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Bring Your Own App: The Benefits and Challenges of a New Trend

A big change is already taking place for businesses across the world as the proliferation of mobile technology rapidly advances. For years, companies have been trying to keep up as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has become commonplace in the work environment. Another similar trend is emerging, one taking advantage of the innovations of programmers and entrepreneurs. It’s called Bring Your Own Application (BYOA), and some experts are predicting it will surpass BYOD as the dominant movement in the office.

Whereas BYOD is when employees bring their personal devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops) in to work to perform their duties, BYOA is where employees utilize their own chosen apps that are downloaded onto their devices. The two trends are similar in nature in that employees are choosing for themselves how best to do their jobs by using the latest technology. Both strategies carry significant benefits, but they also come with potential concerns that IT departments must address.

BYOA is a result of employees looking for the right tools to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. One recent study found 37% of employees who already use apps for work are likely to spend their own money downloading apps in the next year that would help them with their jobs. 20% of employees who don’t currently use apps for work were also likely to do this. The same study found employees who use applications for work use about four apps every week. Apps have become a central part of helping employees with their jobs, resulting in more workers and businesses adopting BYOA policies.

There are many benefits businesses are seeing from BYOA. Some companies say the policies allow employees to be more productive and effective in their roles since they’re using apps they’re already familiar with. Since apps are being updated regularly, and new apps are being added to the marketplace daily, employees are also taking advantage of some of the latest innovations being offered by developers. Businesses save money since the technology and resources aren’t being paid for by the company. There’s also less need for training since employees would only use apps they know how to use.

Many companies who use BYOD policies also adopt BYOA policies since the two go hand in hand. They both allow employees to work with familiar tools of their own choosing, allowing them to do their jobs more quickly. Some businesses, however, may choose to only go with BYOD, giving them more control over what the device does and which applications it uses, even if they don’t get to restrict which devices employees bring in. IT departments must only keep track of the devices, limiting their scope and workload. With BYOA, there are many more variables to monitor, and BYOA can be even more difficult to enforce. Even so, some companies choose to go with BYOA instead of BYOD, letting employees transfer preferred apps to company-approved devices. Since so many tasks would be completed on the same apps anyway, allowing employees to use their own applications leads to many of the same benefits of BYOD without an extra layer of security questions accompanying a host of employee-chosen devices.

Whether businesses choose BYOA, BYOD, or a combination of both, the issues of data privacy and security remain the chief concerns. Some apps could bring spyware, viruses, and malware when they’re downloaded. One security firm reports seeing 11 new types of mobile malware every hour. Hackers will often try to develop apps that mimic more legitimate ones, giving them access to sensitive information on the device. Businesses need to respond to these threats when adopting Bring-Your-Own policies. Some programs found in mobile device management products put a partition between personal data and work data, while other programs are able to separate business data from the rest of the information on the device.

BYOA is already sweeping through the business world in much the same way BYOD has. Companies are seeing how employees are benefiting from using applications with which they already have experience, leading to greater productivity and more savings for the business. If companies can learn to incorporate the freedom of BYOA while addressing new security concerns, personal apps will be just another useful tool for employees.
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