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Apr 18 2013

There is only one way to achieve BYOD nirvana…

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The year of 2012 was an important year for enterprise mobility management, where many start-up companies and large organizations put their stakes on the ground competing for a share in this $180 million market that is increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 15% to 20% during the next few years, according to industry analysts.

Early adopters of the technologies available have already recognized how transformative and fast paced the enterprise mobility management market really is. Some analysts and enterprise mobility experts are already paving a way out of MDM (Mobile Device Management) saying it’s a too heavy-handed approach to secure mobile applications and data, where IT literally take control of employee-owned mobile devices. To this point, there are lighter-handed MDM options available on the market that offer a good degree of control without being too intrusive.

The market answer is to move to a mobile app centric approach, the MAM (Mobile Application Management), where a number of different technologies and approaches are used to secure mobile apps and enforce polices and security. Some of the technologies in use by MAM are app wrapping, app secure VPN and even SDK driven app frameworks where mobile apps are developed on top of a framework that manipulate and handle security.

MAM usually supports custom-built enterprise mobile apps that have been built specifically to use the MAM vendor’s API; or in a more light-handed approach it will require the app to be wrapped with the MAM technology.

According to a Dec, 2012 research from the Yankee Group, employee-owned tablets used for work purposes has grown 16% from 2011 to 2012. This demonstrates not only that mobility in general is full steam ahead, but also that employees want to use mobile technologies to be more productive.

To get work done employees will look for apps that make them more productive, and if those are not available in the corporate app store they will likely go outside to find a new app the suits their ‘business’ needs. This has happened before with file-synchronization engines and is currently happening with note-taking apps.

If the app is not available in the corporate app store it’s possible that organizational content is created or moved to cloud services. On the offensive, vendors are exploring this market, enabling content sharing with added security features for corporate customers. However, if an employee wants to use a different service, or if tomorrow there’s a better app that will make them more productive, nothing will stop them from moving data or creating content using non-approved corporate apps and services.

Just like MDM, MAM is focusing on the security aspects of who is using the app, leaving a security gap that delineates the usage boundaries for the data. These boundaries reflect what and how employees are allowed to access and share data, independent of application or device.

A 2012 Forrester research suggests that 70% of the corporations want to use mobility to allow document viewing and employee access to portals, email and calendar. More than 52% of the organizations surveyed have implemented or are expanding video and photo application activities. The research goes into more detail, but the point I want to make is that line-of-business mobile applications are not high priority in most organization’s agendas.

Even if LOB mobile apps are responsible for a huge market, we need to ask the following question – What fraction of LOB mobile apps will require security around it to prevent data leakage? In many cases a simple photo taken or a screen-grab would circumvent the security mechanisms. However, we need to remember that MDM and MAM are not just about security as they also embrace life-cycle and deployment of mobile apps.

There are LOB mobile apps being used today for data input in select market verticals, and they are being adopted at fast pace. Some well-known use cases are: delivery and drivers (acknowledgements, routing and GPS), insurance (photos and forms), road-warriors (ordering and search) and finance (market watch and real-time statistics). A large amount of the devices carried by road-warriors are corporate-owned and many of them are specially reinforced devices to cope with heavy-duty operation. If devices are corporate-owned, then both MDM and MAM are practical solutions.

The same Forrester research demonstrates that 28% of the organizations that answered to the survey already allow employees to use any non-harmful application or device and they DO provide some support for the item, a 13% increase from 2011 to 2012.

 

I personally like the idea that ANY mobile app should be fully embraced by organizations, enabling the “True BYOD”.

Organizations need to worry about is who is accessing the data and what can be done with it. An app downloaded from iTunes, Google Play or Ubuntu store could have access to corporate data, but data could be geo-tagged not allowing it do be consumed from unauthorized areas, data could be meta tagged not allowing it to be consumed under specific conditions or by specific devices, data could be tagged with mechanics of how it can be shared across apps etc.

Allowing employees to use with their own mobile apps with content management doesn’t eliminate risks associated with content being intentionally moved or created outside the enterprise, but it gives options to employees to do the right thing.

Enterprises feel they must control consumerization and users, however unless they fully embrace the idea of content tagging and accepting that any mobile app can be used by employees to make them more productive we will never reach the BYOD nirvana.

Nothing I am writing here is new and all that has been talked and discussed before. We as an industry are not quite there yet, but as Aaron Levie (BOX CEO and Founder), mentioned in a tweet: “The product that wins is the one that bridges customers to the future, not the one that required a giant leap.”

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The opinions expressed anywhere on this article or this blog are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employer.

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