This is a guest post by Cimarron Buser, vice president of business development at Apperian.
Many companies have begun to embrace the concept of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). This starts with the agreement that your company’s email, calendar, and contacts can be used on an employee’s personal device and you may reimburse the employee via a stipend. But this is the easy part.
The challenge begins when companies want to move business processes to mobile apps or enable the sharing of corporate data out to a mobile end-point. Now, security issues take a sharper focus, and the mobile device management (MDM) solution that might have been installed a few years ago that allowed IT to check off the box for compliance is not enough. Device wipe and restricting users to specific apps doesn’t work.
So, how do businesses provide real, usable, and fun (yes, fun is important) apps to employees while securing corporate data? There are many solutions pitched today, and while each approach offers benefits there is probably no “one size fits all” approach as new technology evolves.
The latest approach to gain buzz is “dual personality,” which can be seen in the recent BlackBerry announcements, and will be launched soon by Samsung with its KNOX initiative. VMWare, Enterproid, and others have solutions in the market, but the trend towards building in the dual persona into the hardware stack and OS is likely going to raise the stakes.
The challenge for these systems lies in the heterogeneous nature of mobile: you can’t expect every employee and user to use the same hardware or OS. Another challenge is that the dual personality model chafes against the user who has been conditioned (let’s just say “iPhoned”) to a simple, elegant model where all apps run seamlessly together in the same environment. The user never has to remember which mode they are in, and sending mail or making calendar appointments just work.
If the jury is out (both in terms of market adoption and technology approach) on the dual personality solution, what else can a business do? Another approach is to treat each app and its data as an individual, secure “container,” thus making sure that personal and business apps and data are separate. However, from the user viewpoint, the apps are easily accessible and the experience is familiar. There are several ways to do this, but the most prevalent is “app wrapping” where policies such as authentication, copy-and-paste restrictions, integrated VPNs, and data-at-rest encryption can be applied to any app with the click of a check box.
Adding to the fun is that beyond iOS and Android (still the dominant platforms when it comes to the new enterprise app ecosystem), we will see BlackBerry and Windows Phone entering the fray. Any solution that needs to be applied to all your company devices needs to play well across the board. This is an additional challenge to the dual persona model, where unless everyone is using the same technology it may not be feasible to have universal policies, and training and support costs increase. We sometimes forget why we’re all building apps for employees in the first place. It’s all about employee productivity, convenience, and ultimately ROI for the business.
Apps — and their security model — should be easy to use. User engagement should be encouraged, and include consumer-like features such as app rating, comments, crowd-sourcing for new ideas, and even the (future) ability to build your own app with corporate data. Ultimately, security issues should be handled in a way which is seamless and based on user roles.
We still need to deal with lost devices or the circumstances when an employee leaves the company. However, security policy must be combined with employee education and forward-thinking companies make sure employees buy into the solutions, and not try to do workarounds to get their jobs done because no solution is offered.
Businesses have a great opportunity today to make all their employees more effective with these fancy gadgets, and industry leaders have already seen multi-million dollar ROIs on mobility investments.
The good news is that enterprise mobility works.
Cimarron Buser leads Apperian’s products and marketing for enterprise solutions. He has worked in technology for over 20 years, providing creative and visionary leadership for products and services in the technology, web and mobile arena.
Businessman using tablet via ollyy/Shutterstock