What mobile rules does your business have?

You remember the office — that place you used to go every day.

In 2010, according to a survey of 5,500 business technology end-users by research firm Forrester, 78 per cent of workers work from their company office at least once per week. However, 34 per cent of survey respondents report telecommuting from their homes, while traveling, or from locations like coffee shops at least once per week.

Recognizing that mobile worker flexibility can boost productivity, IT departments have jumped in by expanding smartphone support and deploying a wider variety of company-specific mobile applications.

A Forrester survey taken in early 2010 of almost 2,000 network and telecom decision-makers showed that 46 per cent of respondents saw “supporting more mobile applications for out-of-office users” as an adoption priority for the next year and 44 per cent saw “supporting more mobile devices or smartphones (not laptops)” as a priority.

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If you’re a smartphone-wielding mobile worker, you are in the majority of corporate employees (57 per cent, according to Forrester). But a workforce is a diverse animal and mobile workers come in different flavours and get different support from IT.

In a new report from Forrester entitled “The Rise of Wannabe and Maverick Mobile Workers” by analyst Michele Pelino, four different types of enterprise mobile workers are spotlighted. Here’s how they break down and what they mean for IT.

Mobile information workers

Profile: Mobile information workers are usually consultants, financial services professionals or banking execs who travel frequently, but must stay in touch with the office through e-mail and collaboration tools. They spend a lot of time outside the office analyzing information and interacting with partners and customers.

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Forrester estimates that in 2010, 24 per cent of all enterprise mobile workers were mobile information workers, and by 2015, the segment will expand to 30 per cent.

Mobile devices and apps used: Information workers use a variety of mobile devices and are reimbursed for the devices. The typical information worker prefers a company-sanctioned phone to access data only necessary for work. These folks also tend to favour cross-platform mobile apps because they often use different types of mobile devices to access work-related apps.

IT’s Role: Information workers expect mobile support from the corporate IT team because they spend time away from the office and rely on their smartphones. In return, IT treats information workers as top mobile employees and supports their smartphones and applications.

Mobile task workers

Profile: Task workers are usually delivery drivers, retail sales employees and field service employees who do not work at a desk. Their work consists of specific physical tasks and they frequently use mobile devices to do their jobs. Task workers are mostly found in the transportation, retail, healthcare and manufacturing industries.

Mobile task workers now account for 11 per cent of all corporate employees, according to Forrester, and will grow to 13 per cent by 2015.

Mobile Devices and Apps Used: Task workers use mobile devices with specialized, industry-focused applications. The mobile devices tend to be ruggedized, and the apps are usually native applications on a single platform that address specific activities such as deliveries. A good example of a task worker application is an “automatic vehicle location” app for the transportation and distribution industries.

IT’s Role: Because task worker devices and apps must be standardized by the enterprise, the corporate IT department is in charge of mobile device purchasing and application decisions. For these reasons, IT considers task workers to be official mobile employees and IT has control over the devices and applications that task workers use.

Mobile wannabes

Profile: This is the segment gaining the most momentum, according to Forrester. Mobile wannabe workers are in their mid-20s and work primarily at desk jobs in an office. They do not use company-sanctioned mobile devices or get mobile support from corporate IT. Examples of mobile wannabe roles include executive assistants, clerical personnel and customer service reps.

Nevertheless, these wannabes are determined to use their smartphones for work and their ranks are growing. Mobile wannabes accounted for 16 per cent of all corporate employees worldwide in 2010, but by 2015 the segment will grow to 30 per cent, according to Forrester. This momentum is stoked by Millennial workers who grew up using mobile phones and are now entering the workplace.

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Mobile Devices and Apps Used: Mobile wannabe workers tend to walk in the door with an iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry as their personal mobile device. Compared to all other segments of a company, mobile wannabes are the most comfortable using smartphones. They use many mobile apps for personal activities like social networking, but are eager to use their smartphones for work e-mail and intranet access.

IT’s Role: Corporate IT does not directly influence the mobile device selection of mobile wannabes because they are mostly desk workers who purchased their own smartphones. Therefore, IT does not consider these employees to be official mobile employees.

But mobile wannabes have come to expect that their employers will support their smartphone and applications needs, whether they are formally classified as “mobile workers” or not. If this segment grows as predicted, IT will inevitably have to give them more attention.

Mobile mavericks

Profile: This is the smallest but fastest growing segment of mobile workers, according to Forrester. A mobile maverick is someone who selects and purchases his or her own a mobile device for work-related activities. Most mavericks are male and often work outside the office traveling for business. They are usually in management roles such as a C-level executive, general manager or supervisor.

As of 2010, according to the Forrester report, only 6 per cent of workers were mobile mavericks; however, this number will more than double by 2015 as more enterprises encourage employees to buy their own smartphones to control costs.

Mobile Devices and Apps Used: Mobile mavericks use a smartphone one to two hours per day for work-related activities — usually a BlackBerry — and believe phones are critical for being productive.

Mavericks use work-related mobile apps beyond just e-mail and intranets. They primarily want advanced apps for collaboration and conferencing, to help them interact with colleagues.

And true to their name, mavericks will buy a work-related app from a mobile app store out of their own pocket. They do not feel the need to have apps installed on their smartphones by the IT department.

IT’s Role: Corporate IT considers mobile mavericks to be official mobile workers even though these employees select and purchase smartphones on their own. IT does not guide device selection for these workers, but does support their mobile needs, given that mavericks usually carry stature within the company and need mobile devices to be productive while away from the office.

Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com.

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