today’s age of evolving employee expectations. Employees want seamless access to any application on any device from any location. And IT needs an automated, unified way to deliver, manage and secure that experience. By optimizing their existing environment based on a holistic strategy, organizations can support long-term growth, attract and retain the best talent, and achieve transformational change.

Risks of not prioritizing this item 

  • Increased operational and licensing costs
  • Slower time to market due to manual IT processes
  • Greater vulnerability to security threats due to lack of visibility
  • Inability to achieve complete digital transformation

Steps for putting this priority into action 

  1. Audit the entire digital workspace environment. Delivering a superb digital experience requires organizations to excel in all areas of the digital workspace, not just a few. Organizations must assess the maturity of their technology and processes in these key categories: device management, application virtualization and management, productivity applications and data, collaboration applications, contact center, security, data center, cloud, and networking.
  2. Develop a technology roadmap. At this point, organizations understand their gaps and weaknesses — the “starting line” — and they know their overall vision for the employee experience and digital workspace — the “finish line.” The next step is building a roadmap for moving the organization from start to finish that includes business input, budgeting, timelines and technology solutions. To keep business leaders engaged, we recommend prioritizing a few end-user facing initiatives that will immediately improve the employee experience.
  3. Create an execution plan. Using the technology roadmap as their guide, organizations can dive into the tactical details of how they will achieve each update. By breaking down projects into smaller deliverables and assigning task owners, the digital employee experience team can track their progress along their technology roadmap and provide frequent updates to the business.

Measuring success 

How do organizations know if the improvements being made to the employee and IT experience are working? Monitoring workforce analytics and employee sentiment is key to staying on track and ensuring data-driven decision making. 

Here are a few examples of metrics that matter: 

  • Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS): Are employees engaged with the organization?
  • Mean time to provision: Is IT delivering new services and features faster?
  • TCO: Are process improvements and automation reducing operational costs?

 

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Priority #3

Rethinking your physical spaces

Moving to a hybrid work model is not as simple as turning on the lights and welcoming back employees to the pre-pandemic office they remember. Like the shift to remote work, organizations must rethink and adapt the experience at their corporate headquarters, branch offices, field sites and other physical spaces to better support an on-the-go workforce.

Risks of not prioritizing this item 

  • Declines in employee productivity, collaboration and innovation
  • Wasted real-estate costs due to more remote workers (a desk costs about $11,000 per employee per year on average 5)
  • Employee dissatisfaction and higher turnover rates (more than 50 percent of employees are unsatisfied with their current office layout 5)

Steps for putting this priority into action 

  1. Leverage dynamic personas to determine who will return to the office versus remain remote. Rather than grouping employees by departments — i.e., marketing department stays remote, finance department returns to the office, etc. — dynamic personas layer various characteristics and technology requirements to identify who is best suited for remote work versus office-based work. Based on these personas, IT, HR and facilities leaders can determine the physical and digital requirements of their spaces.
  2. Assess your existing technology portfolio to identify potential integrations. Before adding more technology to physical spaces, it’s important to understand if existing tools can be repurposed or integrated with new solutions to derive maximum value. For example, many space-management systems can integrate with office hoteling applications. This can save organizations time and investment.
  3. Fill technology gaps in three key areas: employee safety and well-being, employee experience, and company culture. By prioritizing these three areas, organizations can ensure a smooth transition to hybrid work. Technology examples include: 
    Safety and well-being: occupancy monitoring, touchless technologies and digital signage
    Employee experience: office hoteling and wayfinding solutions
    Company culture: video-equipped meeting spaces to include remote participants

Enabling collaboration in healthcare 

WWT helped a national Healthcare Organization implement a completely enhanced meeting experience in 155 rooms at its global headquarters. Based on desired persona behaviors and experiences, solutions were built for huddle spaces, small meeting rooms, medium and large conference rooms, and training centers. 

Within 12 months, the amount of collaboration meetings tripled. Now the Organization is looking to update rooms at its health clinics and other offices to enable hybrid work.

 

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Priority #4

Evolving into an evergreen IT model

Keeping up with the speed of business is more important than ever before. By shifting from multiple-year technology cycles to deploying small, iterative updates on an ongoing basis, IT organizations can continuously improve the digital employee experience, create predictable spending patterns and keep pace with business innovation.

Risks of not prioritizing this item

  • Falling behind competitors due to stagnant technology and the inability to respond quickly to business needs
  • Difficulty hiring and maintaining top talent due to a diminishing digital employee experience
  • Significant business disruption and costs during major software and operating system upgrades

Steps for putting this priority into action 

  1. Identify and align the key players responsible for execution. An evergreen model changes how IT teams plan, design and implement new capabilities, as well as how they operate and support a continuous improvement cycle long term. From architects to operators, all teams must be aligned on the end goal and vision to ensure a successful transition.
  2. Develop feedback loops. A key component of an evergreen IT model is continuous improvement. Organizations must determine early how they will collect feedback from both the business and IT, the cadence for collecting feedback, and the processes for applying that feedback. This helps IT stay focused on meeting business requirements, ensure employees feel heard, and identify opportunities for automation and other process improvements.
  3. Adapt transformation plans and pivot when necessary. Collecting feedback is only valuable if organizations know how to apply it. By continuously evaluating feedback data and identifying common themes or patterns, organizations can determine if they need to reprioritize, realign or pivot their transformation plans based on employee needs, market changes or operational factors.

Why budget predictability matters 

One of the key benefits of an evergreen IT model is the ability to evenly spread updates over time, creating predictable spending patterns. This allows organizations to: 

  • Better allocate IT time and resources for upcoming projects 
  • Minimize risk: small updates pose less risk than big bang IT transformations
  • Reduce business disruption: when IT updates become part of the routine, it’s less cumbersome on end users and the business
evergreen IT model graph

 

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Priority #5

Creating experience parity across your workforce

As organizations adapt to flexible working, so must their culture, policies and technology. All employees — remote, on-site and frontline — across locations must have equal access to business-critical tools delivered through a consistent, seamless experience. Only then can organizations create an inclusive work environment where everyone has a voice. 

Risks of not prioritizing this item 

  • Higher employee turnover rates (replacing an individual employee can cost up to twice the employee’s annual salary 6)
  • Loss of innovation and productivity due to disjointed communication and isolated employees
  • Proximity bias: favoring on-site workers over remote workers

Steps for putting this priority into action 

  1. Evaluate existing toolsets for each dynamic persona. By mapping personas’ current toolsets to their digital journeys, the DEX team can identify gaps where employees aren’t being supported or included. This allows organizations to pinpoint opportunities, such as meetings, where technology could help promote inclusion, increase productivity, and create a culture of trust between remote and on-site employees.
  2. Test and validate solutions. Before implementing a specific technology, it’s important to test the experience in a safe environment to ensure the solution will meet all employees’ needs, enable their best work and make them feel included even if they’re not physically in the same room. For example, if the experience is seamless for on-site employees but clunky for remote workers, organizations should consider a different solution.
  3. Train employees on new technologies. The DEX team can implement cutting-edge solutions with features that deliver inclusive experiences, but if employees don’t know how to use them, organizations will never reach their goal of creating experience parity. Being proactive and developing a comprehensive, people-centric approach to employee training are keys to driving technology adoption and success.

Reducing friction for frontline workers 

Frontline workers, such as first responders, retail associates and transit drivers, make up 80 percent of the American workforce. Yet, they’re often overlooked when it comes to the employee experience. 

Research shows 76 percent of frontline workers don’t have the ability to provide feedback to their corporate headquarters and 60 percent don’t know where to locate important information 7. By reducing this friction within the digital experience, organizations can increase employee engagement and productivity to drive business outcomes.

 

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Final thoughts

A holistic approach to digital employee experience

As organizations seek to maintain digital acceleration after the pandemic, prioritizing all aspects of the employee experience – physical, digital and cultural – will be critical to success.

While we created this report to serve as a roadmap for 2022, organizations should remain focused on these digital workspace priorities beyond 2022 as they continuously transform their businesses. If not, they risk falling behind. Achieving these top five priorities will allow organizations to collectively deliver a purposeful, connected and inclusive experience that keeps employees engaged and empowered to drive digital transformation.

To learn more about each priority and the specific steps for getting started, we’ve compiled our top related resources below.

 

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References

1 – Harvard Business Review Digital Analytic Services: Digital Acceleration Redefines the Future of Work, April 2021
2 – Riverbed Future of Work Global Survey 2020, July 2020
3 – Gartner Digital Friction Survey, April 2021
4 – Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey, March 2021
5 – Forrester Report: Hot Desks or Ice-Cold Employee Experiences, May 2021
6 – McFeely & Wigert (2019, March 13). This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion. Gallup.
7 – LumApps Report: The State of U.S. Frontline Workers, December 2020