4 Essential Elements of a Workspace to Mobilize the Enterprise

Author: Amitabh Sinha

Publish on: Dec 9, 2014 5:30:00 AM

Image_Mobile_WorkforceIn the PC-first enterprise, the Windows OS was the workspace.

An employee could access their applications - some Windows client server, some browser based - inside their Windows desktop. They had access to data in a folder that was either on a local file system or on a network drive mounted on their desktop. Finally, the Windows OS enabled enterprise workflows:

  • click on a link inside Outlook to approve expenses inside SAP
  • edit a shared file in a content repository like SharePoint
  • download a file to the desktop for editing using Microsoft Office and other workflows
  • use a Windows client server app to report expenses.

Since IT owned the PC they had complete control over the PC, and could lock it down completely. End users were not permitted to install any applications; in many cases they were not even allowed to install browser plugins.

We need a "workspace" for the mobile-first enterprise

Many have tried solving this problem multiple ways in the last five years. The first attempt was to take a known workspace - Windows OS - and virtualize it using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in the data center, thereby delivering a consistent Windows workspace experience on all devices. VDI seemed like the perfect solution, except users did not like a Windows desktop experience on their mobile devices, and IT did not like the high total cost of ownership and operational complexity. You can read more about how to shed complex infrastructure and get the "D" in VDI back.

The second attempt was to treat the OS on the device (iOS or Android) as the workspace. IT would use MDM to control the device. But MDM did not solve two problems:

  • How do end users access their business apps and data?
  • Were business workflows available on the device?

The extensions to MDM to solve these two problems have been a literal alphabet soup of solutions: Mobile Content Management (MCM), Mobile Application Management (MAM), Secure Browser, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), Mobile Information Management (MIM), Per-App VPN, and others. These new technologies added multiple layers of infrastructure in the data center. But the bigger problem is that these add-ons broke enterprise workflows! A user couldn't click on a link because it was behind a firewall, they could'nt download a file and edit it. Or run a Windows app to report expenses. The user experience is confusing to say the least.

You need a workspace to mobilize your enterprise. Here are the critical elements for a workspace in the mobile-first era:

  1. A consistent end user experience over a diverse set of device operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows OS, and MacOS) and form factors (phone, tablet, desktop)

  2. A user can access all their applications and data inside the workspace

  3. A workspace simplifies enterprise workflows across applications and data

  4. IT has control over the security and configuration of the workspace

In the next series of articles, I will talk more about these four characteristics in more detail.

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