"I guess you could call it a digital addiction," confesses Sylvain Perrier, vice-president of technology for Toronto-based Springboard Retail Networks, which develops electronic and interactive shopping systems.
"I switch out [mobile] devices about every four months depending on what's new in the market, and I have five devices active at any given time."
Today, Perrier is packing a BlackBerry or two, an iPhone and a couple
of smart phonesthe HTC Touch and HTC Diamond. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the twenty-somethings who populate Springboard's office. "For every five devices I might be using, they're probably playing with double that amount," he says.
Perrier and the folks at Springboard are closer to the norm than the exception when it comes to connectivity on the go. According to a global study by IDC and Nortel, the global workforce is increasingly expecting employers to provide similar levels of "everywhere, all the time" connectivity. According to the survey, 16% of workers are already connected through multiple devices and new communications applications. This new breed of worker uses a minimum of seven devices for work and personal access, plus at least nine applications such as instant messaging, text messaging, web conferencing and social networks.
Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is a second group of what the study classifies as "increasingly connected" workers. This group, about 36% of the global workforce, uses at least four devices for work and has personal access to six or more apps. As demographics change, the study predicts that the number of "hyperconnected" users will rise to 40% in five years.
Kelly Kanellakis, leader of strategic planning for Nortel, has entered the hyperconnected ranks with a BlackBerry, a laptop, a networked MP3 player, a digital camera and a WiFi phone. "The line between work and home is blurring, so workers are demanding all the applications they use on their devices. Younger people especially expect connectivity where they work, at home and everywhere in between."
Providing high-tech tools to workers could play a role in their satisfaction and retention, experts say. "Young professionals are savvy, and they can be pretty fickle," says Mauro Lollo, co-founder and CTO for Unis Lumin Inc., a technology developer in Oakville, Ontario. "They're now landing in environments that, in some cases, are using technology that's older than what they have at home. To attract young talent, organizations have to offer more integrated, leading-edge technology." Sexiness counts, too, he says. "You'll see iPhones popping up [in business] more and more. Organizations will switch to these types of products to present more of a hip approach."
As a die-hard gadget lover whose fellow workers are hungry for anything new, Perrier firmly believes that sexy technology is indispensable. "No one can afford to dismiss this hyperconnectivity thing."