It's war! BYOD exposes IT's deep distrust of users

A new Unisys survey reveals that divide between IT and the rest of the company isn't closing, but that users are winning

Users: Yes, IT really does think you're stupid and/or naive, and therefore not to be trusted. IT: Yes, users really do think you're clueless about their needs and so have decided to act on their own.

That in a nutshell is what Unisys's new survey (conducted by Forrester Research) of IT and users around the topic of consumerization of IT has shown. The survey released today is significant because it's the third annual such survey Unisys has conducted, not only shows the current state, but lets us see what, if anything has changed, over the last several years after the bring-your-own notion's dramatic rise in 2010.

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The good news is that IT is getting better about BYOD technologies (which are typically mobile ones, such as smartphones and iPads, but also include social networking, cloud computing, use of OS X, and computing at home). The bad news is that users are getting smarter faster than IT is, so although IT is making progress in understanding and working with the BYO concept, and the underlying issue of user involvement in the technologies they use, the gap between IT and users is still increasing. And not to IT's advantage.

The distrust divide: The elite information workers versus "we know best" IT
Consider the data: About 44 percent of information workers use a smartphone for work, and about 16 percent use a tablet. Of all information workers, 23 percent -- about half of those who use mobile devices for work -- are what Unisys classifies as "elite mobile users." These employees are the most likely to work with customers and business partners, so they have huge influence and power in their organizations. They are also the most likely of all workers to be involved in process improvement efforts. In other words, these are the people driving the business and making money.

These "elite mobile users" are also embracing mobile technology and personally procuring mobile and online technologies to get work done. Note the "personally procuring" -- they believe so strongly that these tools will help them do better in their work that they are spending their own time and money to get them. They're not waiting on IT.

What is IT doing? Well, the good news is that IT has finally figured out that mobile technology is worth supporting. The Unisys survey shows that 61 percent of IT organizations now provide support for company-owned mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), up from just 27 percent a year ago.

But the bad news is that IT is still largely is ignoring the BYOD reality. Only 17 percent support personal devices (even though several other surveys show the majority of companies now allow their use for at least email access). You could argue, as I often do, that people who bring their own devices should be self-supporting, and IT should focus on the employees who use whatever they're given. So maybe that stat is not so bad.

But this one is: 72 percent of IT executives surveyed say that employees are using unsupported devices or apps because of personal preference, not because they need to do critical work. I'm sorry, but IT doesn't know how to do most jobs in the organization, so what makes IT pros think only they know what tools a salesperson or HR manager or partner relationship manager really needs? Especially when another survey earlier this year showed that IT was more likely to block Angry Birds than to provide secured alternatives to public cloud storage services.

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