Overcoming apps conflicts

This year could be the one in which chief information officers go from zero to hero, according to Andrew Fox, head of mobility at SAP ANZ.

SAP had been actively promoting ways of overcoming the conflicts associated with workers bringing their own devices to the workplace and expecting them to be connected to the work IT system.

Late last year, SAP released 24 apps to help chief information officers deal with the growing demands from workers. Those apps allowed people using their own devices to request leave, check employment details and get access to work documents and management applications.

"This year we expect major demand from the customers and these apps will be flying out the door. It is so easy to do. Instead of CIOs running a couple of years behind the business, they will be well in front.

"They will become heroes in their area," Mr Fox told Signal.

The trend of bringing own devices to work and wanting them connected to the work network started with "middle-aged workers" who were sick and tired of the devices dished out by the company.

Those workers started bringing in Nokia devices with Symbian and BlackBerry smart phones. The next step was the introduction of iPhones, where workers wanted to bring a device to work that had on it their music, photos, videos and social networking.

"Now, we are seeing Gen-Y workers coming in with their plans they are not letting go of on their Androids. It is a different cultural environment."

Mr Fox cited the experience of one of his sons, who worked in a retail outlet. The employer invariably left messages about work rosters on the wrong landline. His son had approached the employer and asked for an app that would allow the rosters to be sent direct to the phone.

"Apps have to be so simple they don't require training. If they can't use it, they will delete it."

Businesses needed to change their culture as more Gen-Y employees were hired, as BYOD (bring your own device) was starting to snowball, he said.

"We are right at the beginning of a cultural shift."

SAP started down the path of letting its employees bring their own devices to work but stopped when some legal issues arose. A worker left SAP and SAP wiped the phone.

The company was issued with a "please explain" notice, Mr Fox, who has a master's degree in law from Cambridge University, said.

It was a strange world of IT when the first questions being asked were by lawyers. However, it was essential to work out strict policy guidelines.

SAP had the employee's phone under management but the only way to control it when he left was to wipe it.

SAP also found that not every device was safe to use on its own network.

"It is irresponsible to say, `bring any device', because with the best will in the world, not every device can be controlled."

Apple, Nokia and Microsoft devices were manageable, but Androids were banned, as they had not proved to be hacker-proof. The use of iCloud was also not allowed until SAP had resolved safety issues with Apple, he said.

The issues surrounding Android devices were important to solve because big clients, such as the United States military, used Android on devices issued to personnel. It came down to adding security to the systems, Mr Fox said.

That security came through the use of "Afaria", which had built up a solid reputation over the past 15 to 16 years for mobile device management and security.

One of the largest users of Afaria was the US Census, but Afaria was also being used for train timetable updates through points systems.

"With the arrival of smart phones and tablets, Afaria hit its sweet spot, as it manages those as well. It allows people to bring devices and connect them safely to the company network."

Afaria could be used on a device to separate an employee's personal and work apps. If the employee left, the company could just wipe the company apps and data and leave the personal data intact, he said.

Afaria supports all sorts of apps, from management tools down to direct store orders business reporting tools.

Also, a black list prevented unwanted apps being downloaded.



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