Forrester: Desktops rule, smartphones don't

Survey also finds that information workers are still lacking collaboration tools

A Forester Research Inc. report, intriguingly titled "A Day in the Life of a U.S. Information Worker," produced some interesting tidbits about workplace technology usage, including findings that challenge conventional wisdom.

Take smartphones, for instance. While handheld systems have become a huge market overall, just 11% are used by workers on the job, according to the Forrester survey of more than 2,000 "information workers," which the researcher defines as any office worker who uses a computer.

Those results suggest that smartphones remain more of a perk for senior managers than a tool for employees.

The survey also produced interesting conclusions about the business use of instant messaging, social networking and webconferencing tools.

Instant messaging gets the most traction, but still, less than 25% of the workers surveyed use that tool with some frequency. Only about 10% of the workers said they use videoconferencing technology at work. Only 15% reported using social networks at work.

The survey found that e-mail and the telephone remain the primary means of business communication.

Those results indicate that IT managers may be out of sync with their workforces, who are often collaborating with people based in different locations. A significant number of respondents, some 30%, said they work in teams where members are in different locations, and nearly 11% said they regularly work with employees of other firms.

Ted Schadler, the Forrester analyst who led the survey, said the results show that IT managers should ensure that their employees have the ability to work with distributed teams. If tools are provided for such communication but are unused, IT managers should find out why, he added. The problem could be issues with training or the technology itself, he said.

Schadler said he does expect that smartphone use will grow, adding that IT managers should ensure that those users have mobile browser access to e-mail and other corporate data. "That is a must-do," he said. "If you are an enterprise architect, you ought to figuring out how to do that now."

Another interesting data point: Desktops still dominate the working environment, with 76% of respondents reporting that they are using such systems. Forrester said it found that 63% of desktop users spend four or more hours per day at the keyboard, which means the ergonomics of desks and chairs "are critically important to the long-term health and productivity of these workers."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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