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The Bring Your Own Device trend, where employees bring their own tablets or smartphones to connect to the business network, is here to stay.

The reality of this is that the majority of employee-owned mobile devices also come with consumer applications already installed. As an SMB works with employees and embraces BYOD, they often unwittingly, end up embracing an avalanche of third party apps.

BYOD has now become a question of BYOA, or Bring Your Own App.

While organisations proactively look to manage the device element of this trend; the applications often go unmonitored. Microsoft has 70,000 apps in Windows Phone Marketplace; Google has 400,000 apps in Google Play; and Apple has 600,000 in the App Store. Now think of the possibility of employees downloading just 1% of this total number. Could the average SMB cope?

In order to remain proactive in the face of BYOA, SMBs need to do three main things.

1) Talk to your employees to understand what apps they are using

The BYOA trend, much like the BYOD trend, was borne of employees’ love for convenience. As employees achieve success with an app of their own finding, they tend to share it. This behaviour further accelerates the usage of apps on devices that access the SMB’s network. It’s important that SMB owners open up dialogue with employees who are driving the uptake of the trend in order to get a clearer understanding of what kind of data is being created and accessed on the business’ network. Knowing this precisely will help shape the conversation around IT policy relating to BYOA.

2) Put in place effective app security policies 

Decision makers should look to the following aspects when considering the development of an app IT policy. IT policy should:

1. Protect sensitive information

The BYOA policy should be part and parcel of a broader, solid IT security policy. It must specify what information is sensitive, the circumstances under which approved users may access sensitive information and what to do in the event of a security breach.

2. Be agile and flexible to keep pace with change

BYOD and BYOA are new phenomena and the shape they will take in the future is not predetermined. Like with all policies, there must be flexibility to ensure the SMB can remain responsive and agile in its approach to employee app usage. An organisation needs to ensure that it is ready for the challenges so that if, say, an employee brings in a rogue app, there’s an answer to how it should be dealt with.

3. Be directly linked to the benefits the trend brings for both employees and the organisation.

Effective IT policy development works to promote productivity and employee engagement. Accommodating apps can help achieve these goals and, in turn, will offer a great deal of competitive advantage – if employees are empowered they will likely be happier and more invested in the direction the company is taking.

3) Partner with the right organisations

One of the best ways a SMB can ensure the security of its employees’ app usage is through well considered partnerships between app developers and corporates. Partnerships facilitate the joint work of corporate and app development communities so that they can work together to create solutions that serve the needs of the business. SMBs should look to organisations that help them with secure, multi-platform, business ready apps. This means apps can be tailored to a specific purpose or employee working style, meeting its security requirements while also being useful and enjoyable to use. This is the effective middle ground solution to the BYOA security problem.

Ultimately, BYOA may be the initially unintended reality of BYOD but it should really be considered as an opportunity. SMBs which put the employee at the centre of the process and present them with the kind of technology options which are tailored to their needs are the companies which will remain engaging, productive and efficient.

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Marten Jagers

Marten Jagers

Marten Jagers is Director of Sales, Asia Pacific at Concur, a leading provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions.

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