Chances are, most employees working for you today have a smartphone or tablet in their briefcase when they come to work. If they’re not using their own devices to conduct business, they’re likely grumbling about their inability to do so.
The bring-your-own-device trend (BYOD) is in full swing, fueled in large part by a millennial generation with no recollection of life before the Internet and the increasing availability of affordable, powerful mobile devices. It is in an enterprise’s best interest to tap into the enthusiasm around BYOD to grow the business and secure employee satisfaction. Even businesses that supply smartphones often have policies that allow for personal downloads of applications. This company-owned, personally-enabled (COPE) trend will continue alongside BYOD.
That raises some challenges for IT. How can chief information officers guarantee data security when staff members are using their own smartphones and tablets? How can IT customize an application’s look and feel to accommodate Androids, iPhones, BlackBerrys and diverse form factors and operating systems?
And what about legacy applications? Will all of those investments get dumped to make way for mobile-ready solutions?
Here are a few BYOD points to keep in mind as you go about answering those questions for your organization:
You can’t avoid BYOD, and your business will suffer if you try. Security is often the number-one concern of businesses evaluating BYOD policies. But ironically, banning personal devices for business use actually puts a company at greater risk. It’s easy and cost-effective for employees to bypass your IT department if they’re not getting the tools they need to do their jobs well in an always-on environment. When staffers decide they can’t get what they need from IT, they often put sensitive company data in the hands of third-party cloud providers who might or might not be capable of protecting it. Increasingly, BYOD is becoming a factor in hiring, too.
The best job candidates want to know that your company will help them succeed with forward-looking technology.
Make smart security choices that support BYOD. Put data in secure clouds or on servers that facilitate access for employees who use their own smartphones and tablets. When they know they can reach this sensitive information when they need it, teams won’t be tempted to store data on their devices, which will decrease risk.
Find a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) that works for you. A MEAP gives you a single development resource for both enterprise server and mobile rich Internet applications. It also eases the BYOD burden on IT, since the MEAP enables customization for a range of user interfaces without requiring individual programming for every type of device.
Use mashups to leverage the investment in your legacy apps. Mashups pull raw data from your back office systems and use it to create actionable information for BYOD aficionados. You can keep your backend enterprise resource management (ERP), e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) systems without denying the reality of a mobile-focused, fast-paced world.
With a mashup, you can create a sophisticated, gamified user experience for employees who prefer or need to do business on mobile devices.
Remember that the entire mobile experience is different than the desktop one. You’ll call on MEAPs and mashups to create mobile applications for your BYOD users. As you do so, remember that those users have different expectations than your employees who primarily use desktop computers. While the attention span of the PC user is two to three minutes, it drops to one minute for the mobile user. That means IT needs to deliver fast, accurate data and rapid mobile action capabilities, including approvals, order submissions, location updates, information display and cross-platform updates.
The mobile workforce is here
As workers blur the lines between their business and home lives – and as mobile devices get better, cheaper and more ubiquitous – businesses need to face the realities about BYOD. Your workers want to use their devices to do their jobs better. If you don’t help them, the commoditized market beyond your IT department will fill that gap.
Gartner (News–Alert) reported that as much as 50 percent of workers will conduct business on mobile devices by the end of 2013. Desktop computers aren’t going away, but they are no longer the only game in town, and enterprises must face this reality. To meet the expectations of a more mobile workforce, IT must provide apps that are native to individual devices, integrated with existing systems and equipped to deliver critical corporate information to workers on the move.
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