The Great Divide - Is IT Keeping Up With Mobile Workers?
October 02, 2012

Pete Goldin

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New research conducted by Forrester Consulting for Unisys Corporation - the third annual Unisys consumerization of IT survey - reveals a deepening divide between increasingly mobile workers and the enterprise IT departments that support them.

The survey shows that this divide is being driven by a class of tech-savvy mobile workers who are defying IT policies by using unsupported, “bring your own” devices (BYOD) and applications to get work done and serve customers.

These “mobile elite” workers, may be pushing the envelope of innovation and change within their organizations, but they are also creating support challenges for their IT departments.

“This year’s research shows that the consumerization charge is being led by an elite group of highly connected mobile workers who are using the latest technologies to better serve customers and help their organizations succeed – regardless of whether those technologies are officially supported and sanctioned,” said Fred Dillman, Unisys CTO.

“Rather than fighting this trend, we believe CIOs and IT decision makers should study the behavior of these mobile elite workers in order to understand which approaches provide real innovation and differentiation for their organizations, and then craft their mobile infrastructures to safely support these activities,” Dillman added.

The survey shows the BYOD trend continues to accelerate in the workplace, and is spreading beyond devices to personal applications:

- 43 percent of respondents use three or more devices for work.

- Smartphones are used by 44 percent of those surveyed, with about one third of those phones purchased by the employees.

- 15 percent report using tablet computers for work, with more than half of those tablets bought personally.

- 68 percent of tablet users and 63 percent of smartphone users say that convenience is the reason they use these technologies for work.

- Nearly 40 percent report using an unsupported “bring your own” application or cloud service, such as personal email, file-sharing service or video conferencing, for work.

- 62 percent of 18-31 year olds (Gen Y+Z) and 54 percent of 32-45 year olds (Gen X) say the technology they have at home is better than what they have at work.

The new research also shows that iWorkers and IT decision makers view the business value of these consumer technologies quite differently:

- 56 percent of iWorkers surveyed use unsupported personal devices or apps for work because they need the capabilities and their organization does not provide an alternative.

- 72 percent of IT executives surveyed say that employees are making use of unsupported devices or apps because of personal preference, not because they need to do critical work.

iWorkers and IT departments also seem to have different views of corporate support for personally owned technologies in the workplace:

- 61 percent of surveyed IT decision-makers believe that their employees will contact the company IT department first when they encounter a problem with a personal device they use for work.

- 64 percent of iWorkers say that they would troubleshoot the problem themselves or contact a friend first, and only 21 percent would make the IT department the first point of contact for resolution.

IT departments report that they are increasingly supporting company-owned tablets and smartphones in the workplace: 61 percent of IT respondents say that their organizations provide a high level of IT support for company-owned smartphones and tablets, up from only 27 percent in 2011. However, fewer IT respondents – 17 percent in 2012 vs. 18 percent in 2011 – say that their firms provide high levels of support for employee-owned smartphones and tablets.

Serving the Mobile Elite Workforce

The new research shows the extent to which the consumerization trend is being driven by a select group of highly connected employees that Unisys terms the “mobile elite.”

These individuals, comprising 23 percent of the total iWorker respondents, are those who make intensive use of multiple personally owned devices and applications to get work done.

In studying the behaviors of these individuals, Unisys found that the mobile elite are more likely than average iWorkers to report using consumer technologies to be more productive, serve customers, and drive innovation:

- 58 percent of mobile elites spend their own money to buy things such as personal technology to do their jobs, compared to 27 percent of average iWorkers.

- 67 percent of mobile elites say that use of personal devices or applications makes them more productive and efficient, compared to 43 percent of average iWorkers.

- More than a third of the mobile elite say that using ”bring your own” devices and applications allows them to better serve customers and collaborate with colleagues, compared to 24 percent of average iWorkers.

- 43 percent of mobile elite workers say they recently participated in a work-based innovation program, versus 33 percent of average iWorkers.

- 37 percent of mobile elite respondents say that they recently convinced their management to significantly change a work process, compared to 27 percent of average iWorkers.

In their zeal to be more productive and service-centric, mobile elite workers may be opening up new management, support and security risks for their organizations.

Mobile elite workers are more than three times as likely as average iWorkers to download unauthorized applications to get work done. In fact, 82 percent of mobile elite workers report having done this, despite the fact that 75 percent of IT decision makers say they consider downloading unauthorized software for work as grounds for dismissal.

Unisys commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct two global surveys in June 2012. They first polled 2609 employees/iWorkers to evaluate the state of mobile and personal device use and application use in the workplace. The second study surveyed IT and decision makers from organizations of more than 500 employees with responsibility for purchasing computing devices or applications to support their enterprise. Respondents in both surveys were randomly recruited and screened from international panels, and came from nine countries: United States, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand and United Kingdom.

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