Is a lack of enterprise apps killing BYOD?

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Bring-your-own-device policies in the workplace often pit employee satisfaction and privacy against corporate security. And as the number of employees and companies participating in BYOD programs continues to fall, can enterprise apps be the linchpin of BYOD success in the workplace?

As BYOD hangs on as an acceptable way to arm your employees with their own technology, companies need to make sure that employees can work seamlessly on those devices. One way to do that – and give employers some control of where their data goes – is through enterprise apps. 

Getting those apps right can be tricky, but are crucial in putting a good – and legally sound – BYOD policy in place, even as employees still bristle at their bosses being able to perhaps peer into the personal side of those devices. 

Enterprise apps hold a balance

From an employee standpoint, the top BYOD enterprise app concern is privacy: Will my personal information on that device be shielded from my boss? And can my boss wipe the phone without my OK? According to a recent survey conducted by Bitglass, 57 percent of employees – and 38 percent of IT professionals – do not participate in a company's BYOD program because they don't want employers to have visibility of their personal data and applications

From an employer standpoint, a main concern is security. How do I make sure that the data that hits those devices doesn't go somewhere else? And if the device is stolen, that my corporate data doesn't end up in nefarious hands? 

BYOD policies are an "interplay between users who want convenience between their own device and management that's concerned with control and understanding where their corporate and sensitive information is going," says Andrew Hinkes, counsel at Berger Singerman law firm in Ft. Lauderdale. 

[Related: BYOD brings corporate contradictions] 

Most good BYOD policies, he adds – and those that will avoid future legal troubles – strike a balance. Enterprise apps can make holding that balance easier because they "attempt to bring some kind of order to the chaos. They allow the company to have a place to centrally manage resource allocation with respect to the incursion or presence on the user's device," he says. "Enterprise management apps allow central location to determine upon which devices they intend to exercise some level of control, what type of control and when." 

Consumerized user experience

The best enterprise apps used along with BYOD will think of the employee the same way a retailer would think of a customer. Users should have the same experience as when they buy apps for personal use, says Sri Ramanathan, CTO of Kony, an enterprise app mobility company. 

"Most people are used to certain level of experience with consumer apps, and with enterprise apps they expect the same level of experience," he says. That means you don't just need flawless design of how the apps work on each kind of device, but that the enrollment process and internal app store need to be user friendly too. Another must: that apps work offline.

[Related: BYOD – the tech revolution that wasn’t] 

Apps must also integrate internal data into the consumerzied experience, says Steve Moss, mobile secure global manager at Capgemini Mobile Solutions. This can be tricky for companies that have legacy systems. "When they try to put these types of applications or this type of data out to end users, the biggest challenge most companies see is how to convert that data into something usable on a mobile devices that users are comfortable using." 

Cloud shift

The Bitglass report found employee pushback against BYOD and apps put onto their personal devices. While one in three apps have the ability to take control of a device, 67 percent of respondents said they would participate in a BYOD program if employers had the ability to protect corporate data but couldn't view, alter or delete personal data and applications. Also, 64 percent of IT professionals surveyed believe such a solution would make BYOD programs more successful.

Moss expects more companies – especially those with legacy systems – to adopt BYOD and enterprise solutions as they move to the cloud because it will "make the adoption of this type of enterprise app easier for companies," he says, adding that it'll make the cost to get in the game a lot cheaper.

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