by Mark Gibbs

The “Always On” IT User: Risks and Rewards

Nov 18, 20115 mins
Consumer ElectronicsIT LeadershipIT Strategy

IT consumerization often leads to users working all the time. CIO blogger Mark Gibbs explains why that can be both good and bad.

It just occurred to me that all of the IT folks who so dislike or resist the Consumerization of IT are missing a really important issue: All of the tech your users are shuttling to and from work and carrying around 24/7 makes them much more valuable because they are “always on.”


When your users come to work, if they aren’t driving, they’re usually handling e-mail or reading up on business related stuff. (Some of them also, unfortunately, also do this when they are driving.)

Then when they get home they don’t switch off their iPads and smartphones; they’re still wired in because everyone else is. And, crucially, they no longer try to keep private and work separate.

There are some interesting stats to back this up., one of the world’s largest distributors of business content, surveyed 60,000 iPad users who had downloaded’s iOS app (there are also apps for Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry) and found that the most popular times for iPad users to download content is in evenings and on weekends with 10PM to 11 PM being the busiest time for downloads and Sunday being the busiest day of the week.”

That’s interesting, and it implies that more and more people are failing to recognize the need for “downtime” (the fact that so many people are reading business materials on Sunday is truly amazing).

And these “always on” workers aren’t just techies in the IT industry. Nope, according to the survey the folks in computers, IT, and technology account for just 17.1% of the content “downloaders” while the remaining 82.9% were professionals working in other fields including education, healthcare, finance, government, media, engineering, manufacturing and retail.

Of course, having your staff “always on” and spanning home and work with their devices has its risk…and they are potentially serious risks.

The first is staff burnout. You can only keep up the “always on” pace for so long and then the “fun” goes out of it. And that fun is actually what keeps your users so engaged; it’s what psychologists call “flow”–“the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

When users drop out of the “flow” of engagement they’ll suddenly become less available and quite possibly less productive. This is not an easily solved problem and if you’re going to do something about this, you’ll need to strategize how to prevent user burnout specifically for your particular corporate environment; there are no useful general rules for this other than simplistic ones.

The second risk is far greater: Security. When work, personal life, and for that matter, entertainment intersect through social networking, e-mail, and other forms of messaging, there’s a real danger of corporate confidentiality being lost, data theft, and malware being introduced.

So, on one hand you have potentially greater productivity as a result of IT consumerization and on the other, greater risks. Do you recognize and can you quantify the former? And how are you going to handle the latter?

Pop on over to the next page for the detailed results of the TradePub study.

Trend Report: Mobile Business Content Consumption Based on 60,000 Mobile User App Downloads

The breakdown by industry of users who have downloaded the mobile apps:

  • Computers, IT, Technology – 17.1%
  • Trade and Professional Services – 10.2%
  • Education – 8.6%
  • Healthcare – 7.9%
  • Financial Services – 7.4%
  • Government and Public Service – 5.9%
  • Media – 5.2%
  • Engineering – 4.5%
  • Industrial and Manufacturing – 4.4%
  • Retail and Wholesale – 4.4%

Titles of users who have downloaded the mobile apps:

  • 71% of all app registrants had a title of ‘Manager’ or above
  • 48% of all app registrants had a title of ‘Director’ or above.

The data shows that was able to attract a greater ratio of decision makers via its mobile apps. One can conclude that mobile devices, especially the iPad, tend to be in the hands of decision makers vs. lower-level employees in the enterprise. This may change over time as tablets become more and more integrated into daily routine of professionals across all levels of the enterprise.

The top 5 states of users who have downloaded the mobile apps:

  • California – 12% of all activity
  • New York – 10%
  • Texas – 9%
  • Florida – 8%
  • New Jersey – 4%

The breakdown by day of the week for users to download content to their mobile devices:

  • The weekends were the most popular time of the week for professionals to download and consume content.
  • Professionals are shifting their research and long-form content consumption into times that are free from office-related interruptions.
  • Sunday was the most popular day for content downloads.
  • Friday was the slowest day of the week for content downloads

The breakdown by time of day for users to download content to their mobile devices: App usage correlates to when professionals generally have more time to designate for content consumption. Late evenings lead the way.

Top Three Times for App Usage: Evenings

  1. 10 PM to 11 PM
  2. 9PM to 10 PM
  3. 8PM to 9 PM