Six trends on the hype cycle for the digital workplace in 2020

Written by Matt Cain


When employees were sent home from their offices en masse amid the global onset of COVID-19, many businesses scrambled to adopt technology solutions to enable their teams to work remotely. From meeting solution software to remote access services, the pandemic rapidly elevated many technologies from nice-to-have to must-have status.

As IT leaders begin to reset their business strategy, many have now realized the urgency to scale up their digital workplace technology stacks to ensure long-term business resiliency. According to the Gartner 2020 Digital Workplace Survey, 68 per cent of respondents agreed that more C-level execs have expressed involvement in the digital workplace since the pandemic began.

The need for replacements for in-person activities is leading to heightened interest in the emerging technologies included in the Gartner Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace, 2020. Here are the top digital workplace trends on the Hype Cycle that CIOs will be paying attention to in the years to come.

Trend 1: The new work nucleus

The “new work nucleus” refers to a collection of SaaS-based personal productivity, collaboration and communication tools, combined into one cloud office product. It generally includes email, instant messaging, file sharing, conferencing, document management and editing, search and discovery, and collaboration.

The new work nucleus has become a cornerstone of most organizations’ digital workplace infrastructures, particularly in today’s remote work environment. Reliance on cloud office technologies has increased due to a general preference for cloud, as well as the desire to reduce costs, drive simplicity and continuously provide more functionality to employees. Vendors are upgrading cloud services with new mobility, content discovery and artificial intelligence (AI) features.

Trend 2: Bring your thing

Individuals are beginning to use more personal Internet of Things (IoT) devices or wearables at work, in a trend known as bring your own thing (BYOT). BYOT involves a wide range of objects, such as fitness bands, smart lights, air filters, voice assistants, smart earbuds and consumer virtual reality (VR) headsets. In the future it will include highly sophisticated devices such as robots and drones. As homes and domestic technology become smarter and consumers acquire more IoT technology, a growing range of personal things will be brought into offices or used to support remote working.

Trend 3: The distance economy

In-person events and meetings were once the norm and virtual meetings the exception, but COVID-19 has flipped those scenarios. The pandemic influenced the emergence of the distance economy, or business activities that don’t rely on face-to-face activity. Organizations with operating models that depend on first-party or hosted events have switched quickly to virtual alternatives.

Simultaneously, as internal meetings, client interactions, new hire interviews and a variety of other business activities have gone virtual, the distance economy has given rise to a new generation of meeting solutions that attempt to more closely mimic an in-person meeting.

Trend 4: Smart workspaces

A smart workspace leverages the growing digitalization of physical objects to deliver new ways of working and improve workforce efficiency. Examples of smart workspace technologies include IoT, digital signage, integrated workplace management systems, virtual workspaces, motion sensors and facial recognition. Any location where people work can be a smart workspace, such as office buildings, desk spaces, conference rooms and even home spaces.

As employees return to work post-COVID-19, organizations will take full advantage of smart workspaces as they revisit design strategies to better understand how people participate in physical spaces or adhere to social distancing. Such insight can create new capabilities related to seating and room allocation, access management and wayfaring.

Trend 5: Desktop-as-a-service

Desktop as a service (DaaS) provides users with an on-demand, virtualized desktop experience delivered from a remotely hosted location. It includes provisioning, patching and maintenance of the management plane and resources to host workloads.

Organizations have long been interested in adopting virtual desktop infrastructure, but complexity and capital investment have made implementations difficult. COVID-19 highlighted the value and business continuity strength of DaaS in its ability to rapidly enable remote work where on-premises options have stalled. The pandemic is likely to accelerate adoption of DaaS, and it may even perpetuate as a delivery architecture when employees return to the office.

Trend 6: Democratized technology services

Technology services of the future will be assembled and composed by the people that actually use them. A few examples of democratized technology services include:

  • Citizen developers, or employees who create new business applications using development tools and runtime environments sanctioned by corporate IT. Citizen developers are empowered by the availability and power of low-code and “no code” development tools.
  • Citizen integrator tools, which enable expert business users with minimal IT skills to handle relatively simple application, data and process integration tasks by themselves through very intuitive, no-code development environments.
  • Citizen data science, an emerging set of capabilities that enable users to extract advanced analytic insights from data without the need for extensive data science expertise.

Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis on digital workplace technologies and other topics of interest to CIOs and IT leaders at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2020, taking place virtually October 19-22 in the Americas.

Matt Cain is a Distinguished Research Vice President at Gartner focusing on the intersection of technology, job skills and workforce culture. He founded Gartner’s Digital Workplace and digital dexterity key initiative, which is designed to help IT leaders plan and execute technology strategies that incorporate consumer, workforce and business trends.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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