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BYOD to BYOA: Shaping the Future of Your Work Environment

October 31, 2014 No Comments

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has been growing in a number of businesses for the past few years. Now, a different, yet related, trend has emerged—Bring Your Own Application (BYOA). BYOA allows employees to choose and use the software they believe helps them perform their jobs best and bring these programs into the office on their devices. These applications range from meeting and organization programs to sales software, and many of them are based in the cloud. While there are many benefits to BYOA for employees’ daily work, IT departments are challenged with keeping the company’s data safe in this environment.

According to Gartner, the number of employees using mobile apps at work is poised to double by 2015; and the influx of new devices into the enterprise will expend IT resources. As employers are becoming more accepting of BYOD and BYOA to use as resources, a gray area is forming between personal and business technology.

What is BYOA?
Bring your own app means that employees—using their own smartphones, tablets and laptops—may use third-party applications or cloud services of their choosing to better perform their work duties. Studies show that allowing for this increases productivity and efficiency in the workplace, which can lead to the company saving—and making—more money.

BYOA first appeared in the 1980s when financial professionals began using their own spreadsheet programs to more efficiently compute numbers. With today’s growing app culture, a multitude of applications are now readily downloaded, easily shared, and skillfully used to organize data, stay connected and boost productivity.

How is BYOA being used today?

According to data collected by Mojave Threat Labs, the research hub for Mojave Networks, the average mobile device has about 200 apps, including pre-installed and user-downloaded applications. While many of these are for entertainment, quite a few are used for networking, productivity or facilitating meetings.

Mobile app stores and cloud-based applications can be purchased and downloaded anywhere at any time, supporting the mobile workforce and further driving the efficiency ofBYOA. Employees can manage and install needed updates and programs themselves, when it’s convenient for them. Some of the more popular apps employees are using to work include Evernote for capturing notes and ideas, Citrix to interface with their work computer and HootSuite to manage the company’s multiple social media outlets and many others. For example, if a marketing manager wants to access the progress of a social media ad campaign for his agency meeting , he can download an app to his tablet that connects with both the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and  get  analytics  instantly.

How should you prepare yourself for BYOA?

iGR—a wireless a mobile communications consulting firm—reports that in 2013, 62 percent of U.S. small businesses had an official BYOD policy in place; 10 percent of small businesses lacked an official policy, but allowed employees to use personal devices to perform work-related tasks. As the device and application trends grow, it is imperative that executives, who allow employees to bring their own into the workspace, evaluate how to manage them in order to protect company data. This means enforcing business security solutions and mobile device management policies throughout the company. IT departments should prepare for an environment where employees choose apps without involving them, and look for tools that protect and manage the risks of viruses and data loss. Seventy-seven percent of IT professionals surveyed report their biggest concern is the usage of cloud storage apps and the security issues that could arise with growing adoption of such software (LogMeIn survey and Edge Securities research).

The first thing an IT department needs to do when entering the BYOA arena is study and understand employee usage. Knowing how employees are downloading apps and how they are using them will help IT find the right tools and solutions to manage this activity securely for the company. Additionally, IT departments must learn what types of devices and technologies are coming into the company—using email and network access—in order to be able to limit the risk of foreign devices accessing data and servers in an uncontrolled way.

Implementing governance of BYOA

Once there’s an understanding of proper usage, start planning for governance to protect company assets, specifically data. Develop regulatory compliance policies that explain liabilities and security measures required to keep data safe. Part of these policies may include putting limitations on the level of BYOA allowed by employees. This means implementing practices or solutions that protect servers from the added complexity and traffic BYOA brings, to reduce stress on the overall bandwidth of the network. Build network and security frameworks that protect against potential crashes and threats by prioritizing business-critical application usage above others.

Make it clear to employees, who bring in their own devices and apps, that lost or stolen devices, employee misuse and increased virus risk will have consequences. IT departments will need to implement solutions, defining protocols that will protect company data should these types of problems arise.

With these new trends not only come new opportunities for expanding skill sets, but also require additional training of IT personnel. Eighty-nine percent of organizations say BYOAdemands changes to the required skill set for managing small business IT environments (LogMeIn and Edge Securities).  Keeping IT departments up to speed on the transition to BYOAis necessary to accepting and managing this new structure. Appropriate training is important because, ultimately, it will be up to the IT department to provide the necessary governance and support for BYOD and BYOA. Their knowledge is key to making the transition easier.

The transition into the BYOD and BYOA workplace is a journey. Take the time to study the productivity and performance levels of your employees with BYOD and BYOA in mind. Track the types of apps being used to see if BYOA is benefiting your company. Ask: Is the new practice effective? If not, ask how it can be improved. Keep your workforce up-to-date with the latest and greatest productivity apps by recommending new ones, providing “top” lists and showing trends enterprise-wide. This gets everyone involved and helps point employees who are looking for new tools in the right direction. These trends are not likely to go away any time soon; monitoring and evolving along with them, while defining and implementing best practices is essential for companies today.

BYOA can be beneficial

The growing trends of BYOD and BYOA have many benefits to offer a company including new opportunities for productivity and collaboration with the limitless infrastructure cloud—which allows mobility and access to anyone everywhere—and increased flexibility for what works well with the modern organizations’ open culture. Businesses are saving money by not having to provide and maintain a mobile workforce and its devices. If employees have the freedom to choose apps they feel proficient and comfortable working with, BYOA could also mean lower capital expenditures for software purchases and licensing, and reduced training requirements.

IT managers have an important role to play in guiding a company into the BYOD/BYOA environment. It’s crucial to spread awareness of the benefits and risks associated with these trends, devise a robust strategy and implementation plan, and provide guidelines for users so that a BYOA policy is in sync with the business objectives. Allowing BYOD and BYOA into the workplace can result in effective solutions that will tremendously benefit the company, as long as they are practiced accordingly and the company is well protected.

About AgreeYa Solutions: AgreeYa is a global provider of software, solutions, and services focused on deploying business-driven, technology-enabled solutions that create next-generation competitive advantages for customers. Headquartered in Folsom, Calif., AgreeYa employs more than 1,100 professionals across its 15 offices in eight countries. Over the last 15 years, AgreeYa has worked with 200+ companies ranging from Fortune 100 firms to small and large businesses. AgreeYa’s software portfolio includes SocialXtend (intranet and enterprise social collaboration), VDIXtend (desktop-on-cloud), Onvelop (unified enterprise collaboration and communication suite for mobile), and Edvelop (single window collaboration and communication solution on mobile for 21st century learning). As part of its solutions and services offerings, AgreeYa provides portal, content, and collaboration on SharePoint, cloud and infrastructure, enterprise mobility, business intelligence and big data analytics, product engineering, application development and management, independent software testing, and staffing (IT and risk/compliance) solutions. For more information, visit www.agreeya.com

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