Consumer App Wave Floods Business

By Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group — June 30, 2013

Employees are spending increasing amounts of time away from their primary workspace and understandably want access to technologies that help them remain productive. The benefit is clear - Yankee Group’s “Enterprise Mobility: Empowered Employee” June survey shows that employees’ self-stated productivity can increase by as much as 40% percent when they are provisioned with mobile devices.

Employees Push; IT Adjusts
While many employers are struggling to manage this technology shift, employees push on regardless. With the growing ubiquity in mobile computing power in their everyday lives, employees are resorting to using a variety of consumer tools and technologies for work purposes. Our surveys show that:

  • 20% of all employees use consumer IM services for work using their smartphone
  • 14% use social networks  
  • 8% use consumer web-based productivity tools for work
  • 56% use or would be interested in using consumer productivity apps for work
  • 16% do so even knowing their IT department’s policy is to prohibit their usage.
  • One-third believe they would be more productive at work if they had access to the tools they use in their private lives.
The main reasons why employees resort to their consumer applications is simply familiarity with them from their personal lives, the absence of an alternative provided by and the fact that they are more likely to be updated regularly than work-provided equivalents.

This flood of consumer technologies into the workplace and workflows is compelling them to revise their policies about what devices and technologies are and are not sanctioned in the workplace. This trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Over the past two years IT’s attitude has been forced to adapt. For example, in 2011 33% of organizations said that non-sanctioned apps and devices are absolutely not tolerated and immediately blocked or removed; today that number is only 13%.

In fact, 29% of companies said they allow employees to use any non-harmful app or device AND they provide some support, as opposed to 17% in 2011.

The pace of change of consumerization seems irresistible, but IT departments need to clearly understand the consequences of adopting a permissive policy, as this will open the floodgates to mass usage. Explicitly allowing employees to use consumer tools increases usage from 16% to 64% — a four-fold jump.

Does Anyone Know the Policy?
While the majority of organizations have been compelled to move with the trend, some confusion clearly remains among employees as to what consumer technologies they are and are not allowed to use. For example, 34% believe their IT department prevents the usage of consumer apps for work purposes — compared to the 13% of IT decision-makers who claim that is their policy, and a sizeable 30% are not sure what the policy is.
 
Being explicit about the policy goes further than just communicating whether usage is allowed or not; IT needs to outline the reasons why the policy is as it is. This includes explaining the relevant security risks associated with usage, the possible implications for productivity around managing a heterogeneous environment of apps and the demands on providing support to users in such an environment.
 
All these facets need to be communicated to users and potential users to make sure everyone is aware of the issues involved, and the appropriate level of responsibility is being apportioned to users for their conduct.
 
While establishing and communicating a clear policy is one element, usage is due partly to the perception that consumer apps and devices either include functionalities not included in enterprise apps or that the user interface is better (as evidenced above).
 
Maintaining a heterogeneous environment of consumer and enterprise apps requires IT  to ensure the user experience for the latter is on a par with what employees are experiencing with their consumer tools. Not doing so will only drive further unmonitored usage of unsanctioned applications.

Don’t Lose Control
For organizations, this lack of clarity and the resulting lack of transparency about what is and what isn’t being used in the corporate environment is the worst of all scenarios, leading to 10% of employees going on to use consumer tools although they are unsure whether it is permitted or not.
 
To avoid losing all control over the enterprise technology environment, we recommend enterprise IT departments:
  • Become productivity enablers rather than policy enforcers: Trying to control mobility is a contradiction in terms. IT departments need to become more progressive and proactive in their attitude toward mobility and look to segment their work forces to understand how best to match mobility solutions to employee role and the business processes they are involved in, rather than providing a controlled (i.e., limited) environment that employees will circumvent.
  • Become open, but not too open: IT should identify which applications have the widest usage and provide access and limited support for these to their employee base through their central portal/catalogue/store.
  • Extend limited control: Some mobility management tools allow the selective control of specific features of consumer applications e.g. the document sharing capability in Skype, to give IT back some control. Although users will not love this, it is a good compromise.
  • Get ahead of the game: Employees are more likely to work with IT if given a choice of applications they can use and clear policies around how to use them. IT should be proactive in selectively embracing consumer applications where they have clear productivity benefits, and by giving simple guidelines so employees know how to use them.
  • Ensure consumer-grade experience for critical enterprise apps: For critical enterprise apps, IT departments need to deliver a consumer-grade experience.
  • Be realistic about what you can control: While implementing flexible policies ensures greater transparency, stronger management of the risks inherent in mobility and hopefully a more aligned device and application environment, consumers will always reach for non-sanctioned tools. To manage a pool of corporate and personal technologies as effectively as possible, IT departments need to be clear in their policies about what is and what is not allowed.

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