By Daniel Hunter

New research from Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS) conducted by Forrester Consulting shows that a small, exclusive group of ‘Mobile Elite’ workers are setting the pace for technology in the workplace.

Well ahead of their peers, this elite workforce is leading a charge to change the way IT departments deliver services, how software is purchased and used, and how companies communicate with customers.

The Mobile Elite are also forcing IT organisations to consider reshaping corporate IT policies, ownership and management of computers and mobile devices used in the workplace. These workers spend significantly more time every day on their devices and are more likely both to communicate directly with customers, and to work from multiple locations

“This year’s research shows that an elite group of highly connected mobile workers is driving consumerisation in the enterprise,” comments Nick Fraser, Managing Director of Unisys in the UK.

“They are positioning themselves to shape the way their companies use technology — whether sanctioned and supported or not — confident in the belief that they can better serve customers and boost their personal productivity. The Mobile Elite’s preference to use consumer technology apps for personal productivity is a potential driver for companies to reconsider how they purchase, develop, deliver and support IT services for staff, partners and customers.”

The 2012 research is based on responses from two separate but related surveys conducted in nine countries. One study surveyed some 2,609 information workers (iWorkers) within organisations to gauge their use of consumer technologies in the workplace. The second study polled 590 business and IT executives to better understand their views and support of these technologies. The UK study surveyed 315 iWorkers and 95 IT and business- decision makers.

The third-annual Unisys consumerisation of IT study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, also highlights disconnects between IT departments and employees. More than half of surveyed employees in the UK (57 percent) say they use personally owned devices and applications at work because their company does not provide an alternative, whilst only one fifth (21 percent) of IT and business decision makers believe this to be the case. There is another disconnect over motives for using personal or consumer devices or apps. 79 percent of IT and business decision makers feel that employees want to use personal devices/applications simply because they use them in personal life and like to use them at work, but only 29 percent of UK iWorkers report the same.

IT decision makers might not have the full picture of what is happening within their organisation, but they are taking the emergence of the Bring Your Own Application (BYOA) trend seriously and take a hard line with staff not adhering to company policies. 81 percent of employers believe that the downloading of unsupported apps and websites for work purposes is prohibited or even grounds for dismissal.

UK organisations have a blind spot around security for mobile devices
While consumerisation and BYOA trends in general seem to be heightening security concerns around company intellectual property and IT assets, not all companies are acting in the face of this risk. For example, 64 percent of IT decision makers surveyed in the UK believe it is a critical or high priority to implement or improve the mobile security of their firm. However, even though many employees are already using personal devices and applications for work, more than a quarter of surveyed organisations (31 percent) either have no security policies or no tools to enforce security policies around employee owned smartphones.

In addition to security considerations, some organisations may not have device support policies adequate to the scope of the BYOD phenomenon. The proportion of surveyed UK IT decision makers who feel they provide a high level of IT support for personal devices has fallen from 19 percent in 2011 to 11 percent this year. Despite this, nearly two thirds (66 percent) of those IT decision makers believe employees consult IT for support if they encounter a problem on their personal device, yet less than a fifth (17 percent) of employees agree. In fact, more than half of surveyed UK employees (55 percent) say that they troubleshoot issues on their personal device themselves. In addition to supporting themselves through technical issues with their devices, more than a quarter of surveyed UK workers (26 percent) say they also go as far as paying for their work smartphone themselves, without being reimbursed by their employer

While Mobile Elite workers consider the use or personal devices and applications at work as being fundamental to productivity, they also seem to believe that it has broader personal benefits. Sixty-nine percent of Mobile Elite workers surveyed in the UK believe that use of personal technology for work leads to a higher level of employee satisfaction, while 46 percent believe it allows for a better work/life balance. That belief suggests that a company’s policies about providing different devices, allowing access to different applications and flexibility in use of consumer-style technology could rapidly become factors that impact employee happiness and the ability to attract and retain talent.

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