In the beginning, there was Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Knowledge workers, quick to adopt the latest smartphones, tablets, and computers, began using these personal devices for work as well as personal use. Now, organizations and their IT departments are facing the next wave of the BYO trend — Bring Your Own App (BYOA) — as employees introduce a host of new applications, including cloud services, software, and mobile apps, into the workplace.
A recent study of more than 1,200 IT pros in small-and medium-size businesses, sponsored by cloud and mobile services provider LogMeIn, indicates that 69 percent of businesses are using at least one employee-introduced app. Adoption of these applications, including file-sharing services (Cubby, Dropbox, YouSendIt) social and collaboration tools (join.me, Yammer), and productivity apps (Evernote, Google Docs), is flipping the workplace technology procurement process on its head.
“A couple of megatrends are contributing to the BYOA phenomenon,” asserts Matt Kaplan, vice president of products at LogMeIn. “First and foremost, work is no longer a place you go to. Rather, the workplace is defined by the tools you use, wherever you are. Second, there’s a growing understanding that productivity is a very personal thing: What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.”
By and large, respondents to the LogMeIn survey believed that BYOA was not only here to stay, but also offered significant benefits to their organization, including:
- Rapid discovery and adoption of new technologies. Instead of the IT department being solely responsible for researching the products on the market, companies can rely on a network of early adopters to discover useful apps. In fact, 47 percent of survey respondents felt that BYOA increased flexibility, while 37 percent believed it helped fill gaps in their organization’s technology.
- Productivity. Among survey respondents, 49 percent believe BYOA makes employees more productive: If employees are using tools they chose themselves, they’re more comfortable with those choices and more productive as a result.
- Cost savings. Instead of investing capital in one-size-fits-all solutions for the entire enterprise, companies can purchase single-purpose apps on an as-needed basis. What’s more, employees who purchase these apps for both personal and business use often do so at their own expense. As a result, 35 percent of survey respondents felt that BYOA lowered costs.
Policy Is the Best Policy
BYOA is certainly not without risks, a fact acknowledged by the majority (77 percent) of IT executives who indicate concern over the use of cloud sync/store apps. Simple prohibition, however, means missing out on significant advantages. The new paradigm is giving employees the knowledge and tools to protect data no matter how they access it.
“You need to figure out what’s really important to the organization,” Kaplan says. “It’s not controlling an employee’s time at work. Rather, it’s making sure when that employee is no longer at the company, your assets aren’t going with them, or if they lose their device, your assets aren’t lost as well.”
Survey respondents appear to be coming around to this idea: While 30 percent of policies currently encourage BYOA, that number is expected to rise to 47 percent in the near future. Elements of these policies include:
- Password-protecting devices. “It’s a little bit of a nuisance, but most employees will understand the logic behind it,” Kaplan says.
- Identity management. The technology of centralized identity management is rapidly moving to the cloud, making data accessible in numerous ways without compromising security or user convenience.
- Backup solutions. Users should be provided with an easy way to back up their device-based data so that it can be accessed in case of loss or damage. Similarly, they should be able to de-authorize and wipe lost devices remotely.
- Education. “Think of IT less as a gatekeeper and more as a facilitator,” Kaplan suggests. That means helping users understand new applications, informing them about the risks and how to mitigate them, and guiding them toward secure solutions that work well for other people.
The bottom line? BYOA isn’t going anywhere. By implementing a common-sense policy that encourages its best use, organizations can maximize the benefits while minimizing risk.