Consumerization study: IT pros swamped, behind on mobile

The consumerization of IT is a hot topic as employees increasingly bring their beloved gadgets from home to work. But just because it’s much discussed among techies doesn’t mean that most offices are ahead of the curve on this trend, at least according to new research from Unisys.

The research sponsored by Unisys asked 2,659 information workers in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand, as well as 564 IT decision makers in the same countries, about consumer devices and apps in the workplace. Just about everyone agreed that consumer products are invading the office, but the interesting parts were the differences between the two groups’ estimates of their prevalence.

  • Workers say that 69 percent of their organization’s employees use smart mobile devices for business. Their employers think only 34 percent do.
  • Thirteen percent of workers reported using tablets for business. Employers estimated only 6 percent.
  • About 40 percent of employers said they let workers access non-work-related websites, but in reality 70 percent of workers are viewing them.
  •  Forty-four percent of workers report using social networks for customer communication, while only 28 percent of employers believe that to be the case.

Overall, IT pros underestimate the use of consumer tech at work by 50 percent, concludes Unisys, which suggests corporate techies are doing a less-than-ideal job of supporting workers. But at least they know they are doing a bad job. On a one to five scale where five is excellent and one is abysmal, decision makers rate themselves only a 2.9 for overall support of employee-owned smartphones and tablets, social applications and integration of social apps with enterprise applications. This is lower than last year.

And sadly, for workers on the go, the outlook isn’t great for next year either. Only 12 percent of responding IT organizations said they have readied internal apps to work with mobile devices, and a hefty 76 percent have no plans to do so over the next year. Consumers aren’t getting much help either. Only 6 percent of firms have modernized customer-facing applications for mobile devices, and 89 percent say they have no plans to modernize in the next 12 months.

So what’s behind the relatively poor performance of IT departments when it comes to consumerization? Isabella Mark, the director of Global Solution Management at Unisys, puts it down to simple overload:

IT is falling behind in addressing – and benefiting from – consumerization of IT because of the sheer volume of consumer technologies they now have to deal with, the speed at which those technologies change, and the accompanying security and support challenges.

Unisys’ research has shown that 80 percent of IT respondents say consumerization is increasing their department’s workload. They’re clearly just swamped in coping.

What does Mark suggest IT departments do to keep up with the rapid rise of consumer tech at work? Basically, convert the problem into the solution by harnessing your employees’ love of this technology:

Through pervasive adoption and use of social media in their personal lives, employees have developed skills that can be of tremendous value to their employers. These skilled employees present their companies with a significant resource to improve business processes through contextual collaboration internally and externally.

At the same time, capitalizing on the sophistication employees have gained can help organizations reduce the security and privacy risks that can attend use of social media. There can be a bigger business risk if those companies don’t take action — loss of value-creating ability and competitiveness.

Are gadget-loving employees an underutilized resource at your organization? 

Image courtesy of Flickr user torisan3500