Workforce personas can help plug the ‘app gap’ – Forrester

It is time for employers to stop fretting about the rise of BYO and start systematically addressing the gap between the mobile apps they are providing and the apps different employees need – this is the warning from analyst firm Forrester in its new report entitled ‘Workforce Personas and the Mobile App Gap.’

As many in enterprise are already aware, ‘the mobile mind shift that people are experiencing at home – to expect everything on a mobile device – drives their mobile expectations at work as well,’ says Forrester analyst Ted Schadler. And as IT is slow to respond with mobile business apps, so employees are increasingly plugging the gap’ on their own.

29% of global information workers are working from multiple locations on multiple devices with many applications.

See also: It's time to level up your mobile application security programme, says Forrester

Many of these personally-provided apps, though they fulfill workers’ mobile needs on an individual basis, are not business-ready and can cause problems around compliance and data security.

But Schadler stresses that it is not enough to implement a one-size-fits-all mobile app strategy across an organisation – in order to ascertain which apps to deploy on which devices, employers should start by analysing the individual business cases, segmenting their workforce into groups or ‘workforce personas’ depending on the kind of work they do.

Workforce persona surveys can be used to analyse worker needs when strategising around a major culture change or investmentment such as a productivity platform refresh or process re-engineering.

Forrester assessed more then 4,000 information workers in Europe and North America, and identified four worker types by the way they use mobile devices and the apps most productive to them. These four worker types fell into two main categories – professionals and practioners.

21% of the workforce are ‘mobile professionals’ – those likely to be in mangement or senior roles who want every app on mobile devices but particularly the apps that keep them productive from multiple locations.

88% of these type of workers use collaboration tools, and 52% use file sync and share on a smartphone. Employees need to watch how they plug the gap for productivity apps and then implement business ready versions.

See also: Mobile business apps market to reach $53 billion in 2017 

At the other end of the spectrum, half the workforce is comprised of ‘dedicated practitioners,’ common in manufacturing and retail, who still only use technology because they have to and need fewer apps that are more job-specific and geared towards work processes.

79% of these employees work in an office at least four days a week, and only 21% and 6% respectively use smartphones and tablets for work, but 21% use a job-specific app, mainly on desktop.

It is a good idea to start by monitoring the BYO personal apps people are using and providing alternatives, says Schadler.

For mobile professionals, file sync and share is an obvious place to start, because employees already know the business value. These need to be implemented quickly so that workers do not have time to get too comfortable with their personal app.

Then employers should be focusing on putting in place a programme to upgrade all major productivity applications for mobility over the next five years, upgrading them with the goal of mobile-first.

‘For example,’ says Schadler, ‘your note-taking application should work as well on a smartphone as it does on a tablet or home computer.’

For process apps that most benefit ‘mobile practitioners,’ employers should be aiming at apps that allow for small increases in process throughput, translating to big returns on investment.

But the funding paths for productivity and process apps needn’t be completely separate, as investments in apps for one type of worker can easily extend to other high-need mobile professionals.

Schadler also recommends companies create their own custom ‘workforce personas’ that reflect other needs in their business such as user experience, security risk and role-based provisioning.


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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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