Remember when we used to worry about users choosing their own apps? Is that even a thing anymore?

This post was originally published on May 11, 2015. I'm republishing it today because we talked about consumerization on the BrianMadden.

This post was originally published on May 11, 2015. I'm republishing it today because we talked about consumerization on the podcast this week, and I wanted to share this post with more readers.

“Bring Your Own App” is one of those enterprise mobility concepts that gets thrown around, but really needs to be unpacked and examined. 

For this conversation, I’m considering BYO App to be a subset of consumerization of IT and shadow IT. Like BYOD, the idea behind it is that users can find their own tools to get their jobs done. The result can often be unsecured, non-compliant, and data-leaking apps that IT has to either block or figure out some way to bring into the fold. Sounds like a big problem, right?

Or not. Sure, we still have shadow IT as well as users that do dumb things, but just like we’ve realized that BYOD is actually a set of tangible, solvable issues, we can say the same thing about BYO App. It’s just not a huge deal.

First, with all the advancements in EMM and enterprise mobility in general, the gap between what users want their mobile work experience to be and what IT can provide is way smaller than it used to be. It’s 2015. We have Dropbox for Business, Evernote for Business, official Microsoft Office apps for iOS and Android, and everyone knows about EMM. Bottom line: many of the reasons why users were driven to find their own apps in the past are now gone.

Along with these new tools and enterprise-friendly apps, attitudes in IT are changing. We’re more comfortable with mobility and cloud services, and have more enlightened ideas about dealing with shadow IT. In a few short years we’ll be a whole decade into the modern mobility era. We get it.

We also realize there are some battles we can’t win. When it comes to data that users create on their own—often note-taking, collaboration, or document creation—we know that IT was never really in complete control anyway. All IT can do is provide the appropriate tools and hope for “data ingestion,” as David Stafford puts it. (And the good news is that these days there are many great enterprise-oriented mobile tools for IT to turn to.)

Another important lesson is that we can’t “manage” a consumer app into being an enterprise app. iOS and now Android both come with built-in frameworks that can add enterprise management policies to literally any app. However, if an app wasn’t intended for the enterprise and has built-in sharing features and cloud integrations, our controls will be inelegant at best. That’s okay though, because we’ve also realized we don’t need an enterprise-controlled version of every app!

One potential way to actually enable BYO App is through MAM ecosystems or DLP / rights management / “mobile information management” systems that can protect enterprise data. The idea is that ISVs can build apps that are compatible with one of these systems, and that users can have a degree of choice. As long as the app chosen is compatible, users can access their enterprise data and at the same time IT can enforce policies as desired. The problem is that right now most of these systems are limited to fairly small numbers of apps.

Of course just because many of these issues are solved in theory, I’m not saying everything is perfect and BYO App is a complete non-issue. Like I said, we still have shadow IT and users that put the enterprise at risk. And even though there are so many new enterprise app options out there, they take time, money, and forward-thinking commitment to embrace.

But thanks to all these developments, BYO App is not the huge problem it used to be. We can move on to solving other enterprise mobility issues—and most importantly, mobilizing more enterprise applications.

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The important thing is setting the right expectations. If you embrace BYOD, you better cover yourself so that user expectations are clear.  There has to be standards and support agreements.  I've seen people bring unsupported devices and expect IT to help them upgrade their device.  I've had people try to use their iPod Touch as their mobile device.  BYOD imo has backfired on many IT depts that embraced it at first but end up paying a hard lesson.  You can't make everyone happy if you let users dictate the terms.  In many cases companies expect IT to fix their user problems.  When they get the invoices that are necessary to upgrade or implement MDM solutions.  That's when they realize their mistake then scale back on BYOD.

You can keep cutting IT jobs but it won't make user support of BYOD easy without the user support agreements in place.


^^^ This is why shadow IT exists.

Users WILL dictate the terms and a "user support agreement" = IT staff employment contract.