Companies tend to go through a mobile growth cycle that starts with locking down everything, but eventually reaches a point where they're actively developing and managing secure apps on devices. Getting there usually takes some time, but as mobile devices proliferate in the enterprise companies are going to have to grow up fast.
Speaking at the Gilbane Conference last week, Cimarron Buser, VP of business development at Apperian, walked the audience through this process. Buser said most companies start with the lockdown mentality. In the beginning, everyone handed out Blackberries and kept the enterprise under control, but that has changed over time.
Dan Keldsen, who is principal at Information Architected, and who hosted the talk at Gilbane, says Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has really forced companies to rethink this lockdown approach and find a better balance between user and company requirements.
"Enterprise mobility, from the perspective of the company, and from the individual person, in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) world, has some interesting challenges. As [Buser] discussed in the panel/presentation, there is a growth curve, or maturity curve, that is pulling at the seams between what the organization is comfortable with, and what employees are willing to put up with," Keldsen said.
As a formerly paranoid security guy, Keldsen understands why companies feel a need to lock it down, but he says that IT is not necessarily serving the interests of users if they do this -- and all companies need to come to this understanding.
"Companies, understandably, start with security as a very restrictive, blunt instrument. It's easy to understand, it's easy to put in place, it's cheap -- but unfortunately, it's not really enough to make yourself totally secure.. And more to the point, a severe lock-down not only locks out and protects against attackers, but it also prevents employees from being able to do their job effectively," Keldsen explained.
That's the kicker, because while these mobile devices might be security risks, they are also have great potential to increase productivity by giving employees access to applications and content wherever they are.
Once companies begin to open the doors to BYOD and the advantages it brings, the mindset changes naturally, Buser explained, and you start to see companies developing mobile apps. He said one Apperian customer built an iPhone app to optimize a workflow around an approval process. A process that used to take two weeks of back and forth emails was reduced to a couple of days.
Keldsen says that ultimately it doesn't matter what IT does once users have these mobile devices in hand -- there are so many tools available for mobile devices that users can easily work around whatever roadblocks IT tries to throw their way (short of total lockdown of course). He says instead, company IT departments need to find ways to work with users by providing them the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
"For the BYOD scenarios, frankly, it's insulting to the intelligence and bank account of an employee to assume that the organization should be able to lock down the use of their own device. If you want to take a reasonable security approach and enable employees to take advantage of what mobility provides, it's time to think smarter security that is an enabler of business, rather than a disabler of risk," Keldsen said.
And Buser said as companies continue up the growth curve that's exactly what happens as companies deploy the apps they've built and eventually find a way to secure and manage these apps. Buser says that the enterprise mobile industry has yet to reach full maturity.
"There is a maturity model in every industry. Mobile is not quite mature yet," he said. But whether you build one app or you're building a whole enterprise suite, he says it's about enabling as many people in the organization as possible to take advantage of the mobile devices by giving them access to the tools they need to do their jobs in a way that's as secure as possible.
As Keldsen says, over the past couple of years mobile devices have forced us to to rethink the nature of work, and the way that technology and access is secured or relaxed. If companies are going to make the most of the power in users' hands, they may have to find their way up that maturity curve a bit faster than planned.