10 Key Predictions for the Workplace in 2020


As today’s employees expect more and more, we are seeing an increasing proliferation of consumer-grade technologies in the workplace. Productivity and collaboration apps, company-sanctioned devices, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies and smart campuses have become key considerations for millennials joining new organizations. These expectations mean enterprise IT teams must provide, upgrade and manage workplace ecosystems while staying apace with the latest technologies.

As the employee experience also depends on line of business (LoB) apps and processes, business units other than IT also are increasingly involved in workplace technology selections. User experience has become the focus area for all parties in this ecosystem, including business functions, IT, device manufacturers, software solution vendors and managed service providers. As technology and user expectations evolve, we predict several trends to shape the workplace in 2020 and the coming years.

Here are 10 predictions for workplace in 2020:

  1. Windows Virtual Desktop will be a key area of interest: Microsoft made Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) generally available in September 2019. It will become the single-most important investment area for clients, including those that are yet to consider virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). This new offering can provide virtualized Windows 10 desktops, hosted in Azure. WVD can simplify virtual desktop implementations with an easier Windows licensing setup. It will be available free of cost for Windows 10 E3/E5 licenses and M365 customers. It will accelerate the adoption of desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) for clients that are already investing in Azure. Microsoft also has announced the availability of multi-session Windows 10, both with and without WVD, that could allow multiple users to log in to the same Windows 10 virtual session, thereby providing pooled VDI cost benefits.
  2. Device management will be scrutinized less: Leading enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution vendors are continually improving their solutions by focusing on zero-trust security and conditional access. Google and Apple also are providing in-built OS capabilities in iOS and Android Enterprise, respectively, by enabling the segregation of personal and enterprise apps and data within devices. Popular workplace apps, on productivity or line-of-business, are increasingly software-as-a-service (SaaS) based and can be secured through containerization and federated security features such as single sign-on. These improvements enable modern EMM solutions to secure enterprise data and applications by reducing the need for scrutinized device management features, such as device enrollment. This could help enterprise IT to continue supporting BYOD policies without worrying about the latest devices, app updates and the ever-changing user preferences.
  3. The focus of unified endpoint management (UEM) will shift from co-management to internet of things (IoT): Co-management has been the key strength of every major UEM vendor. It involves managing both legacy and modern devices and applications by supporting Microsoft System Center Configuration (SCCM) and offering a cloud-based modern management. However, enterprises are embracing more modern devices that can be managed over-the-air (OTA), which reduces SCCM dependency. Also, Microsoft has recently introduced the Microsoft Endpoint Manager by combining SCCM and Intune. This will enable UEM vendors to shift their focus to non-computing smart devices. For instance, vendors can focus on supporting smart glasses and smart watches to differentiate their offerings.
  4. Enterprises will favor solutions measuring digital dexterity: Enterprises are interested in measuring the digital literacy and skills of users on modern workplace technologies. However, they are not likely to invest in a third party separately to empower a culture of technology adoption that could enable such digital dexterity. This offering will become a natural extension of services provided by managed service providers or software provided by solution vendors. Vendors and providers that can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to generate insights on improving users’ digital IQ will be leading the market.
  5. Portal-based workplaces with workflows and intelligent personal digital secretaries will become prevalent: Enterprises are increasingly showing interest in consolidating their workplaces in the form of portals. This portal-based workplace could be the modern intranet that will serve as a single-entry point for accessing all workplace apps and data. It could also be a mobile app-based workplace that has the same interface for all devices. This digital workplace will be powered by cognitive intelligence technologies to provide a contextualized view to users as per their personas. These portal-focused workplaces will also include a personalized digital secretary to assist users with routine activities and provide other workplace support services. They will also leverage automated workflows to reduce the clutter of applications that end users have to switch between and the actions they need to take.
  6. Analytics in collaboration solutions will garner business benefits: For enterprise-wide collaboration solutions, we are likely to see considerable interest in analytics-driven insights on usage and corresponding business benefits. For instance, collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams, other Office 365 components and meeting solutions like Zoom and BlueJeans can monitor the usage patterns of end users and provide insights for further business benefits. Such benefits can be in the form of cost savings like reduced travel requirements or increased sales through efficient collaboration.
  7. Experience-level agreements (XLAs) that tie to visible business benefits will gain traction: Even though managed service providers are offering measurable XLAs for end users, we see limited traction among clients. However, as these XLAs become more focused and gain the capability to quantify business benefits, their acceptance among enterprise clients will increase.
  8. Smart device support will extend to complex physical workplaces: Alongside the growing interest in smart workplaces and campuses, with services such as smart meeting rooms and parking systems, there is a growing need to enable the use of smart devices and other workplace technologies, in complex physical work environments like oil refineries and manufacturing plants. Technologies that can provide digital workplace benefits and assist front-end employees in everyday operations in these complex environments will be in demand.
  9. Unified communication collaboration (UCC) will be all about video: Solutions that can enhance video meetings and collaborations will dominate the UCC space. Solutions that leverage augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) technologies to enhance video-based collaborations will lead the UCC market.
  10. Interest in a heterogenous (non-Microsoft ecosystem) workplace may increase by the end of 2020: In 2019, most large-scale enterprises we spoke to had a Microsoft-dominated workplace environment that included OS (Windows 10), productivity (Office 365), and enterprise mobility (Intune) solutions. However, by late 2020, this “vendor lock-in” trend characterized by a dependency on Microsoft solutions in enterprise workplace environments is likely to trigger interest in developing a heterogenous workplace technology ecosystem. This has already begun in the collaboration space, with clients implementing different solutions for content-centric collaboration and video meetings despite having invested in Office 365.

As global economies anticipate challenging financial times in 2020 and the years that follow, one can expect cautious investments in technology and associated managed services. Unless a solution or service can provide a measurable (visible) business benefit, it will be challenging for vendors and providers to convince clients to increase their investments.

About the author

Mrinal Rai is the Principal analyst for Digital Workplace and Social business collaboration. His area of expertise is digital workplace services and enterprise social collaboration both from a technology and business point of view. He covers key areas around the Workplace and End User computing domain viz., modernizing workplace, Enterprise mobility, BYOD, VDI, managed workplace services, service desk and modernizing IT architecture. In Social business collaboration, he focuses on enterprise social software, content collaboration, team collaboration, social media management and chatbot platforms. He has been with ISG for last 5+ years and has more than 10 years of industry experience. Mrinal works with ISG advisors and clients in engagements related to workplace modernization, social intranet, collaborative workplace, cloud-based VDI, end user computing and service desk.