Dec 19 2022
Digital Workspace

Tech Trends: Modern Workspace Management Improves Efficiency

The reality of hybrid work for state and local agencies requires a flexible digital workplace.
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Earlier this year, a survey of Virginia government workers found that more than three-quarters weren’t happy with the state’s new telework policy, which required approval to work from home more than one day per week. The policy was implemented at a time when the governor’s administration was encouraging workers to return to offices.

Still, a return to state and local offices is in the cards. In fact, while making the case that all government employees should be back in offices, Bloomberg editors noted that “Most local and state governments appear far ahead of the federal government in bringing back workers to offices. … The reason is simple: Addressing the country’s many challenges requires all hands on deck.”

That means IT departments must ramp up support for both in-person and remote work in a way that encourages employees to embrace both.

“There was some resistance from agencies to hybrid work, whether it was concern about productivity or a perception of remote work,” says James Collins, Microsoft general manager for state and local government and former Delaware CIO. “But through the capabilities of technology, productivity was actually up, employee well-being was better and now they have an expectation for some of that flexibility.”

Enter integrated workplace management — cloud provisioning, endpoint and identity management, virtual desktops, and related solutions that assemble users’ computing resources in the cloud so they can be accessed anywhere. To maintain productivity and flexibility in a hybrid model, it’s incumbent on government IT to tackle two key challenges: managing and securing myriad endpoint devices and creating a seamless, productive user experience that’s the same in the office, at home or on the road.

“We’re coming to that time when instead of deploying individual devices with individual operating systems, people just connect to a server in the cloud from whatever device they’re using, and it gives them a session,” Collins says. “It looks like their familiar desktop and allows them to do everything they need to.”

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Modern Workplace Goes Beyond Device Management

Workplace management is about managing workers’ digital experiences as well as their devices, says Christopher Reed, director and end-user computing technical strategist at VMware.

“Traditionally, IT is focused on that device and how I can get it to you so you can be productive?” Reed says. “A modern IT professional says, ‘How do I manage the entirety of your digital workspace?’ It’s not as much of a lift as you would think, because it’s extremely natural.”

VMware’s Anywhere Workspace solutions, which include Workspace ONE Unified Endpoint Management and Digital Employee Experience Management, allow IT to automate deployment of secure workspaces from a central location. Clark County, Nev., for example, embraced Workspace ONE at the outset of the pandemic when it was clear employees needed to be more mobile.

“Much like virtualization allowed the data center to be portable through virtual machines, we’re allowing the user experience to be portable through modern management,” Reed says.

Not only does workplace management make it easier to support hybrid work but it also allows agencies to operate in new ways. For example, when it comes to certain jobs, such as finance or other knowledge work, they can attract employees from different regions.

“IT can centralize control and onboarding of new users,” Reed says. “So, if they do hire workers in another state, they can control and secure their endpoints in a way that hasn’t been possible before.”

EXPLORE: How demand for digital services is driving IT modernization.

Performance Data Provides User Experience Insights

Government IT departments can now monitor user experience like never before. It’s one thing to deploy digital workplaces across devices; it’s another to ensure those workplaces perform well enough that workers can be productive. Today’s workplace management solutions gather performance data that allows IT to tune endpoints to their users’ job functions.

“We’ve started seeing in state and local government a concern — sometimes coming from IT, sometimes from infosec — that they’re weighing down devices with tools and possibly hindering performance,” says Matt Woodruff, industry lead at Jamf, which develops workplace management and security solutions for Apple devices. “So, you’ve got hybrid workers who sometimes get only half the work done they need to, maybe their reports aren’t functioning properly, and agencies are left to wonder if it’s the device or the policies in place impacting user experience.”

Workplace management solutions collect telemetry data from endpoints — data about CPU usage and disk utilization, logs and diagnostics — to help IT departments improve employees’ computing experience. It can also help workers get the most from their digital workplaces.

In addition to its Azure Virtual Desktop platform, which enables delivery of secure Windows sessions across disparate devices, and cloud-based Microsoft 365, Microsoft has developed its new Viva suite for managing employee experience throughout workplaces.

“We’re using it today,” Collins says. “The data can tell me personally how I’m working and what adjustments I can make. It’s useful at the employee level and the aggregate level for state government employers.”

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