Your company's employees are downloading free or inexpensive mobile productivity apps on their own steam, and IT doesn't have much control: 66% of the 322 respondents to our 2012 Mobile Security Survey allow employees to install personal applications on corporate-owned mobile devices; 27% have no restrictions in place whatsoever.
Instead of swimming against this tide, why not channel the enthusiasm? Benefits of innovative apps include less dependence on email, improved social collaboration and all-around better productivity. The main areas to wrangle are security, connectivity, compatibility with enterprise systems and back-end integration.
The best route is to maintain an active whitelist or an in-house app store where IT vets any apps that will interact with company data or networks. If that's not feasible:
1. Realize that the best productivity apps select themselves. Users won't like a kludgy, nonintuitive app, no matter how secure or manageable, so don't try and push poorly designed tools. Our new report, "App Dev in the Age of Mobility," runs down device platforms, design choices and development tools and options, and offers recommendations for those interested in mobilizing enterprise applications and business processes.
2. Have an open-door (or in-box) policy. Encourage users to run potential apps by IT. It's better to know up front what's going on devices than to be surprised. At a minimum, investigate what assets the app will access and looks for security red flags. In our report on BYOD strategies, we discuss how to build a resilient, scalable enterprise plan based on virtualization and mobile device management technology.
3. Consider a managed service that can provide security around the mobile apps in use, says Chris Marsh, senior enterprise mobility analyst at Yankee Group. "These services can restrict, for example, whether Skype users can share corporate data. In this way, IT won't be preventing people from using mobile apps but rather making sure security is in place to prevent sharing corporate data," Marsh said.
There are 40 to 50 mobile device management/managed mobile service providers in the market, from Dell and IBM to incumbent security vendors like McAfee to cloud-based MDM players like Virtela. "These companies enable the enterprise to impose policies and mobile security to protect its data," Marsh said. We run down a number of options in our MDM Buyer's Guide.