Technology weighing down Australia's corporate briefcase

7 March 2012

The executive briefcase in Australia is getting heavier, with new research from the University of Sydney showing that most executives carry two smartphones, as well as a tablet and possibly a laptop with them every day.

Just a few years ago, IT departments around the globe were abuzz with the idea executives could carry just one integrated technological device, but this research reveals that most executives carry multiple devices on a daily basis.

Dr Kristine Dery, a senior lecturer the University of Sydney Business School, together with Judith MacCormick of the Australian Graduate School of Management, interviewed global banking executives in 2006 and again in 2011/12, revealing a surprising increase in the prevalence of carrying "technology toolkits". This practice contradicts movements encountered by the researchers in 2006 to carry one integrated device for all work and personal communications.

All surveyed executives carried two smartphones, with most carrying other devices as well.

"While all of the executives we interviewed had been issued with a company smartphone, the security firewalls meant that the technology had significantly reduced capabilities," says Dr Dery. "So to expand both work and non-work functions, such as access to social media, executives were also carrying their personal smartphone."

This trend of technology toolkits is presenting unexpected outcomes for both employees and CIOs.

"Most executives chose to carry their personal devices to enhance mobile connectivity, but in doing so they also discovered an interesting side effect: the technology itself is helping to create those much sought-after boundaries between work and non-work activities," Dr Dery says.

"This means that the inconvenience of having to hold two smartphones is, in many instances, offset by the ability to create some degree of separation between work and home life."

However, this proliferation of mobile technology also raises new challenges for the organisation's CIO and IT team.

"Identifying and managing security issues with this large array of private technologies is a major concern for IT departments, who must also manage traditional IT issues around standardisation and connectivity," Dr Dery says.

Where IT departments have in the past preferred all company technology to be standard, they must now adapt to the large number of devices that are privately owned.

"This trend also brings about the possibility that there will one day be a work environment in which all technology is privately owned."

"It is now easy to imagine a future where business professionals supply their own tools of trade, and IT departments will have to change their focus and skills accordingly," says Dr Dery.

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