John Purcell is the Senior Director of Products at LogMeIn, Inc, overseeing the company's IT management business.
IT departments that are waiting to make necessary changes in device and application management are sitting on a ticking time bomb.
As an industry, we learned a while ago about what it means to have employees bring their own devices into the office, and many IT professionals played catch up to accommodate the various support – and more important, security – requirements that presented themselves as a result.
BYOD is here to stay, and the Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA) trend has quickly joined the fray. While not new, there are many IT departments that have yet to address how they will manage these apps.
The time is now
The shift from enterprise-grade software to simply, “there’s an app for that,” began a while ago. This is driving the rise of BYOA in the workplace.
The security that IT used to rely on is crumbling. The IT department has a big stake in the solution, whether or not leadership and employees acknowledge it.
In a recent survey conducted by LogMeIn and Edge Strategies to explore the usage and adoption of employee-introduced cloud applications in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, more than 70 percent said that their organizations are experiencing some type of BYOA, and while 42 percent expect this to become more significant in the workplace, only 20 percent felt their companies would do anything about it.
IT professionals surveyed estimated that they have, on average, 2.8 applications that were brought into their organization by employees. Our data based on companies analyzed in the past six months, shows the average to be closer to 21 apps – more than seven times what IT estimates.
How did we get here?
It can be traced back to the original value proposition of the cloud itself. Cloud computing, storage and applications have become the foundation of modern productivity. In spite of the fact that companies are providing software and applications to their employees, workers continue to source their own based on personal preference and what makes them most productive.
Further, the research found that even when IT is involved in the acquisition of cloud application licenses, employees continue to use free or individually managed versions of these applications. Why? Almost 40 percent of respondents said they didn’t feel they needed to involve IT, because it was just for their team or individual use.
Employees don’t feel the need to consult IT, and they’re letting them get away with it. That presents a risk.
How to solve the problem
First, identify your baseline. If you’re an IT professional, take an honest look at where you are today, and where you want to be in the future. If employees don’t feel the need to consult you, that’s a foundational issue. With free flowing data these assets must be secured.
Understand the scale and reality of BYOA in your company. This starts with an awareness of what’s going on at each employee’s desk and on the corporate network. How widespread is the problem?
You also need to be strategic. The role of IT needs to be fundamentally redefined if IT professionals want to regain their strategic voice, and this means reinventing the way they approach the management of apps, devices and data in the BYO era. The study finds IT pros falling into three very distinct camps:
- Active gatekeepers: 30 percent of IT pros manage BYOA by actively blocking cloud apps from their workplace. This is the role IT has traditionally taken—one of saying “no” to users and policing what they do.
- Passive observer: A full 39 percent of IT pros report that they are employing a “sit-back-and-take-it” approach by neither monitoring nor managing BYOA at all.
- Strategic facilitators: 29 percent of IT pros manage BYOA through a combination of analyzing web traffic logs, packet sniffing and/or device monitoring.
Strategic facilitators promise to be the best suited as they embrace the BYOA trend as a reality, but don’t try to stop it in its path with strict gatekeeping policies.
The solution is to enable employees to embrace what makes them happy and productive, while still maintaining and managing those apps to ensure organizational security and compliance. It’s the “Goldilocks” solution - not too autocratic, not too permissive. Everyone, including the company, wins.
Showcasing the benefits from these employee-introduced applications communicates that IT is a friend and not a scolding foe. It also creates an environment where employees can use their app of choice properly with IT as a helpful partner.
Taking control of BYOA
This BYOA phenomenon isn’t going away. IT has got to recognize the line they are trying to walk – a balance between security and employee productivity.
IT professionals can decide what role they want to play. They can act as gatekeepers and restrict app adoption, act as passive observers and let the adoption happen without their involvement, or they can act as strategic facilitators, managing and shaping the adoption and direction of the growing BYOA trend.
IT, you have never been more important than you are today. Don’t be the last to do something about BYOA.
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