IT Unprepared For Flood Of Consumer Devices, Apps

Study finds enterprises are under increasing pressure to manage and support iWorkers' devices and applications.

Esther Shein, Contributor

June 28, 2010

3 Min Read

IT organizations are facing growing pressure to integrate and support multiple consumer devices in the workplace, and they may not be prepared, according to a new IDC/Unisys report.

While it comes as no surprise that enterprises have been trying to support all the various devices, including a multitude of computers, phones, audio players, tablets, and eBooks, the speed with which they are penetrating the workplace is catching IT off guard, the June report said.

IDC research found that of the one to two billion consumers using these devices, 300 million are also information workers, or iWorkers, at companies and organizations with 500 or more employees. These iWorkers "don't often differentiate among activities, devices, and applications used for work and those used for personal pursuits,'' said John Gantz, IDC chief research officer, who authored the Unisys-sponsored report, "A Consumer Revolution in the Enterprise."

"The pressure on IT organizations to integrate consumer-oriented devices and applications will only increase as younger workers, who have grown up in a world of texting, social networking, and smartphones, make their mark in the workplace," said Gantz.

The so-called revolution is being driven by these tech-savvy iWorkers who are looking for new ways to innovate, serve customers, and work more efficiently, said Sam Gross, VP of global IT outsourcing solutions at Unisys, in a statement. "Organizations have miles to go to get ready for this wave and risk being left behind as fresh competitors exploit the consumer IT tidal wave and upend old business and IT models."

For example, IDC is projecting that the number of employees using smartphones at work will rise from 90 million at the end of 2009 to 160 million through 2014 in enterprises with 500 or more employees. And the number of smartphones apps will hit 500,000 this year, according to the IDC research.

While the report found the number of people blogging at work will be at just under 10% by 2013, IDC said it raises a number of issues IT will have to address, such as whether the enterprise has editorial control, who is reading the blog, and whether there is a historical record kept.

"We're not heading toward an age of total mobility. We're essentially there,'' said Alex Manfrediz, an IDC project manager on the study. "Having mobile devices and access to information anywhere, whether WiFi or not, that is fully expected."

Other challenges enterprise IT departments will face from consumer devices at work include a need for a secure, reliable, and scalable infrastructure; policies that set boundaries for these interactions; and a need for tools and training so that end users can take advantage of the devices and apps without putting a strain on IT resources.

Manfrediz said the study confirmed a lot of blurring of the lines between personal and business activities, but understanding the scope was one of the more interesting findings. "Employees are telling us they're doing it significantly and employers are aware of it but feel there is a disconnect" between the level of control and employees wanting more and more access.

He said employers have to figure out how to balance the liability issue if an employee is doing something on their cellphone or posting on Facebook on company time, for example, with inhibiting productivity and limiting their ability to retain and attract new workers.

iWorkers are using an average of four consumer devices and multiple third-party apps like social networking sites during the work day, according to the report, which also found that about half of the devices are used for both personal and work-related purposes. iWorkers give their employers low marks for the IT support provided for consumer and technology apps used at work, the report said. And among the organizations surveyed, 40% said they do not have guidelines for social media usage at work.

The IDC/Unisys research was conducted by surveying 2,820 workers in 10 countries and through a separate survey of almost 650 global IT decision makers.

About the Author(s)

Esther Shein


Esther Shein has extensive experience writing and editing for both print and the web with a focus on business and technology as well as education and general interest features.

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