According to Unisys’ 2012 New Zealand “Consumerisation of IT” research into enterprise mobility, conducted by Forrester Consulting, while many large organisations see smartphones, tablets and employee-owned devices in the workplace as inevitable, the majority are lagging in providing employees with more than basic (email/calendar) mobile applications to take advantage of this new mobility.
The report says that this “shortfall of support” is leading employees to download unauthorised apps (BYO apps) even when this constitutes grounds for dismissal.
A total of 24 percent of NZ employees said that they had downloaded unauthorised mobile apps or PC software. The most common reason given for doing so – cited by 62 percent of respondents – was that they needed the software for work purposes and their employer didn’t provide an alternative.
The most common apps downloaded by New Zealand employees are video conferencing tools such as Skype or FaceTime (24 percent of respondents), file sharing such as Box or Dropbox (29 percent), and chat tools such as Microsoft Messenger or Google Talk (24 percent).
Unisys says many employees say that they are using these apps to conduct work with customers, partners and/or suppliers, not just for personal reasons or to communicate with each other.
“The findings show that as part of their increased mobility, employees are increasingly seeking tools for better collaboration and customer service – whether or not those tools are sanctioned by their employers, ” says Rob Dewar, vice president, Technology, Consulting and Integration Services, Unisys Australia and New Zealand.
“However, their behaviour is risky because an easily available app could contain malicious code and be used as a vehicle to steal data, spy or access a network. This behaviour can also lead to operational inefficiency and complicate end-user support if numerous employees are using too many different applications,” he adds.
According to the survey, the primary strategy taken by employers to manage BYO apps has been to ban them, often with harsh penalties. Twenty percent of New Zealand organisations surveyed say that they have an IT policy prohibiting the downloading of third party applications. A total of 70 percent say that downloading unauthorised software is prohibited or even potential grounds for dismissal.
“The key for security-sensitive organisations is to deliver a compelling app suite to their employees via controlled methods, such as a dedicated app store, so that users don’t need to come up with workaround methods to access applications they feel are necessary to do their jobs productively. Those organisations would do well to consult with their most innovative, productive mobile workers to determine what type of apps they require and then select or build them based on functionality and security. Of course, that approach needs to be combined with clear policies on application use and an education program around the security implications of third-party apps,” adds Dewar.