Dimension Data Delves into Digital Disruption

The workplace as we know it is changing rapidly, and the term "digital transformation" is the latest buzzword. Every vendor is touting products to help enterprises become more productive and efficient through the use of digital technologies, while avoiding becoming "Uberized."

Dimension Data investigates the trends driving workplace evolution and digital transformation in a newly released study, "Digital Workplace Report: Transforming Your Business," for which it interviewed 800 organizations in 15 countries on five continents. Through this study, Dimension Data aims to help "organizations learn how their peers are approaching digital workplace transformation." The study delves into several areas related to the evolving workplace, including:

  • Changing employee workstyles and office environments
  • Top drivers and barriers to workstyle changes
  • Technologies, toolsets, and services important in driving workplace transformation
  • Digital transformation strategies -- how they're devised and who devises them
  • Coordination between IT and lines of business when choosing and implementing digital workplace technology

Surprisingly, it found the need for productivity gains to be the strongest driver of workstyle change, followed by employee demand for greater flexibility, such as work-life balance, Dimension Data said in an analyst briefing call. While the company expected the need to reduce overall costs to rate high, that factor actually ranked near the bottom.

Similarly, the study found that improving business processes, gaining competitive advantage, and growing revenues/increasing competitiveness are the key business goals for digital workplace strategies. Again, reducing overall costs landed near the bottom of the list. The move toward transforming the workplace isn't about cutting costs, but about changing the business in order to survive and remain relevant to customers in the coming years.

Workplace Planning

No surprise, flexible workstyles are on the rise, including the ability to work at home some or all of the time. Forty percent of organizations surveyed today have some full-time employees who only work from home, with 56% of respondents saying this will be the case two years from now. In the same time period, 77% said some employees will work from home at least part of the time

According to Dimension Data, as businesses embrace work-at-home programs, they need to be sure to account for the impact on security, device, content, and application policy, and understand the workstyle and any compliance requirements for each individual and department.

Despite the importance of having a comprehensive digital workplace strategy, 60% of organizations haven't developed a formal plan around how they deploy workplace technology, or take measure of its benefits. "We see this day in, day out with clients around the world -- the hardest task is how to initiate digital transformation, which requires change management and buy-in from HR, lines of business, Facilities, Finance, and Legal, as well as all aspects of IT, including network, security, applications, and operations," Dimension Data said.

Digital transformation needs to be a key strategic objective sponsored by executives and supported by functional teams, with a clear understanding of business goals, Dimension Data said. More than ever, companies are recognizing that their digital transformations must result in positive business impacts -- and not merely be innovation for the sake of innovation.

Tech Outlook

On the technology side, the study found that premises-based models are still predominant, but as the cloud grows in importance, hybrid deployments are in place at the majority of respondent companies -- despite the fact that this strategy can result in higher operational costs and complexity. Sixty percent of respondents have on-premises self-managed business voice technologies, with 12% using on-prem systems managed by third party, 16% have private cloud, and 8% are hosted by a third party.

"This highlights the fact that even though Microsoft [Office] 365 has 100 million users in the enterprise, the consumption of workloads by those users still needs to increase to match the current on-premises position," Dimension Data noted.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has seen a "groundswell of interest," as 25% of respondents believe that workplace analytics, augmented reality, and micro-learning/training will have a role in the office environment within the year. AI technology is "sufficiently advanced to be working its way into companies in the form of virtual assistants, and, in certain industries such as banking, virtual tellers and virtual advisors," Dimension Data said.

When asked, "When will intelligent agents have a practical use case?" 22% of the organizations responded "today," while almost 43% said they expect practical uses within 24 months. Based on these findings, Dimension Data said it believes companies need to have digital workplace strategies and use cases in place before moving to AI, wearable technologies, etc.

The key takeaway of this study is that while digital transformation is driving positive outcomes, companies need to view this from a full holistic perspective in order to develop strategies to best deal with the changes taking place. Many organizations don't know how to bring the leaders from the various functional areas together, as their networking team isn't talking to the application team, and the security team isn't talking to the facilities team, for example. In order to succeed, representatives from across the organization must understand the value of digital transformation, the business goals, and how this new way of work will help individuals in their daily jobs as well as the organization as a whole.