May 1, 2013

BYOA: Apps in the Office

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The first step when tackling any new trend in the marketplace is weighing the potential value versus the risks and how they will affect your particular business.  Any business owner who embraces the BYOD (bring your own device) trend needs to consider how they will manage BYOA (bring your own apps).  Since it is fairly obvious that the majority of employee-owned devices will have consumer apps installed on them, the risk of using these apps in the workplace and possibly downloading them onto company-owned devices can pose many potential risks.  The BYOA trend is challenging IT departments everywhere but what does this mean for you and your company?

The benefits seem to be endless from the employee’s perspective.  The ease and familiarity of taking apps that they use in their personal life and translating them into business use can ultimately increase productivity, employee engagement and job satisfaction.  In the never ending search for a pleasant “work-life balance” many have found that meshing their personal devices/apps with their corporate responsibilities saves just enough time and headache that it’s worth it for them.  Evernote, originally a popular consumer based app, recognized this trend and launched a business version of their app.  Now, employees can use the technology they are already familiar with and the IT department is able to manage and control the software that they are now responsible for at the workplace.  It’s a win, win situation all around.

Now for the flip side – the risks.  Security risks, licensing fees, administrative expenses and the list goes on and on.  How can IT managers actually manage apps that they did not install and may not be familiar with at all?  Help desks are seeing an increasing demand on their resources to support a wide array of non-standard applications and devices that are not company-owned or regulated.  The fact is that sensitive information that is stored in a cloud provider’s environment is simply not as secure as that which is stored on-site.  Some enterprises are trying to lessen these risks by setting up “enterprise app stores” where employees will have access to a regulated variety of apps they can then use on their business related devices.  Others are implementing strict guidelines, outlined in additions to the existing company handbooks, which establish acceptable standards regarding BYOD and BYOA practices.  For example, a consumerization policy which dictates permissible devices as well as applicable restrictions, will ensure that employees are made aware of how these policies will be managed and their responsibilities within this realm.  Policies such as this will not only lessen the business’ liability if (or when) catastrophe strikes, but it will also open the employee’s eyes to the potential risks that they need to be cognizant of when introducing these apps to their work environment.

Trends like BYOA are getting more and more mainstream every day.  Employers need to stay on their toes and recognize that managing this increasing mobile workforce is an ever-evolving battle that deserves their full attention.