Over the past decade, digitalisation has had an impact on almost every aspect of our personal lives — from the way we shop, to the way we bank, to the way we watch TV. So why are so many enterprise CIOs struggling to deliver the same digital shift when it comes to the way we work?

To find out, Capita and Citrix commissioned Vanson Bourne in 2018 to carry out a survey of 200 CIOs and senior IT decision-makers. The results, published as “Delivering Workforce Mobility, Digital Transformation, and Agile Workspaces – Where are Organisations Today?” show that almost all enterprises (95%) are either undertaking digital transformation projects or planning to do so in the next 12 months.

However, many also report significant challenges holding back their progress towards a more agile workspace — something that CIOs now see as fundamental to their success and ability to compete. Overall, 84% of respondents said their slowness in rolling out new services and applications to support an agile workspace is impacting their entire organisation’s ability to stay ahead of the competition.

Here, we look at some of the highlights from the research.

Legacy apps slow the journey

Our survey found almost half (44%) of CIOs consider legacy technology and applications a barrier to building an agile workspace — and almost nine in 10 (87%) said legacy applications in particular have at least slowed the journey.

In an era of SaaS and mobile apps, many enterprises still rely on dated on-premises applications to support business-critical processes. These applications were never designed to be delivered from the cloud, and many have been heavily customised, so the costs to re-architect are high. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents cited this cost as a speed bump in their journey towards a more agile workspace.

Another third (36%) of CIOs said they lack in-house skills to modernise legacy applications, suggesting this barrier is best overcome “by seeking outside help and bringing in skilled application remediation experts from a third party”.

Notably, the survey showed little appetite for CIOs to simply replace legacy applications with SaaS products – more than half (58%) said SaaS didn’t fully meet their requirements, while 17% said SaaS didn’t meet their requirements very much or at all.

Delivering a user-centric workspace is difficult

One of the key differences between an agile workspace and the traditional IT desktop model is that the former is user-centric – designed to empower employees to use the applications they need, on the devices they want, anywhere they happen to be.

However, our research showed many CIOs are struggling to deliver a user-centric workspace without introducing new security risks or putting extra pressure on their IT departments.

Take bring-your-own-device (BYOD), for example. While more than nine in 10 respondents (92%) felt BYOD had improved employee productivity, a similar number agreed security risks were higher (87%), IT support needs were greater (89%) and IT management challenges had increased (88%).

“Organisations must seek out solutions that enable BYOD in a secure manner while minimising the support burden,” the report states. “Replacing the traditional IT desktop with a managed workspace agility service, for instance, gives users access to the applications and data they need from any device and location, with access centrally configured, managed, and permissioned.”

Employees don’t want to talk to IT any more

Another key aspect of a user-centric workspace is the ability to self-serve. Self-service has become popular in our personal lives, whether we’re checking out at the supermarket or checking in at the airport, and offers the potential for cost reductions for the organisation delivering the service as well as a better experience for the end user.

It is no surprise, then, to see many CIOs have started to implement self-service tools as a way to automate IT support in their workplace. In fact, 94% are either using self-service now or intend to do so in the next 12 months.

However, even with self-service in place, the research found not all CIOs are measuring the IT user experience as well as they could be. More than four in five (83%) said they mostly learn about the IT user experience from employee calls to the helpdesk, and more than a quarter (28%) said they only measure the IT user experience once or twice a year.

Need for speed

Overall, our research found there is “not just one hurdle for CIOs to surmount… [but] a multitude of barriers” to overcome on the journey to a more agile workspace.

In addition to issues such as cost, security and the technical challenges around legacy technology and applications, these barriers include factors like company culture (cited by 39% of respondents) and business and IT misalignment (36%).

However, when it came to the impact on their bottom line, most CIOs were in agreement: some 84% said their slowness in rolling out new services and applications to support an agile workspace “is impacting their organisation’s ability to stay ahead or overtake the competition”.

Need for flexibility

Finally, it is not just the limitations of legacy applications themselves that have slowed the journey to a more agile workspace — it is the underlying budgeting model, too.

Because legacy technology is still often delivered on-premises, CIOs are forced to deal in fixed multi-year budget cycles where IT investments in infrastructure, platforms and applications are accounted for as capital expenditure (CapEex).

Some 88% of CIOs agreed this model makes it difficult to create an agile workspace because it limits flexibility. With an on-premises data centre, for example, organisations have no way to scale resources up and down on demand — they need to anticipate their requirements over a fixed period as a single capex investment.

On the other hand, the use of cloud-based infrastructure, platforms and applications allow organisations to account for IT as operational expenditure (OpEx). This delivers far greater flexibility than traditional budgeting models, making it a vital part of an agile workspace that can adapt to new market conditions much faster than the workspace of the past.

“The digital workspace of the future will be happier, more agile, and greener,” the report states. “CIOs that fail to enable a smarter way to work will fail to realise the productivity and efficiency gains that digital transformation promises.”

This article first appeared in TechCentral.ie, April 2019.