IT departments in the age of mobile computing must adapt to newly empowered users who select not only their own devices but their applications as well. This adapation — as difficult as it may seem — has a strong benefit: Enabling a modern workforce, said Maribel Lopez, president of Lopez Research at the AppNation conference last week in San Francisco.
“You can look at it [from the perspective that] BYOD is taking control away from IT, or you can look at it as it’s an opportunity to mobilize your entire business that you would have never been able to afford before because you wouldn’t have bought the devices and you wouldn’t have wanted to manage them,” Lopez said. Her advice to IT: “Accept that BYOD is happening and build a plan around it — how to manage it, how to secure it, how to get apps to devices.”
Users are bringing in their own devices and choosing applications such as Box.net for file sharing and DocuSign for electronic document signatures, without waiting for IT signoff, noted Ken Singer, CEO of MDM (mobile device management) provider AppCentral. “CMOs and CEOs were coming in with their own iPads and demanding that the IT departments support these devices.”
Such pressures mean a new reality for IT, a reality many will not like, Singer said. He likened IT’s crumbling power vis à vis mobile adoption to last year’s “Arab spring,” in which people in Middle Eastern countries rose up against entrenched, autocratic leaders. “IT is struggling with how to address this, how to look at this, and what they should do to respond because they can’t simply say yes to everything,” he said. “They can’t manage it all.”
IT must understand that businesspeople are going to build applications, with mobile applications serving as a catalyst for changes, said Ojas Rege, vice president of products and marketing at MDM provider MobileIron. “In the past, the business wanted apps, but they just didn’t have the mechanism to build them.” Instead, they had to rely on line-of-business applications, such as SAP or Siebel. “Now, it’s really easy for them to go and build them or buy them,” Rege said.
IT is concerned that such “foreign” apps create security risks, but Lopez said that MDM and mobile application management tools can let IT departments be more flexible about such apps. However, she argued that flexibility did not mean a free-for-all: “Some apps today are not appropriate.”