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6 Things You Need to Know About the 'Bring Your Own App' Phenomonon

Whether you like it or not, the 'bring your own app' trend is happening right now. Here is how to prepare your company for it.
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The world is very different from 10 years ago, when employees worked on desktop computers loaded with IT-sanctioned applications. Then smartphones and tablets started flooding the workplace, and it kicked off the "bring your own device" (BYOD) revolution.

The next stage of this phenomenon is occurring now with software and apps (known as "bring your own apps," or BYOA) as more employees are forgoing their corporate software and opting for better designed and easier to use apps for file sharing, email marketing, layout and design and more.

While BYOA gives employees the flexibility to use the right tools for the job, it can be perceived as a major security threat and general IT nightmare. The biggest concern is employees will use mobile or cloud apps without any sort of control over how their data is stored, accessed and used.

Related: Entrepreneurs Need to Get Serious About Security -- Now

Here are six tips to help your organization get on top of BYOA.

1. Educate employees on your BYOA policy. Understanding that BYOA is inevitable, your company should create its own BYOA policy -- one that ideally balances your company’s security needs with employees’ needs to use the tools they find most productive. Educate your staff on the risks of using unsanctioned apps and what information is or isn’t okay to store outside of internal systems.

2.  Identify the apps people are already using. It may seem obvious but a key step is to understand what apps your employees are using and why. With a typical BYOA, we often see that one employee starts using the app, then a few more and a few more. Whenever an app reaches critical mass, it’s important to know why. Ask employees what apps and tools they find useful. In addition, talk to managers about what apps their teams use to get work accomplished, since it is likely that managers know about -- or are even using -- these same apps. 

Related: Ever Want to 'Unsend' an Email? Now You Can.

3. Talk to the providers of popular apps. By formalizing a relationship with vendors that provide the apps, companies can take advantage of more business-friendly features like administrative control over sign in, security policies, directory services, integrations with other apps and technical support. Often, popular consumer-driven BYOA apps offer excellent options for small business and enterprise users to meet their unique IT requirements.   

4. Take control of administration and create a seamless experience across all apps. Most enterprise versions of cloud-based apps will offer some kind of directory services that enable IT to integrate with employees’ existing user passwords. This makes it more convenient for employees since they only need to use their existing company username and password for all the apps. More importantly, it gives IT centralized control over these new apps.

5. Create a directory of apps for people to use. A growing number of businesses are setting up their own in-house app directories as a way to get ahead of the BYOA trend. According to research firm Gartner, by 2017 about 25 percent of businesses will have their own app store for managing company-approved apps. The goal here is to make it as easy as possible for employees to find and use the apps that make them most productive, while also reducing "rogue" behavior (when employees using unapproved apps).

6. Don’t fret the cost. Employees are already paying for these apps or expensing them to the company. By consolidating usage into corporate accounts, you can dramatically reduce the cost per user. More importantly, these are apps your employees have already determined to be useful – meaning productivity gains will far offset any additional cost.

Related: Workers Without Borders: Managing the Remote Revolution