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A single sign-on future? Why you need to deliver a digital workspace now

A single sign-on future? Why you need to deliver a digital workspace now

Why tech chiefs need to consider providing staff with access to every application from any device

Company-wide digital transformation programs are enabling companies to provide staff with new applications and services faster than ever. As a result, legacy virtual desktops are giving way to more modern, cloud-based, digital workspace solutions. 

But many organisations are still persisting with upgrading and renewing antiquated platforms that don’t fit into modern application architectures. It is no longer good enough to limit your highly mobile staff, and contractors, to interacting with key apps on desktop computers. Applications need to be available from anywhere and on any device.

IT executives gathered at VMware-sponsored roundtable events in Sydney and Melbourne recently to discuss delivering the digital workplace, in particular how close they are to providing single sign-on and secure access to any application (Win32, SaaS, web and mobile apps) from any device and what is preventing them from doing so.

VMware A/NZ director of end-user computing, Andrew Fox, says most employees have moved beyond the desktop and are routinely using apps and cloud-based services on mobile devices.

“This means IT needs to review how users are provided access to core applications on whatever device they are using,” Fox says. “They also need to consider a modern management platform to connect traditionally siloed systems and managing tools to deliver a seamless experience for staff on any app or any device.”

According to VMware end-user computing specialist, Matt Maw, younger people or ‘digital natives’ have a much broader sense of the key enablers that best allow them to do their job.

“As far as the new generation of worker is concerned, applications and their usefulness lifecycle come and go before IT can even begin,” he says. “IT functions need to be ready with whatever application the business desires, regardless of how and where it is being delivered. Fundamentally, IT needs to shift from the department of ‘no’ to the department of ‘yes’.”

But conventional technology structures, or silos, are complicating the process of providing single sign-on application access across many devices.

“As the popular saying goes, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results.’ Conventional thinking and structure were developed to deal with the reality of yesterday and the reality of tomorrow needs a fresh perspective,” Maw says.

Serco chief technology officer, Tony Yortis, says the public service provider has made good progress in providing single sign-on capabilities for its users. Cyber security is an important factor in operating securely and the company continues to invest in its security infrastructure.

“The key is to ensure our infrastructure, data foundations and appropriate service management processes are in place to support the new work practices and applications,” he says.

But behind all the tools and processes are people and the organisation needs to create the appropriate culture to adopt and support the change, according to Yortis.

“Having change programs for staff is very important and appropriate management supporting and leading by example signals that while we may be living and working in a more complex world, we are trying to simplify how we work and get better connected while trying to make cyber safer.”

PMP Limited chief information officer, Justin Davies, says the digital printing company is “a long way” from providing its staff with a digital workspace with secure access to any app from any device.

“It’s not actually on my roadmap with my aspirations reduced to ‘less sign-on’,” he says.

Legacy systems and a lack of desire to change – based on the value the business would extract from the effort involved in getting there – have held the company back, Davies says.

“PMP Limited is very diverse with a mixture of manufacturing, distribution and digital marketing businesses. The traditional units of our business are at the core of what we do and the value just isn’t there for single sign-on.”

Business insolvency specialist, Ferrier Hodgson, is also a long way off introducing single sign-on despite the clarification of roles and recognition of the efficiencies that it provides, according to executive director, analytics, Dr Ian Tho.

There are several challenges that remain: the need to lock down information – especially for analytics and forensics – is antithetical and there’s a significant need to protect data from being accessed outside the team, he says. As completely open access is often available within the company’s firewalls, passwords or keys become irrelevant.

“It is our way to allow full access with no sign-on needed, all the time, for relevant roles,” Tho says.

In contrast, Pitcher Partners Consulting director, strategy and digital, Terrence Teh, says several of his clients are pursuing single sign-on as a key aspect in their technology capability.

“However, one of the main considerations that causes many people to think twice is the impact it has on security and the protection of data. This will continue to be a strong consideration on how single sign-on is correctly designed to meet the needs of the business,” he says.

Increased efficiency and engagement

Attendees at the roundtables agreed creating a digital workspace could possibly make their organisations run more efficiently and with less staff.

“There is the potential for this,” says PMP’s Justin Davies. “Our processes continue to evolve and new digital efficiencies are being introduced to the manufacturing process every day for improved automation.”  

The benefits of a digital workspace go beyond that of efficiency improvements, according to Teh. There is untapped potential to create greater engagement with employees, driving more collaboration and innovation within the work environment, he says.

It is inevitable that organisations need to evolve in the fast transforming digital economy, says Serco’s Tony Yortis. “With millennials now representing over half the workforce, a digital workspace is not only needed to better serve your customers, but to also attract talent and manage risk.”


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