Future Enterprise

Unifying Endpoint Management Toward the Digital Workspace Experience

Automation is emerging as a key component in endpoint management solutions and can help firms shape digital workflows towards the way employees work in today’s hybrid workforce.
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In June, at Apple’s WWDC2021 event,  an executive demo-ed the new Universal Control feature by dragging a file across the screen of an iPad and two macOS devices (as if all three were a single device). Online “oohs” and “aaahs” ensued. Apple, as it often does at its spring tech event, showed a glimpse of what the future workspace will look like: seamless integration across multiple device types and OS platforms, with a familiar and intuitive end-user experience, aimed at productivity and speed.

But many enterprise employees have been working this way for a while across multiple devices — albeit not as slickly tied together. Especially over the last 18 months, many remote employees have stitched together productive, integrated working environments with whatever devices and digital technology was on hand (or whatever they could find on Amazon’s digital shelves). A personal Mac or Windows device might have become a secondary, or primary work PC. Personal smartphones, maybe used occasionally to check work e-mail, shifted into full-time business devices with multiple dedicated work apps. A spare tablet or other device was put to work as a dedicated Zoom or Slack device, or as an app open in a “window” which is always open and ready.

PC and mobile devices are now almost equally, and intrinsically, a part of most workers’ digital day-to-day. According to IDC’s 2020 Enterprise Mobility and Workspace Survey, more than 50% of enterprise IT decision-makers say PC and mobile operating systems are critical productivity technologies for their respective workforces. This presents challenges in organizations where various endpoint types (Macs or Windows devices, iPhones, or Android phones) are brought into the “workspace” under different ownership models. It’s easy to imagine an employee using a personal Mac as a primary work device, with an Android phone owned and paid for by his/her company, and maybe a personal Microsoft Surface tablet on the side, dedicated for Teams meetings or Widows-centric apps.

It is also common that these varying device types are managed and provisioned by different systems, and even separate teams within an enterprise IT organization. The “PC team” is still the primary source of delivering and setting up work PCs (such as Windows 10 devices) to large enterprises. If an organization offers device “choice”, a completely separate group may be responsible for anyone who opts for an Apple Mac device as a work laptop. Meanwhile, in “mobilityland”, an entirely separate team — possibly a firm’s telecom group, or even administrative services — might be the source for getting a corporate iPhone or Android device delivered and set up. Such groups have traditionally owned relationships with carriers/mobile operators, which are still primary sources for corporate mobile technology.  

At a higher level, the challenge for enterprise IT organizations does not end with the delivery, set-up and management of endpoint devices.  Even after mastering this process across varying form factors and ownership models (and that alphabet soup of BYOD, COYD, COPE, COSU, etc.), there is the issue of productivity and user experience.

The biggest challenge is getting a collection of three or more screens and interfaces to resemble a cohesive workspace. Strong device and data management practices alone may keep data secure and workers’ activity compliant and under control, but at the cost of end-user satisfaction. If productivity software is hard to find and install, apps require multiple authentications across platforms, and data are difficult to access/share, this can lead to a cumulative set of friction points — or micro-interruptions. Individually, each hiccup in the end-users’ digital day-to-day may be an innocuous few seconds, but added up over the time, it can lead to real loss of productivity and increased worker stress and dissatisfaction.

Orienting an IT organization towards unified device management and intelligent workspace deployment is not easy. About two thirds of U.S. enterprises are not at this stage yet (according to the IDC MaturityScape Benchmark: Unified Endpoint Management in United States, 2020). While 70% of enterprises say they expect all devices — PCs, laptops, phones and tablets — to be managed by a single unified endpoint management platform in the next five years, fewer than 20% of enterprises are doing this on a larger scale today.

Automation is emerging quickly as a key component in endpoint management solutions (as well as many other IT operations markets), and could help firms normalize configurations, privileges and access control polices across multiple endpoints, based on user identity, role and behavior. Beyond that, automation, analytics and AI-enhanced enablement tools are on the horizon to help firms shape digital workflows towards the way employees work, taking into account the context and intent of digital work. This intelligent digital workspace is a long way from the old processes and norms for setting up workers’ PCs and user-facing systems. But, this new way of delivering employees their digital day-to-day is a large component of IDC’s overall definition of the Future of Work.

To learn more about unified endpoint management read IDC’s new checklist, “6 Ways to Enhance Your Intelligent Digital Workspace.

If you would like to learn more about IDC’s “Future of X” practices, visit our website at https://www.idc.com/FoX

Program Vice President, Enterprise Mobility