Lost in London

Finding Your Way with BYOA

4 minute read
Koos du Preez avatar

Sometimes keeping up with technology trends requires a little deciphering. The roadmap for navigating the “Bring Your Own...” push in business, for instance, should probably come with a legend just to keep all the acronyms straight.

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend over the past decade gave people new freedom to incorporate their iPhones, Androids, iPads, BlackBerries and other personal devices into the work environment. With the now emerging BYOA (Bring Your Own App) trend, users feel similarly empowered to build their own app solutions for business problems the same way they may employ apps at home for personal use.

Managing this BYO evolution is tricky, and it’s not something you can address with an all-or-nothing approach. Companies in avoidance mode lose out on opportunities for innovation and attracting top talent. But businesses that simply open the floodgates to any and all technologies suffer in other ways, as data and processes get jumbled and slow the speed of business.

The challenge becomes even more complicated when we’re no longer just talking about devices, but about apps that literally define how we go about our work. Fortunately, we’ve all learned a thing or two from how BYOD has already cascaded through the business world. Here are a few things to keep in mind now as you chart your course with BYOA.

Recognize It’s a 'When, Not If' Phenomenon

If you or your IT colleagues are still trying to keep BYOA from the doorstep, get out of your defensive crouch and accept that the trend is inevitable and unstoppable. Our increasingly interconnected world has airbrushed the line between business and personal uses of technology.

Successful navigation of BYO-trends involves the recognition that employees need the technical tools to experiment and work independently. This is true so long as you find ways to keep your workforce productive without inadvertently exposing the enterprise and its data to huge risk.

Learning Opportunities

'It’s the Governance, Stupid'

A blanket BYOA welcoming strategy will get your company into trouble. Enterprise leaders need to make sure that, when they do allow employees to engage in BYO-anything, it happens in the right governance environment. This will avoid such nightmares as employees mixing personal drop-box accounts and business documents. If you exert zero corporate control over the devices and external locations where data is stored and synchronized, you become breach bait, and your company might as well roll out the red carpet for hackers.

Look for governance tools like on-demand access authentication to ensure users accessing data and apps are in fact who they claim to be. Also, apps should ideally not cache or take sensitive business data online. The “D” in BYOD, in fact, increasingly refers to “data.” Some apps, like Dropbox, are purpose-built to store data. But we run into problems when we see traditional on-premises data storage — for example, a LOB or file store — suddenly becoming portable and potentially synchronized to devices that can get lost or stolen.

Focus on the Business Problem, Not Just the Technology

It’s easy to fixate on how cool it is to bring your own devices and apps to work. But obsessing about technology alone will distract you from the business problems you’re trying to solve, and it can lead to costly misperceptions. What feels like real-time agility for your employees, for instance, may look to your CTO like a mess of data duplication, security concerns and internal control issues. Even where recruitment is concerned, the BYOD benefit of keeping and using your own device is probably somewhere in the “nice to have” category, but it’s not the sole basis for a retention or hiring strategy.

We should always try to meet workers technologically where they are. But everyone must understand that it’s all in service of something bigger: giving workers both the freedom and the mandate to find the best and most innovative solutions to business problems.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  gareth1953 New Profile 

About the author

Koos du Preez

With nearly two decades of experience in electronics and software design, Koos du Preez serves as CTO of K2 and has the overall responsibility for the direction and architecture of the entire K2 product stack. He joined K2 in 2004 and assumed his current position in 2006.