If you're an IT pro, you're probably familiar with Microsoft's years-old Optimized Desktop initiative. This year at TechEd, the company introduced a new initiative that is aimed at the changing nature of the workspace. Here's the word from Gavriella Schuster on the officialWindows for Your Business blog:

Clearly, the way we work has changed – we are increasingly mobile and want to stay connected anywhere, anytime. Many of us take our first conference call of the day from our car during the morning commute. We stay on top of urgent emails not only from our desk but also from the sidelines of the soccer field. From remote locations, we access corporate information and quickly respond to a customer to keep business moving forward despite time zone differences.

At the same time, the lines between work and life have blurred. In many cases, we are getting familiar with the latest technologies and devices at home first, and then bringing those preferences to work. In other words, we have grown to expect the freedom to work wherever, whenever and however we can to get the job done.

These changes are not only being experienced by individuals but also by business and IT leaders. Business leaders may want to give their people the flexibility to choose the technology that works best for them, but still rely on IT departments to manage technology risks, secure corporate data and ensure the required levels of compliance and manageability are met.

At Microsoft, we know that with the right technology, a company’s IT environment can be as agile, flexible and reliable as the people it supports. In an about an hour here at TechEd, I’ll talk at a Foundational Sessionabout how IT can deliver the “Flexible Workspace”. If you're here, please join me in room C307.

With a more flexible workspace, people can work the way they want which can mean better results, better job satisfaction and, possibly, stronger business growth. IT departments will be happy too since flexible workspaces are supported by an intelligent infrastructure that makes it easy for IT to deploy, secure, and manage the right computing environment.

Based on recent conversations with customers and partners, it’s clear that this notion of a flexible workspace resonates with many of you. Here are a few areas where you can get started on your path to a flexible workspace:

  • Personalized PC environment on any PC form factor: People expect their corporate PC experience to be consistent with their preferred settings, data and applications the moment they log-in. Flexible workspace makes it easy for them to have their personalized environment on any PC form factor that their company may provision for them.

  • Work on the Road: The overall workforce is increasingly more remote, from everyday workers who work from home as they fight a spring cold to the business executive who travels four weeks a month. Many times, we know that employees don’t understand corporate security requirements and may seek the quickest way to access their email – which may inadvertently compromise IT security for their own productivity. With a flexible workspace, we rely on intelligent infrastructure to provide people with seamless experiences, giving them the access they need while not impeding their productivity or jeopardize IT security. DirectAccess and the diversity of devices available today make it possible for people to travel to any place and use their corporate PCs or tablets securely.

  • Online IT management: With more and more people working remotely or less frequently connecting directly to the corporate network; there is an IT need to manage PCs online instead of onsite. IT can implement a flexible workspace through Windows Intune to manage PCs, provide fixes and release updates.

  • Centralize, secure and enable continuity with Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): With VDI, companies can allow network connected users to access highly personalized desktops and data that are well managed, secure, and quickly deployable, yet running from centrally managed servers. The intelligent infrastructure supporting the flexible workspace provides IT the ability to tailor management policies for virtualized workspaces so that resources are provided automatically to people who need them, the right applications are delivered based on how the desktop is accessed and the corporate data is secured in the datacenter, if required. In the event of a disaster, big or small, IT can quickly provision virtualized desktops to keep people going.

Forrester Research recently published a related report “IT Managers Selectively Embrace Consumerization.” It is available for download here.