Digital workspaces are workspaces of the future – integral to the success of business in the long term, allowing teams to collaborate from anywhere. But they do come with challenges in ensuring they perform optimally within organizations’ ecosystems and satisfy the requirements of a connected world.
Organizations are going through a digital transformation. They must adapt their business models to be agile and meet change head on. This means that workspaces must be flexible and adaptable to transition, while ensuring information literacy across the entire enterprise – from top to bottom. These workspaces are central to tap into the combined knowledge of workers in diverse locations, for example. Collaboration allows workers to share data and workflow in real time, solve business problems and improve productivity.
Pivotal to this working is the ability to make sure the right people have access to the right information where and when they want it. Data is the new lifeblood of organizations and it is essential to their day-to-day running. Organizations who do not try and understand their data will not survive.
According to analyst firm Gartner, organizations are moving beyond using technology to automate business. Technology is now being seen as a business enabler – “a revenue builder, market maker and customer finder.” Digital is introducing innovative new business models across the board, “digitally remastering” organizations. But with this will come a fight for skills and knowledge, with enterprises in danger of losing their competitive ranking due to a lack of digital business expertise.
Decision makers need to understand these changing dynamics and initiate well-thought-out transformation strategies that network people, processes and information. Collaborative work by its very nature will be much more flexible. Workflows will be much easier to distribute enterprise wide, across countries and language boundaries. These knowledge based interactions will be paramount to the future of work relations.
The digital workspace: a collaboration hub
The so-called “information economy” is changing the workplace as we know it. Businesses across all sectors are being transformed by big data, analytics and data models. By 2020, Gartner estimates that 25 percent of large organizations will be either sellers or buyers of data via formal online data marketplaces. In the same timeline, companies that are digitally trustworthy are forecast to generate 20 percent more online profit than those that are not.
Information itself is a commodity. It is the insight that is in the data that is valuable. Having the right data in the right time will be crucial to competitive advantage. This is where the digital workplace plays a central role in disseminating data. The right tools enable users to collaborate within the organization and with external parties. Both types of collaboration provide business with a competitive edge, enabling them to be faster, more agile and more efficient.
According to analyst firm IDC, by 2019 75 percent of large manufacturers will update their operations and operating models with IoT and analytics-based situational awareness to mitigate risk and speed up time to market.
The power of Industry 4.0
In the industrial sector, digital transformation is accelerating the amount of data, documents and processes organizations have to deal with exponentially.
Industry 4.0, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, is the next wave in automation and data exchange, incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Industry 4.0 advancements streamline processes in factories and optimize efficiencies, creating an agile and flexible infrastructure. Factories will become increasingly automated and self-monitoring with workers working alongside bots. Benefits include higher productivity and cost reductions using knowledge gleaned from real-time data produced by sensor technologies.
For the industrial sector it is vital that they have control of this tsunami of data from the onset. It is only by doing this that they can generate data valuations in real time and optimize the networks they are running in terms of cost, bandwidth availability or resource consumption, for example.
Industrial enterprises will need to source software solutions that enable them to digitize the entire value chain. Where the entire process is digital, the data workflow must be consistent, always on and always available from the initial customer enquiry to manufacturing and right through to product delivery.
In a digital workspace, all information is brought together and made available according to context.
In manufacturing and plant engineering, for example, there are digital machine lifecycle files and documents on electronics, mechanics and IT. These are stored in a single source alongside additional information such as email chains, customer correspondence and maintenance logs from office application suites, enterprise resource planning (ERP), electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) and other applications.
Unlike file archives or paper folders, documents in electronic files can be linked to customer files, business transactions, machine files, technical assignments and so on. All the information on one business partner, for example, can be swiftly brought up in context, speeding up responses from knowledge workers.
By the end of 2020, 50 percent of manufacturers for example will mine business value from integrating supply chains, plant operations and product and service lifecycle management data, according to IDC. This is to satisfy the demand for integrated information processes and flow.
Lack of structure in data makes it difficult to see what is going on. Without context, insights from data may not be the correct ones. With good context within the information offered up by digital workspaces means that workers can make reasoned and accurate decisions.
It is therefore imperative that organizations carefully consider job specific information requirements, including context, within the virtual walls of the digital workspace.
Collaboration connects the enterprise knowledge base, inspires innovation, increases productivity and allows for better allocation of resources. Collaboration is the route to fast, informed decision making in the agile workspace and a crucial ingredient for success in digital business.
 Gartner – Talent on the Digital Frontier: The Stakes Rise in Digital Business
 Gartner – 100 Data and Analytics Predictions Through 2021
 IDC: FutureScape Worldwide Manufacturing Predictions 2017
 IDC – Manufacturing Insights 2017 Predictions