The mobile device is causing just as big a change in ways of working at the beginning of this century as the internet was at the end of the last century, says Kevin Noonan, consultant with Ovum.

In the early days of internet use "the internet terminal" was in a separate part of the office from the offline computers that managed the organisation's workload. For many organisations, mobile devices are still in that position, but a major change is coming, Noonan told an Ovum breakfast seminar in Wellington last week.

"It's not about the device; the change demands a look at reorganising work practices," he says. The ubiquity of the mobile is challenging paradigms about ways of managing and even ways of governing.

"The paradigm of government used to be high-tech government agencies, low-tech citizen". We now have to accept, he says, that the citizen -- eagerly snapping up the latest iPad or Android -- is further advanced in the use of technology than government, which has to think about privacy, other policy questions and the hobbling effect of legacy systems.

The same comparison applies to the employer and employee.

Mobile use presents an opportunity to do more with government and private-industry service than the cost-cutting which has particularly obsessed government, Noonan says. It enables organisations to move into genuinely innovative ways of working. "You can only cut costs so much before you cut into the core of the services we offer."

Noonan says his ideas are based on interviews he conducted earlier this year with a number of Australian and three New Zealand organisations' CIOs on innovation and "thinking about mobility in a different way".

The rise of social media creates an opportunity for innovation in ways of dealing with workplace change itself and evolving new policies, he says. Instead of a top-down driven process, ideas can be funnelled up from anywhere in the organisation, discussed and voted on.

The citizen or worker is at the top of Schumpeter's S-curve of innovation; mobile to them is a familiar technology; the enterprise is still at the bottom, Noonan says, coping with what BYOD means and what difference it will make to the workplace. At the enterprise level, it's still very much "about the device".

But his interviews showed enterprises are starting to think about disruption of old work patterns.

It eases the task of coping with the change if we look, not at the myriad devices but at the type of work being done. There are comparatively few classes of worker, he says:

The person who spends most of his/her day attending meetings is an information consumer; reading but not writing to a great extent; a tablet with out-of-the-box applications is probably sufficient for them.

The information consumer/producer -- a policy writer or a ministerial advisor in government, say -- needs a more sophisticated word-processing and spreadsheeting tool. Windows 8 is appropriate for this slot, Noonan says.

The data-intensive worker -- a statistical analyst, for example -- needs analytical tools displaying on a large screen with direct access to administrative systems.

These last two groups will also want to work on a mobile device and will appreciate compatibility; this, he says, is why the Windows 8 move is so important. "I'm not advocating that all these people move to Windows 8", he says, but they are identifiable classes and the need for compatibility should be a focus of discussion.

The fourth class is the customer-facing worker, who traditionally has operated with a desktop PC, but may in future move to a thin-client device.

If we talk in terms of worker types, he says, our organisations and particularly their ICT teams, free themselves from having to cope with the constant "avalanche" of new device types.