BYOD is an Application Strategy

I borrowed the title for today’s post from a Gartner Report that was published in November 2013. The report is worth a read as it covers in more detail some of the things I’m just going to skate over.

Wintry Walk on Fare Snape FellReferring back to my Concept Map on BYOD, again, it was quite clear to me that the value of BYOD comes from the choice of device and, more importantly, the choice of applications.

It’s my opinion that the choice of application aspect should be the one keeping organisations awake at night. It’s applications that control data and it’s data where the value is. If you are going to hack into a device it’s because of the valuable data that it contains.

In today’s working environment an organisation can no longer expect to have control of the people undertaking an activity nor the equipment that they use to undertake the activity. Outsourcing, off-shoring and globalisation have put an end to that. The best that an organisation can hope for is that the activity is undertaken with an appropriate set of tools and that the data is stored in a location with an appropriate form of availability, performance, access control and security.

If the activity is going to be undertaken using an appropriate application and the data stored in an appropriate data store then both the application and data store need to be compelling to the person undertaking the activity. If it’s not compelling they’ll just do their own thing. Business applications didn’t used to have to worry too much about being compelling, but now they do and the measure of a compelling for an application is defined by the consumer environment.

The consumer applications are compelling because of a number of factors:

  • Mobile first: No one would dream of building a consumer application without it being mobile. That’s where all of the volume is and all of the attention to.
  • Social: Consumer applications of all shapes and sizes are integrated into the on-line social experience. Add a file to Dropbox and have it appear in your Facebook timeline.
  • Multi-platform access: If you are building a consumer application you want as many eyeballs as possible able to use it on as many different devices as possible. You might start with mobile, but you’ll soon move onto browser too and not just one browser.
  • Anywhere access: The combination of mobile first and multi-platform access is that consumer applications are expected to be available anywhere. I expect the same big screen experience at my house as I do in the office, the same for the small screen experience. Likewise, I expect the data to be available wherever I am.
  • Current platforms: Applications in the consumer space need to work on all of the current platforms and specifically on all of the current browsers. It’s just not acceptable any-more to put “runs best on Browser XYZ V6.x” (not that it ever was).
  • Seamless updating: Because of the need to stay with current platforms consumer applications are constantly updating and most of the time seamlessly. There’s no room for a 6 month testing cycle in a small group of people in the organisation.
  • Frequent feature updates: Corporate applications are regularly deployed and left alone for years. Consumer applications are updating features all of the time, even if it’s just look-and-fell elements. The consumer application needs to stay constantly fresh.
  • Integrated identity: There’s a growing expectation that the identity source for consumer applications will be one of the primary internet identity sources – Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID.
  • Cloud storage: In order to support the multi-platform and anywhere access requirements most consumer applications make use of cloud stores and storage owned and controlled by the application.
  • Generous storage allocations: The use of cloud storage allows consumer application providers to provision generous storage allocations. Take file storage as an example and you’ll see a constant battle between Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Box and DropBox for the amount of free storage and the cost of incremental storage above the free limit.

There aren’t many corporate applications that come close to these capabilities and that’s why people are choosing not to use them. In short, corporate applications just aren’t compelling enough. As an example, the drive of WhatsApp to be the most used mobile messaging application hasn’t just been from the consumer, there are plenty of corporate users there too, because the business provided messaging platforms aren’t engaging enough.

Organisations need to think very seriously about the application strategy that enables the required activity and provides a compelling application environment to make it productive. Sometimes this will mean co-opting the consumer applications; Evernote Business is an example of this  as is DropBox Business. Sometimes it will be the corporate applications going external and competing in the consumer environment; Microsoft’s attempts with Office 365 is one of few examples. Sometimes though organisations are going to need to develop and to deliver their own applications, but they will need to provide experiences that are compelling.

BYOD really is an application strategy, but, and it’s quite a big but, the application strategy is only half of the story without an associated data strategy. I think that’s a post for another day.

One thought on “BYOD is an Application Strategy”

  1. The other app dimension driving change in addition to OS is the micro-app focused on the needs of a particular work-style. These micro apps still connecting to the enterprise application but the a apps being functionally tuned for specific needs.


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