The Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA) Movement……

Very few would challenge the premise that technology is an enabler. Of course, what I’m really referring to in this article is ‘human-driven’ technology, rather than technology in-general. The type of technology that’s been developed to over-come a small problem of one sort or another, whether that’s connecting people, aggregating information or providing some sort of assistance with personal productivity. And we don’t have to look much further than our back-pocket to spot the area that’s seen the most exponential growth of technology in the last 10 years.

Mobile apps, and specifically the 1st Generation iPhone released in June 2007, will have undoubtedly paved the way for a technology revolution that has been nothing short of ground-breaking, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down yet!

On a macro-scale, humans always find a way… eventually. Each generation, left to deal with the problems from past generations (plus a whole set of new problems) has become quite adept at developing solutions using the tools available.

If we look back to the 1980’s, it was not uncommon for members of the finance department to take clever spreadsheets, created at home (using VisiCalc, for example) into the office to help get their work done more efficiently.

This pattern of behaviour can be readily seen today, with employees using their own laptops, tablets and mobiles to help get their work done. At its simplest, BYOA sees employees using email and calendar apps to stay connected to work. Deeper BYOA users are tapping into WhatsApp for one-to-one and group messaging, Trello for managing projects and DropBox for cloud storage of documents and pictures.

Research conducted by Forrester in April 2014 highlights that “only 15% of North American and European information workers say they are completely satisfied with their IT department’s understanding of what they need to be successful.”. Whilst this can only really be indicative when applied to other industries, this clearly still leaves an enormous problem that needs to be addressed.

All the research into ‘what IT tools employees need’ has not gone unnoticed by organisations with their finger-on-the-pulse. This has led to the formation of two schools-of-thought, which can broadly be described as ‘lock it down’ and ‘open it up’. The table below shows some of the (perhaps, more extreme) differences between these approaches:

‘Lock it down’

‘Open it up’

All mobile devices are corporate-issue.

Personal and corporate-issue devices allowed.

All software on mobile devices and desktops is corporate-issue.

BYOA and corporate-issue software allowed.

No access to external, cloud-based tools and services.

Access to external tools and services (including social networks) permitted, and governed by IT use policy.

No access to corporate-provided Wi-Fi.

Access to employee/customer Wi-Fi allowed.

Whilst there will always be environments where the ‘lock it down’ approach will be necessary to protect commercial or state-sensitive information, we shouldn’t forget that most people aren’t satisfied with the tools they have to do their job. And when people aren’t happy with what they have, they find a way to get what they want.

Some larger organisations have taken what could be considered as a hybrid approach to IT security, and have adopted Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions to deploy corporate software and manage mobile devices connecting to the corporate network wirelessly. These can be complicated and costly, but very effective with enabling a more open approach for employees.shutterstock_187258022

When you consider that most employees have a more advanced piece of mobile technology than the one being issued corporately, it’s easy to see how this has both hard benefits, with not needing to constantly upgrade corporate devices, and soft benefits, with employees using a device they’re happy with.

Whatever the approach for your organisation, there’s certainly no stopping the BYOA movement and, personally, I would recommend embracing the change rather than finding innovative ways to block it. Microsoft’s Office 365 and device-agnostic Office apps would be a great first-step for organisations wanting to take little steps.

The reality is that BYOA hasn’t been created by the same generation that’s now managing the IT infrastructure of organisations. BYOA has been created by the generation after them (or even two generations after them!). Those employees adopting BYOA are using technology to overcome problems that they face every day.

They are looking for ways to communicate more effectively and be more productive at work. They want to be connected to information relevant to them, and they are perfecting the blend of work and life more seamlessly than we’ve ever seen before.

What’s most interesting, is how the attractiveness of BYOA is starting to transcend the generations.

Surely, with so many minds now bent on using faster and more innovative mobile technology, this can only expedite our ability to over-come the ‘small problems’ we face each day!