In business, employees are always encouraged to use their initiative to overcome challenges. It’s not surprising then that when the technology provided by their organisation doesn’t deliver what they need to do their job, they take the matter into their own hands instead.
This ‘can do’ attitude sparked the whole BYOD trend. But now BYOD is entering a new phase. Workers now using their own devices in the office also want to use the familiar mobile apps that have served them well in their personal lives, for work purposes.
For example, perhaps they use Dropbox at home to share photographs and large documents with friends. If they then need to send an image or large document to a client quickly, they automatically turn to the same application.
Nobody would want to quell their enthusiasm for getting the job done quickly and efficiently. Except, that is, the IT department. Having just found ways to secure multi-platform mobile devices in the office, IT now facing a further headache, Bring Your Own App.
Consumer-style apps such as Dropbox, Skype, Google Docs and many others, are not designed for the corporate environment as their use involves transferring data and often storing it in a public cloud. Which means organisations lose control of their own data.
As a result, many large firms have already established an enterprise apps store. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2017, one in four organisations will have deployed such a store, holding a selection of apps approved by use by the IT department. The big snag here is of course, these are not necessarily the ones the rest of the company want to use.
But if we replace ‘bringing your own’ apps with ‘building your own’ this changes the situation again. This way businesses can harness the knowledge of staff who are actually carrying out the day-to-day tasks involved, to help design apps that are tailored to their individual business needs. Because they are customised to a company’s individual workflow and processes they can help significantly enhance productivity, efficiency and customer service.
Naturally, developing company-specific apps will need some upfront investment. However, this will still be more affordable than buying a new server-based application. But is it really possible to run an entire company on bespoke apps?
On the whole, apps are ideal for straightforward tasks rather than complex processes. But this is what also makes them ideal for addressing some of the security risks of BYOD. Single task-style apps enable organisations to limit access. For example, an HR department might provide apps for requesting holiday to all staff, but the apps to approve this would only be supplied to appropriate managers. Access to functionality within a systems could be restricted too, where necessary.
Besides, if the next few years in business are going to be such a kaleidoscope of change and adaptation as many commentators suggest, then using apps could be the answer. They provide a new agility to enable a fast response to evolving market conditions as they can be tweaked far more easily and economically than a large enterprise system.
Some large corporates are already adopting this approach, creating customised app stores for easy download to help with a complete range of tasks from monitoring industrial plant to providing business intelligence. However, inevitably most mid-range and smaller companies are some years away from considering BYOA.
But there are still ways that all businesses can lay strong foundations for any future developments in this direction and be prepared when the time comes. They need to consider their LAN and WAN requirements around security, bandwidth and resilience. For a start they need to be sure that their internal enterprise applications can port to a mobile strategy and also that the applications and data can be de-coupled into a more modularised format to enable app-based working.
It’s an area where start-ups unhampered by legacy systems may also take the initiative and steal a march on more established firms. It’s certainly a trend to watch – and wherever possible, try to be prepared.