You know who you are. You are the employee who ignores mandates from the IT department. You use your own devices and apps to get the job done, company policies be hanged. The IT manager might call you a problem employee, but actually you are part of the solution.

The mobile elite is what Forrester Research, in a report commissioned by Unisys, calls tech-savvy, early-adopter employees:

“Mobile elite workers are those who make the most intensive use of multiple personally acquired technologies for work and who use them for improving their work with customers and business partners. Those technologies include smartphones, tablets, home computers and non-authorized software applications and web/cloud services.” 

This elite is an outgrowth of the fact that powerful digital technology is readily available at your local consumer electronics emporium. Consumers who buy this equipment often see no reason to use something lesser just because an employer wants them to. Indeed, Forrester found that 52% of all global workers it surveyed (and 62% of Generation Y/Z) thought their personal devices were better than those provided by their company.

The Forrester report found that members of the mobile elite use three or more devices (smartphone, PC, tablet) and work from multiple locations outside the office. They do so not because they want to but rather because they feel they need to: The IT department does not provide an internal solution adequate to get their jobs done. 

Members of the mobile elite are more engaged, innovative employees. They use third-party services like mobile video conferencing, email add-ons, chat, CRM services and file sharing services. 

IT departments are more willing and able to support these types of workers than in the past. 61% of global enterprises support personal use of mobile devices, up from 27% in the same report in 2011. Yet, there is still a gap between IT and the mobile elite. For instance, about 75% of IT decision makers view an employee's use of personal applications for work as grounds for dismissal. About 63% of IT professionals surveyed believe they are the primary decision makers for bringing in new technology to the enterprise, while 63% of mobile elite believe that they play a significant role in the company’s innovation processes. This is understandable as IT departments do not want to be marginalized, but technologically savvy employees think IT is slow and not forward-thinking. 

Most IT departments are building or procuring enterprise apps for both customers and employees, yet they are not yet willing to support the bring-your-own-app phenomenon. IT departments are worried about security and compliance, which is laudable, but they are not moving as an industry to secure employees personal devices. Only about 50% of enterprises offer basic security and app help. 

The disconnect between the mobile elite and IT departments is a result of the speed at which the mobile industry moves. Mobile, as a technology platform, is rapidly iterating. After only a few years of development, it's moving toward its third cycle of innovation (from mobile WAP sites to native apps to hybrid apps and cloud integration). Whereas the Web took almost 20 years to evolve through versions 1.0 to 2.0 to the cusp of 3.0 (where it integrates with mobile). Enterprise IT departments are still somewhere between steps one and two, figuring out how to embrace the native app culture and secure company information. If they do not accomplish that, they stand to be left behind in the next wave of productivity growth.

This is where the mobile elite are valuable. Smart workers on smart devices push the boundaries of what is possible. IT departments need to structure themselves to match the efficiency of these employees, not the other way around.