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The Blurred Line Between Business And Personal Online Use

IDC-Unisys report shows enterprises struggling to keep up with workers adopting smartphones, social media, other consumer technologies for both home and work use

Half of business users worldwide employ their smartphones and other Web applications for both work and personal use, mixing data from the two worlds freely. And most have purchased at least one device on their own for use at work, according to a newly released report.

IDC's new "Consumerization of IT" report, which was commissioned by Unisys, demonstrates how IT organizations are not keeping up with the adoption of new technologies by their users. The report -- which was researched in two parts, with a survey of 2,820 telecommuters in 10 countries and a survey of 650 IT decision-makers from around the world -- found that consumer devices, such as smartphones, and social networking and similar applications are blurring the lines between business and personal technology usage.

"The 'consumerization of IT' revolution is being driven not top-down by corporate IT departments, but by tech-savvy iWorkers who are hungry for information and rich with ideas on new ways to innovate, serve customers, and operate more efficiently. Our research indicates that organizations have miles to go to get ready for this wave and risk being left behind as fresh competitors exploit the consumer IT tidal wave and upend old business and IT models," said Sam Gross, vice president for global IT outsourcing solutions at Unisys.

IDC found that while 73 percent of IT executives said their enterprise networks are "very secure," more than 40 percent of workers said they use instant messaging and texting for business purposes, and nearly 25 percent, blogs and professional online communities. Workers said they use an average of four consumer devices and various third-party applications, including social networking sites, during the workday.

While IDC says the number of workers using smartphones in their jobs will double through 2014, less than half of enterprises said they let workers access enterprise apps via their smartphones today.

A disconnect appears to exist between what employers allow consumer technology-wise and what workers say they can use: Sixty-nine percent said they can reach nonwork-related websites during their workday, while 44 percent of employers said that is the case. And more than half of the workers said they are able to store personal data on company systems, whereas 37 percent of IT decision-makers said this is allowed.

Social networking is on the rise in organizations, with IT decision-makers expecting a 10 to 30 percent increase in the next year. Even so, 46 percent of employees in the survey said their employers don't do a good job integrating consumer devices and social networks with enterprise apps. More than 40 percent of businesses don't have actual rules for the use of social media.

"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," said John Gantz, chief research officer and senior vice president at IDC. "IT leaders cannot effectively secure, manage, or plan for the future without an accurate understanding of the trend and its implications. The 'consumerization of IT' trend will turn existing IT and business models on their heads, and the time to get ready is now."

The full report is available here, and IDC and Unisys have set up a self-assessment link for businesses here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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