ITEX: BYO technology requires measured approach - IDC

Test assumptions with your employees to build sound business case, says analyst

Mobile and consumer-purchased technology was a strong theme running through the ITEX conference and the image conveyed was often of enthusiastic users having to be held back from bringing their own devices, due to concerns such as the organisation’s security.

Trevor Clarke, senior analyst for IDC Australia, sought to bring a realistic perspective to the vision of the “next-generation workspace” with the results of a practical IDC survey of 200 New Zealanders, end-users and employers – part of a 600-person survey across Australia and New Zealand.

“We wanted to find out: are these assumptions we’re making about the consumerisation of IT accurate?” Clarke told the ITEX audience. “You’ll hear a lot of them today; ‘Hey, we’re all going to be mobile, using the cloud and the consumer technologies of the future.’ Simply, the research tells us that’s not the case.”

The survey began by defining, on the basis of answers to a series of questions, six groups of users in New Zealand:

  • The technology evangelists are frequent buyers of technology, knowledgeable and vocal in what they consider good.
  • Impulse buyers get a piece of technology just because it’s the latest thing.
  • Experiential adopters spend a lot of time playing with the gadget in the store before buying – or deciding not to buy.
  • Pragmatic buyers acquire technology to satisfy a defined need, “because they have to; not because they want to”.
  • Green buyers consider environmental sustainability as an important technology choice criterion.
  • The “disengaged” buy new technology only when their old device is failing.

In other parts of the world the answers determined different categories, Clarke said.

Vendors promote chiefly to the first three categories, because these people make frequent purchases. However, 35 percent of New Zealanders are identified as pragmatic buyers and another 19 percent as experiential adopters.

This doesn’t mean the marketing strategy is necessarily misguided, Clarke said, because about a third of the pragmatic and experiential buyers seek advice from an evangelist.

IDC then asked a series of questions on the desire for and tolerance of consumer technology brought into the workplace. Far more respondents disagreed strongly with the proposition “employees want to bring their own devices to work” than strongly agreed. This is at variance with the received wisdom.

“Employees want access to social media applications from work” got a “strongly disagree” response from almost half the sample – though there are hot-spots in particular roles, such as LinkedIn for human resources staff and Twitter for marketers.

Most respondents (57 percent) agreed with the statement “I’d like my organisation to continue to provide all my devices at work.” This is not the picture usually painted of a workforce keen to hook their tablets and smartphones to the corporate network.

Sixteen percent agreed their career decisions are influenced by the prospective employer’s attitude to bring-your-own technology. So the company (Clarke cited Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Suncorp) that tries to equip itself with the latest technology thinking it will attract smart people may be misguided, he said. “It depends whether those 16 percent are the kind of people you want.”

Clarke emphasises he intends no criticism of the strategies of the two companies mentioned.

The only proposition that met the scale of agreement that vendors assume or try to persuade customers of was “employees want to be mobile and have access to applications and data anywhere.” Even there, agreement was not outstanding, at 14 percent “strongly agree” and 15 percent “agree”.

The question is, Clarke said, if you intend to roll out these devices and applications or implement a BYO-device policy, is your decision based on the kind of objective data that should underlie a business case, “or is it based on a few assumptions that will introduce a large amount of risk?

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t harness these technologies,” he said “but test your assumptions with your employees.”

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