At Least You Can Sell Them Stuff Under The Boss’ Nose

Those of us who consider ourselves cutting bleeding edge mobile enthusiasts need to remember that much of the population is still playing catch-up with the technology.

Justin told us yesterday how “marketers are overestimating what average everyday consumers know about the smartphones they use,” and that the industry needs to “educate consumers on the potential of new-age smartphones and other devices,” lest their campaigns fall on deaf ears. Yet it seems that consumers, or at least “prosumers,” are more savvy than their employers about high-end technologies like smartphones–to the detriment of corporate workplaces, according to the report titled The Consumerization of IT, conducted by International Data Corp and sponsored by Unisys Corporation.

Researchers surveyed 2,820 workers in 10 countries, as well as 650 global IT decision-makers. Turns out most workers invest in the latest consumer technologies themselves, and use them in the workplace–while employers are often unaware of such technologies, much less integrating them into the workplace.

“The research shows a profound disconnect between what iWorkers are doing with consumer technologies in the enterprise and what IT leaders believe is happening in their organizations… The ‘consumerization of IT’ trend will turn existing IT and business models on their heads,” said John Gantz, chief research officer and senior vice president, IDC.

“This research raises important questions as to how well prepared today’s organizations are to… capitalize on new ways of doing business, connecting with customers, and attracting future workers,” said Sam Gross, vice president, Global IT Outsourcing Solutions, Unisys.

For example, workers surveyed said that they are using smartphones and mobile phones in the workplace at nearly twice the rate reported by employers–meaning that workers are using their own phones, not just company-purchased ones. (See accompanying chart.) The number of employees using smartphones for work is expected to double between 2010 and 2014, says IDC. And already, more than 40 percent of workers surveyed use text messaging for business–an effective way, as marketers know, to build a more intimate-feeling relationship between businesses and their customers.

Yet companies aren’t exactly supporting mobile phone productivity. Fewer than half of employers allow subordinates to access enterprise applications via smartphones, according to the report; and employees give their employers below-average ratings for the IT support that their organizations provide for such consumer technologies.

(For the full report, go to

The silver lining may be for marketers. While bosses remain unaware how connected to customers and to the workplace their employees are, employees themselves can be reached via the devices they bought for themselves. The time is ripe to reach out to prosumers, whether text-messaging them about the lunch special at the corner cafe, or using Foursquare to get them into a certain bar for happy hour, or making it easier-than-ever to make Internet purchases on a certain mobile-optimized online store. Likely their supervisors will be none the wiser.