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BYOD to BYOA - A Growing Application Trend

Published Date: 
Jul 15, 2014
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Imagine you use a smartphone loaded with your favorite apps but your office does not allow you to carry the phone to work since it's a personal device. In reality no workplace will be having this absurd rule since this will reduce its appeal to employees and moreover the organization might as well cease to exist since they are not aligned to reality.

This consumerization and advances in device ecosystem that made Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a pressing matter for everywhere and has inevitably evolved to the next logical stage-Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA) fuelled by smart device penetration. BYOD is a disruptive technology, allowing employees and contractors to utilize their personal device to execute enterprise applications and access corporate data. With time and evolving workplace, there has been a shift towards BYOA, which means that employees are bringing their own applications in office to work more efficiently and be more productive. Now that most of the organizations started adopting BYOD in some form, it is not just their personal iPads and laptops that users are bringing into the office, they are also using the consumer apps available in their personal device for work purpose which leads to the next wave in mobility. Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA) is a trend towards employee use of third-party consumer applications and cloud services in the workplace.

It is the first time in the History of Enterprise Computing, the consumer applications are leading in user experience and functionality in comparison to enterprise applications, causing a rapid adoption and demand of BYOA fuelled by end users. According to the New App Centric Reality from Gartner, by 2015 60% of organizations will use private app stores to deliver business apps on media tablets and smartphones and by 2016, there will be more than 300 bn app downloads from mobile app stores yearly. The technology landscape at today's workplace is characterized by multiple platforms available for the employees. Some of the most popular BYOA apps include Dropbox, iCloud, GoToMeeting, WebEx, Skype, Evernote, Onedrive, and QuickOffice. BYOA is projected as the evolved state of ‘consumer-oriented enterprise,' leading to adaptation of enterprise AppStore as a means to distribute and manage these applications. The first stage lies in identifying the advantages it bring to its employees for making the choice to bring in their own apps, which in turn allows them to be more productive and collaborative.

BYOA provides significant benefits to organizations which includes the following:

Lower Cost: Lower capital expenditures for software purchases and licensing. Ex. employee use his own consumer applications like Skype, Evernote, etc.

Reduced Training: Since employees choose the apps with which they are most comfortable and proficient.

Flexibility: The flexibility to the employees to choose the app that is most apt for their work. Ex. Dropbox or Onedrive instead of network file share for convenient file synchronization and collaboration.

Productivity: Employees are more productive using the app of their choice.

Backend as a Service (BaaS): A disruptive trend which will be the backbone for delivering BYOA. If the entire enterprise backend is available as a consumable service, then BYOA can focus on user experience at systems of engagement but the systems of record can still be one. Despite these benefits, BYOA has certain challenges like the ‘Shadow IT' as primarily SaaS applications used by employees for business, which have not been approved by the IT department or obtained in accordance to IT policies. But it is difficult for IT to ignore BYOA anymore since it's time for IT to shift to the tools and processes that help manage this new way of doing business in order to remain a relevant partner to their client's success in the future.

IT departments, which knows about BYOA but don't take steps to manage them may face huge security threats that could ultimately damage their client's or business reputations. Whether or not IT have apps for sync & share, collaboration, remote access and other functions, end users will always find, bring in, and adopt a solution they like more than the one IT offer in their portfolio increasing the risk.

However these challenges can be addressed through the following steps:

Establish a SaaS Policy that Aligns with Business Objectives: To ensure that employees have the freedom to find innovative solutions to business problems and easy access to the tools they need to make business successful. These demand for a broad SaaS policy, rather than a restrictive one.

Secure the Enterprise: Choose a security solution that protects the employees from themselves like proactive malware protection.

Don't be Restrictive: There are thousands of commonly used business SaaS products on the market. Don't force employees to use just the ones IT approved. Instead, build IT policy around a security solution that can provide employees with secure access to a broad range of recognized SaaS applications.

Mitigate Risks in Commonly-used Applications: Rather than shut down usage of popular but risk-prone applications, implement a security solution that allows IT to control their use.

Develop a BYOA Strategy: Develop a BYOA strategy, create policies on App usage, establish an enterprise app store to procure and distribute apps securely, categorize apps and regulate their level of access.

It is debatable whether IT is prepared or not. The overall tech ecosystem is developing too fast and a technology which is considered revolutionary in an emerging market might be obsolete in a mature market. But the mobility will continue to evolve and end users will continue to remain empowered to bring in their own apps if IT doesn't meet their needs. IT should consider understanding and assess the scale and reality of BYOA in their organization and embrace the consumerization of apps to extend IT portfolio. These steps will help businesses to be competitive and leap forward by enabling the usage of these technologies. However it's also important to take the plunge with caution i.e. setting up a comprehensive policy covering the usage and liability for these applications and constantly review and amend the security landscape of the organisation to keep any possible threat at bay.


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