Survey Finds Irrevocable Shift to Personal Computing in Businesses

CCS Insight’s Employee Mobile Technology Survey Highlights Important Workplace Trends

In February 2015, we surveyed 1,200 employees in the US and five countries in Western Europe about their attitudes to enterprise mobility, including mobile device and application usage and preferences, decision-making, governance procedures, brand affinity and perceptions of the IT department. The survey delivered some fascinating results, with the data validating many current perceptions about mobile technology trends in businesses.

I’ve summarized the top-level findings below.

Employees Depend More on Mobility As Workplace Demands Mount

Unsurprisingly, 80 percent of employees say that mobile technology is now critical to getting their job done, and 60 percent describe their usage of and fluency with mobile technology as advanced. But when asked what’s driving this requirement, being available to meet the expectations of customers and colleagues featured very highly in responses. Astonishingly, 60 percent of employees said their customers expect them to be available out of work hours, and 62 percent said their colleagues expect them to be. In addition, 68 percent of respondents indicated they keep track of work while out of the office or on holiday. We found this is also consistent across geographies. For example, 58 percent of Germans said this, despite out-of-office working bans by the German labour ministry in 2013.

Organisations Lack Strategic Emphasis on Mobile IT Solutions

Despite many employees’ high expectations and preference for mobile working, most feel that their firm’s IT budget and strategic focus is elsewhere. Half of our respondents said their employer’s IT budget was in decline and two-thirds stated that the IT department should have more influence on the strategic direction of the company. Over 80 percent of employees feel it’s important their company is an early adopter of technology yet only 33 percent said the mobile technology provided by work “fully meets their needs” (compared with 43 percent for home technology). In fact, 40 percent of employees went so far as to say their IT department is “completely out of touch” with their needs. To illustrate this point, over half of our survey said their company’s mobile IT policy puts “unnecessary constraints on the way they work” and 60 percent of employees are not consulted on company computing decisions for mobile devices and laptops.

Internal Fragmentation When Deploying Mobile Technology Is Hampering Firms

The responsibility for employee mobile technology is fragmented within many companies, according to employees, which is also contributing to this lack of focus. Although 62 percent of companies have a dedicated individual or team responsible for managing mobility in their firm, only 53 percent of organisations centrally manage mobility at the IT function level, according to employees. About a quarter of respondents said their employer manages mobility at the departmental level; 16 percent outsource mobile support to a third party. Additionally, 22 percent manage mobility on an ad hoc basis, including half of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Our respondents reported that 30 percent of firms do not even have a mobile IT policy.

IT Workarounds and a Blend of Technology are Commonplace

Consequently and unsurprisingly, we’re seeing mobile-savvy and mobile-dependent employees establishing workarounds within their companies on a wide scale. Two-thirds said they’d take action themselves to resolve IT problems; 34 percent regularly find workarounds in company systems and 22 percent used personal devices and services on a regular basis to overcome IT problems.

An interesting indicator of the level of these workarounds stems from mobile applications. The survey revealed that 41 percent of employees thought apps were already having an impact on how they work today, yet 81 percent said they had not asked the IT department to provide them with business applications. This is because 58 percent of employees thought their IT department would not take a request for applications further. Consequently, 29 percent of employees would consider making their own app for work without business involvement at all. In fact, 10 percent of employees have already done so, according to the survey.

The vast majority (83 percent) of organisations use personal devices in their workplaces to some degree thanks to the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend. Of these companies, 17 percent have formal BYOD policies, 57 percent informally tolerate BYOD and 9 percent aim to restrict BYOD, according to employees. Our survey found that only 17 percent of organisations prohibit BYOD with full compliance. These figures are reflected in the blending of applications for personal and work use, with our respondents indicating that 62 percent of companies do not restrict personal use of apps on mobile devices, and that 23 percent of employees regularly use personal apps at work.

Multiple Screens and Apps Influence Brand Affinity

The survey revealed significant shifts in employees’ computing preferences at work as well as their technology brand affinities, both of which are being shaped by their personal lives. Employees are gravitating toward multiple devices for both work and play, a trend CCS Insight has noted over the past several years as part of what we term the “continuum of screens”. The average total number of connected devices for personal or business use according to employees is now 4.1, according to the results. In the UK, it is 4.5, the highest in the survey.

Employees’ preference for multiple screens and blended personal and business mobile applications is also reshaping affinities for technology brands in the enterprise. When asked to rank out of 10 the “most credible” brands in the workplace for mobile devices including laptops, respondents listed Samsung as the most credible provider of mobile devices on average. Samsung was followed very closely by Apple, Microsoft, Google and Dell.

However, when asked “Which is the most the most-preferred brand used for workplace technology?” respondents placed Apple on top by some distance, with 34 percent naming this brand. Apple was followed by Samsung with a 20 percent share and then Microsoft with 12 percent. Surprisingly, traditional workplace technology brands such as Dell, HP, Lenovo and BlackBerry all failed to gather more than 10 percent of votes each. Taken together, we believe the changes in the brand affinities of employees is perhaps the biggest illustration of the shift toward personal computing tastes at work.

What It All Means

CCS Insight’s survey of employees provides important detail that validates many current perceptions about mobile technology trends in the enterprise. Employees are mobile-savvy and are empowering themselves with personal mobile tools at an accelerating rate, frustrated by IT strategies that they perceive as slow, unreceptive, tactical and not focused on their needs. This frustration is compounded as customers, colleagues and partners expect employees to be ever-more responsive.

Organisations are held back by a lack of strategic emphasis on enabling employees with new technology. They also have a great deal of organisational fragmentation about how they deploy mobile technology, and they appear to be accelerating this trend through restrictive IT policies, a lack of technology consultation with employees and by providing outdated solutions.

The high degree of blending of personal and workplace computing is irreversible. It’s aided by employees’ preferences for computing across multiple devices and for mobile apps, and by their affinity for consumer-led brands such as Apple and Samsung.

Companies will need to quickly get better at deploying, managing and governing personal technology in the workplace and consulting employees on their requirements. We noted this trend last year (see The Big Changes Coming in Enterprise Mobility Are Organisational). Businesses that fail to improve risk amplifying an already established culture of negative sentiment toward the IT department and driving more employees to find workarounds.