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Q & A: a closer look at BYOA, device security, and the future of work

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By Alex Bennett: Senior Vice President, Go-to-market, Customer Experience & Digital Workplace and Jeremy Scrivens: Director of The Emotional Economy at Work 

Whether they use social media platforms to chat with colleagues or free file sharing platforms to host documents, today’s employees are bringing the apps they use in their personal lives to work. This Bring Your Own App (BYOA) phenomenon is the latest sign that the line between work and life is blurring, and companies need to support this change if they want to get the most from their people.

This is a positive development, but it also raises new questions about how to empower people while also managing the use of third-party software. Dimension Data’s Alex Bennett, Group SVP Go-to-market: CX & Workplace Productivity, sat down with Futurist Jeremy Scrivens to discuss the implications of BYOA and the ways in which companies can help their employees to do the best job possible, as easily as possible.

Alex Bennett – BYOA is an extension of the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon that goes back several years now. The smartphone broke down boundaries between home life, work life and everything in between, and now people are taking this further by using the best possible tools to do their jobs, be they apps provided by the business or personal ones.

Jeremy Scrivens – Absolutely true. New attitudes to technology have raised a fundamental question that every business should be asking itself – what is work? The nine-to-five day is a thing of the past.  People work more flexibly, and they want an environment that caters to their preferences rather than being held back by traditional ways of working.

When employees spend more time trying to get things to work than actually working, you have a problem. That’s why I work with organisations like the UK’s people first, which offers a platform that gives employees access to all their apps all the time, whether for work, play, or both.

AB – Of course, progress doesn’t happen overnight. We’re still seeing many businesses struggle to adapt because their technology systems weren’t built to support new ways of working. The word “digitised” comes up in many of our conversations with clients, but only 39% have a formal vision of how they will digitise their workplace to better support their staff.

This is a major driver behind BYOA – companies are pushing out technology without fully understanding how it can empower an individual or a team to better perform their roles.

JS – That’s right, companies need to evolve their thinking. In today’s world, we first need to ask ourselves which apps and resources employees need to perform at a high level. The business’ IT then needs to be engineered around these applications, rather than the other way around.

AB – Part of their hesitation is understandable though. Security and identity management are major concerns for organisations today. There is perceived danger around people using third-party apps as this exposes the business to outside data access and employee negligence. So many data breaches come down to human error, and even if these are accidental the consequences can be major. Add to this compliance and looming data protection regulation like GDPR, and it’s no wonder companies have reservations about trusting their sensitive information to other organisations.

Thankfully, security continues to evolve in line with the way people use their devices. We’re shifting to systems that deliver protection and compliance at the application and device level, and not just defending the corporate perimeter.  Security is becoming more granular, allowing companies to monitor data byte by byte on a huge scale.

JS – At the same time, businesses need to find the balance and avoid turning into big brother. How do you choose when to push the record button on or off? That’s not an easy question to answer, but as we move towards a more open way of working, my hope is that we will put faith in our people.

I also understand that it will take some time before we get there, but employers and their staff need to work together to drive change in a way that is mutually beneficial, engages employees, and helps drive risk down.

When it comes to BYOA, it’s worth reiterating that this begins by asking what the best apps and platforms are for doing the job, and then reverse-engineering a roadmap that ensures the business can get there securely. This goes against traditional ways of working, and it will take a collaborative approach across the organisation to make it happen.

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