With our media full of concern about privacy, cyber-warfare and the threats from AI, it’s worth remembering that most of us actually use technology to make our jobs (and lives) easier. 

I’ve been working in a wide range of IT roles for more than 30 years. Over that time I’ve seen the benefits that technology can bring and also the pitfalls of making the wrong decision (or the right decision at the wrong time).

A key concern for most organisations, but particularly pressing in the UK public sector, is choosing the solutions that best fit their requirements.  Increasing demand and restricted budgets can stifle innovation, precisely at the time when an organisation is most in need of a boost from digital transformation.

So where can organisations look for innovation and ways to arm the IT team with tools and services which help efficiency and productivity?  

Flexible working

The increasing availability of unlimited, high-performance broadband, free wi-fi and high-quality mobile data means that this is no longer just a feature of major cities. As long as we provide the tools and services that users need, then flexible working can have huge cost and productivity benefits.

An effective flexible working solution provides your organisation with the opportunity to shrink premises footprint, communicate with mobile workers and spend more time interacting with service users in the community.

Support as a service

Why do most support desks fail to delight their users?  In my experience, I’ve found the problem is that most are built around a transactional relationship between the user and the service, and are measured on how many calls are taken and how quickly they are closed. If we want to get more benefit from the service we need to design it the other way up.  How can we encourage users to interact with the service more effectively and get what they need?  How can we ensure that we treat them more like valued customers and less like problems to be solved?

By taking a true service-led approach, we encourage and support users to resolve their own issues and gather good quality information about the user and their interactions with the service. We can then begin to offer a service to users that is fit for the 21st century.

Collaboration

As we progress with flexible working, collaboration tools need to be high on our list of priorities, but it’s not that simple.  Many organisations assume that simply by making the technology available, effective collaboration will occur spontaneously.  In fact many users struggle with the tools and many collaboration sessions are rendered almost wholly ineffective by noise, disruption, late entrants asking what’s been said and a general lack of etiquette and protocol.

It needs to be recognised that while we are a social species, interacting with others is a learned skill.  Over hundreds of thousands of years we have established ways of collaborating with others in teams based on verbal and visual clues. Replicating this into a digital world does not happen overnight.

Collaboration is essential, but users need to be provided with guidelines and on-line meeting etiquette in order to be effective.  Bandwidth is no longer the biggest issue – people are.

100% engagement

Within many organisations there is a cohort of workers who receive no ICT service at all.  Often roles such as cleaner, gardener, janitorial and short term contract staff fall into this category, because it is simply too costly to provision them with devices and support.

As more organisations embrace digital transformation, however, the ability to easily engage in targeted communication with all staff becomes increasingly important.  Simply providing access to an intranet is also not enough.  In order to be inclusive and engaging an integrated, comprehensive service backed by support is needed. 

Workspaces must be capable of smooth scaling not just in terms of the number of users, but in functionality. from simply providing supported access to an on-line HR system through to delivering access to the most complex CAD package.  Automating provisioning and de-commissioning, use of cloud-based resources and a rigorous, policy-based approach to security take the workload and threat out of the extended service, and open the possibility of a new approach to service design which can (and should) aim for 100% coverage of the workforce.

Freedom of choice

What better way for the IT department to raise its profile and popularity than by offering freedom of device?Whether you have a list of approved devices, or a BYOD policy, there is no way to stop the proliferation of tablet, Chrome, Apple and android devices.

Instead we need to focus on identity management, single sign-on and data security within the service itself.  And while a focus on delivering services from the cloud is absolutely the right direction, anyone who travels regularly will also recognise the need to work securely offline.

Combining choice and freedom to work in the way (and on the device) that suits best is the cornerstone of any organisation’s mobility strategy.

Summary

There isn’t one of these five pillars that exists in isolation or will work well without the others. They are mutually supportive and interlinked.

The workspace of the future is no longer being determined by a choice of software or hardware vendor.  Organisations are taking a more nuanced approach, aiming to support users with new ways of working.  Mobility, communication and user experience are the key watch words in a new user-centric workspace world.

Find out more about these topics and how workspaces can assist IT departments deliver an improved service to their organisations.

About the Author: Ewen Anderson BSc, MMS (Dip) - With a background in psychology, management services, strategic consultancy and enterprise-scale managed services Ewen works as a strategy consultant for Capita IT Services.  He is a passionate believer that technology can assist business strategy and that when end user computing services are properly designed and managed they can directly improve both productivity and work life balance.