Workplace IT services in flux: wherever, whenever, whatever

Enterprise computing is in upheaval as the emphasis shifts towards automation and user-device provision.

The market for workplace services is evolving rapidly as a conventional and highly mature approach to desktop and desk-side management yields to a transformed workplace services environment in which assumptions about customer preference, behaviours and even devices are up for grabs.

Workplace services are increasingly associated with a mobile user and no longer linked to a fixed physical location.

This desire to access services wherever and whenever with whatever device is reshaping the evolution of workplace services.

User requirements and expectations are changing in the post-desktop era. New requirements, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud – along with new engagement models, such as “workplace as a service” and more business value-based pricing types – are driving the change from desktop to workplace services. Increasingly, users expect a consumer-grade experience in the workplace and, as a result, IT organisations are obliged to support additional types of devices, such as tablets, smartphones and other devices in the enterprise context, while increasing the user’s autonomy through self-service and social technologies.

The focus of workplace service management is shifting from physical to virtual. The focus is shifting from traditional, physical delivery and management to virtual, remote delivery, where support functions are highly automated and the focus is on user self-service.

A corresponding shift is reducing the emphasis on desktop image management and application packaging, with greater prominence for delineating the personal from the corporate in bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios and harnessing GPS-enabled support for mobile devices.

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This shifts the focus of workplace services delivery, allowing it greater independence from the end-device hardware (whatever device); supports all variations of mobility (wherever, whenever); and increases the productivity of users (whatever device), by shifting on-site responsibilities and efforts to the user community.  

Evolution of workplace services

The rapid inclusion of new device types, new delivery methods – such as the app store – and BYOD models may still be young in the context of workplace services, but are maturing rapidly and are increasingly prominent in today’s workplace.

Beyond that, more firms are providing a wider array of workplace devices such as tablets to their employees and increased access to mobile applications. Growth in numbers, through the proliferation of devices, may serve to compensate suppliers who are seeing their revenue per device decrease. But most suppliers recognise that new delivery models eliminate cost-intensive, low-margin, on-site activities and provide the basis for managing future changes effectively and efficiently, with shared (cost-efficient) delivery models.

Workplace services

  • Mandatory elements: Service desk, field support (on-site support, managed desktop services); service provisioning (order management, asset management); and workplace software management (application packaging, image creation, patch management, antivirus, security, software distribution).
  • Optional elements: Desktop infrastructure services including Active Directory, file and print services, email and collaboration services, LAN services, voice services, mobile device management (MDM), user administration services, terminal server and virtual desktop services and desktop as a service.
  • Additional elements: Consulting services around workplace management such as assessments, improvements and activities for innovation.

The importance of local flavour

The global workplace delivery model remains a work in progress. Many IT professionals understand that workplace services must be delivered consistently across geographic regions but with local flavour, such as local language support.

In response, most workplace services providers are optimising their global delivery models through process standardisation, tool standardisation and integration, and expanded geographic presence and alliances with local suppliers.

While consumerisation, automation and self-service all tend to reduce the amount of on-site work required, some local support capability is still needed. Supplier capabilities in geographic presence, ecosystem participation and propensity to participate in multi-sourced scenarios are varied, so a consistent user experience across geographic regions cannot be taken for granted.

Customer satisfaction hinges on the user experience, not service level agreements (SLAs). Outsourcing user computing activities — especially the help desk — has disillusioned users. But today’s users expect a consumer-grade experience. “Green SLAs are no longer enough,” one supplier observed.

To address this, suppliers are pursuing customer satisfaction improvements as never before. They are employing a number of alternative research methodologies to measure customer satisfaction, as well as harnessing customer experience models – such as personas and analytics – to improve the performance of service desks and all user activities.

Suppliers and customers have recognised that customer satisfaction is one key element indicating how well service provisioning from the IT organisation and external providers is aligned with users’ demands and expectations. More importantly, the high visibility of workplace services contributes a lot to the success or failure of outsourcing. This means that customers who consider outsourcing workplace services activities will now need to keep customer satisfaction first and foremost in their plans.

Customers must actively manage their suppliers for innovation. Because of the rapid change in technology and user expectations, suppliers must be prepared to innovate to remain competitive. Yet, paradoxically, customers do not believe workplace services suppliers are highly innovative in the customer environment. “Innovation is clearly an area they have not mastered,” one client said of their services provider, a common refrain among the client reference interviews conducted.

This is an extract from The Forrester Wave: Global Workplace Services, Q1 2013, (March 2013) by Forrester principal analysts, sourcing and vendor management, Bill Martorelli and Wolfgang Benkel.

Picture Credit: Thinkstock

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