Aussie IT depts lost on how to handle BYO apps



news Australian IT departments are “ill-prepared” to handle the massive influx of employee-sourced applications such as Dropbox, Skype and Evernote that are “storming” into their operations and being used by staff to improve their personal productivity, according to a new report produced by analyst firm Telsyte.

The firm recently conducted a survey of Australia’s enterprise mobility market, querying more than 460 chief information officers and ICT decision-makers on their organisations’ approach to the bring your own device (BYOD) and bring your own app (BYOA) trends which have swept into Australian workplaces.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Australian enterprises now have staff that use personal apps for work and businesses are struggling to keep up with this phenomenon which is set to overtake BYOD as a strategic IT change.

The findings specifically showed that 27 percent of organisations allow staff to use any personal mobile or cloud app for work purposes without any restrictions. A similar number allow BYOA from an approved catalogue of apps and a smaller set of businesses do not allow it, but CIOs concede staff go ahead and do it anyway.

Among companies that allow, or tolerate, BYOA, 30 per cent of staff actively use personal apps for work purposes indicating a high groundswell of interest. Some 34 per cent of businesses do not allow BYOA at all and enforce it with tactical approaches like management tools or other means.

In a statement issued last week, Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda said there is a lot of interest in the BYOD trend, but many organisations have overlooked the apps that enter the workplace on personal devices. “Couple this with thousands of mobile apps, for both personal and business handsets, and the plethora of cloud services available via mobile devices and the Web, and people are creating a new form of shadow-IT with BYOA,” Gedda said.

According to Telsyte research, popular BYOA software used for business include: data backups and storage (Dropbox, iCloud); calendaring; collaboration (GoToMeeting, WebEx); voice communications (Skype); project and task management (Remember the Milk); productivity (Pages, QuickOffice Pro); multimedia; and note taking (Evernote).

According to the analyst firm, local businesses could take advantage of the emerging BYOA trend by allowing staff to be productive with public software, however, in many cases this will need to be balanced with the security and integration requirements of corporate IT. If businesses ban BYOA outright they will miss out on productivity and innovation that comes with people managing their own IT requirements.

Telsyte research indicates data privacy and security are the number one challenges cited by CIOs arising from staff adopting “Bring You Own” IT – both devices and apps. Nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s IT departments have no plans to officially support BYOA, further indicating the lack of readiness for this emerging social trend.

Some of the report’s other fundings include the fact smartphones are now the preferred business device, with 80 percent of existing organisation-owned mobile handsets being smartphones; that 84 percent of organisations have ICT and processes in place for people to become a mobile worker; and that 44 percent of organisations currently support BYOD a figure that is set to grow rapidly with 34% of organisations that currently do not support BYOD, planning to adopt within in two years.

Email access was the number one factor driving BYOD, while data privacy and security are the top challenges with BYO cited by ICT decision makers. Around a quarter of Australian businesses currently use a dedicated MDM solution, more than doubling in 12 months. And finally, the MDM vendor space remains fragmented with BlackBerry the most implemented followed by AirWatch, MobileIron, Good Technology and SAP.

I am completely unsurprised by this. When I worked for major corporations in the past, I was able to be significantly more productive than I would have been otherwise through the use of many of the same “shadow IT” apps which Telsyte mentioned — Dropbox for file storage and sharing, Skype and other IM apps (I also include Twitter on this; it’s a type of public IM) for communication, Firefox and Chrome for web browsing and even audio editing and storage programs such as Audacity. I even had to install the GIMP occasionally when I couldn’t get access to Photoshop. I still use all of these apps today and more.

Much of the common thread between these apps is that they are often open source or available for free. Sometimes, as with Dropbox and Skype, the free versions act as an advertisement for corporate products and/or services.

Young people (that is, people below 40 or so, which isn’t actually that young) often take the availability of these apps as a certainty, because they are free and easily available, just as they take it as a given that they can use their iPhone and their MacBook for (and at) work. I and a lot of other people have been saying for a long time that organisations that don’t cater for this will find their employees are not incentivised to work very productively (government organisations being a very good example of this), and that ultimately they may not be able to hire the staff they are looking for due to their inflexibility.

Telsyte also raises another issue: Data integrity and security. Personally I think the #1 way to handle this is to get some formal processes in place. Get out in front of the situation by proactively deploying corporate IM, corporate cloud computing storage (Box), corporate supported alternative web browsers, corporate MDM, corporate social networking and so on. Make sure new employees are introduced to them as part of the official company on-boarding process.

It’s the only way to ensure that even a modicum of control is put around these apps; and official support for these apps may even encourage less technically adept staff to start using them.


  1. IT operations do need to mimic the characteristics of the Cloud in terms of user a experience. I think that many organisations see ‘social’ as fad, don’t want to spend money updating their systems or have zero vision. It is not a choice. Doing ‘social’ or ‘collaboration’ must now be integral to ICT planning.

    People want to use their own stuff but Social Media is a problem from many aspects and not a suitable medium for all the things people want to in a work context.

    Having information flow onto remote servers of an organisation you don’t have any commercial relationship with is an obvious commercial risk. What if an employee puts commercially sensitive information on these servers and the provider says they own everything on their servers? No one knows what happens to this information, if it is on-sold, aggregated, mined for information, etc. They are also losing knowledge if it is stored elsewhere and not captured on company servers.

    Over time organisations will create their own ‘ecosystems’ to maintain and manage their own data.

  2. People so often rush to cloud storage to make any content become mobile, yet it’s not the only answer. I think it’s a lazy and dangerous practice.

    The reality is that using public cloud storage is a really bad answer to the mobility problem, yet because it’s so easy for users to download and start using them, the enterprise leaks like sieve.

    Using cloud storage in general isn’t a great answer either because of versioning conflicts, and the hidden costs of duplicated administration to ensure file security/permissions are maintained, extra work process to uploading files, the risks of hacking (cloud storage being a target rich environment for IP theft), etc.

    We are currently getting close to the end of a trial with a product called AsdeqDocs that doesn’t use any form of duplicated storage to sync the files to the device. They have good support in Australia. We’re liking their solution and I suggest companies check it out before looking at cloud storage options.

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