There is a lot of talk about bring your own device (BYOD) and how enterprise mobility managers are working to keep up with the increasing use of personal devices for business. What is less talked about is the tsunami of personal mobile apps the people use both on personal and company-issued devices. Bring your own app is the rising tide of personal productivity and is becoming a core part of enterprise mobility strategy.
The use case for personal mobile apps in business is clear. People are carrying more advanced device technology which provides instant access to thousands of apps. Many mobile apps are designed for business use, but what's interesting about the mobile space is people will find ways to be productive in their working lives with personal apps as well, including those without a business account option.
Enterprises face the challenge of managing a multitude of personal apps and data without stifling the productivity of staff with absolute lock-down.
Mobile, meet cloud
When thinking about the future of mobile apps in the workplace, IT managers can't ignore the mobile-cloud architecture of modern application delivery. The industry has gone from terminal services, to client-server, to PC and now to mobile-cloud. Many of today's popular mobile apps – that do everything from store files to teach a language – are built to work with an online service.
A prudent BYO mobile app management strategy must involve the accounts and data lurking behind the app in the cloud. In fact, many mobile apps also do a good job of accommodating desktop use as well, either through a dedicated app or a standard Web browser.
The future of personal apps in the workplace is a future where mobile and cloud data are managed and secured in a concerted way.
Time for good governance
What are the options for mobile managers faced with sprawling personal apps in the enterprise? The most immediate one is to ban the use of personal apps in the workplace, but, like doing the same for devices, can have the negative impact of reducing personal productivity and lead to resentment among staff.
A more measured approach is to first determine why staff are using particular apps – most likely because the app fills a need not met by the IT department – and work towards providing these requirements in a structured and secured way. Options for supporting mobile app requirements include offering an in-house alternative; allowing staff to use sanctioned apps that provide the features they need with paid-for, or supported, versions; and integrating with the mobile-cloud service to capture account and user data to ensure the organisation is not set back in the event of a problem.
While offering an enterprise alternative to a public app is always an option, for many organisations this would be too great a challenge, particularly if in mobile-savvy workplaces where scores of apps could be in use. A longer-term strategy centres on governance, support and data protection.
The future of personal mobile apps in the workplace is exciting and one that will keep IT managers busy. The successful organisation will find the balance between the productivity personal devices and apps bring with the governance demanded by policy and regulation.