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6/14/2011
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Bring Your Own Device: IT Control Struggles Continue

When personal phones and tablets walk into the enterprise, many IT groups insist on onerous lockdown agreements and the ability to wipe devices, says an AppCentral survey.

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Bring your own device policies are now pervasive for smartphone and tablet applications, with 97% of employers allowing employees to access corporate data on their own devices. But one-quarter of them require employees to agree to a device "lockdown" policy in the process, according to a survey released this week.

That highlights a "misalignment of attitudes and policies on managing enterprise mobility," according to mobile app management vendor AppCentral, which conducted the online survey of 300 IT and mobile professionals.

"When it comes to wanting to control a device, IT departments are still struggling for the right tone to set," AppCentral CEO Ken Singer said in an interview. "A lot of them are making employees sign onerous agreements that say we get to wipe your device if you leave the company." Yet, because these are personal devices containing personal data like contacts and photos, "that's not really a policy people want to enforce."

The tension comes from trends like the rising use of iPads and tablets in healthcare, where for example hospitals typically don't provide the devices to doctors because the doctors are independent contractors rather than employees. Hospitals see the value in providing mobile access, but at the same time they have intense security concerns about access to patient data, Singer said. So if they allow data to be loaded on the device at all, they want to be able to wipe it at a moment's notice.

AppCentral has a vested interest in promoting a different approach, centered around managing applications and the data they generate or access, rather than managing the whole device. One of the ways it is promoting that approach in healthcare is through a partnership with Happtique, a website created by a subsidiary of the Greater New York Hospital Association to catalog mobile apps for healthcare and allow healthcare institutions to create their own app stores.

"While the device is not the hospital's to manage, the apps used by its professionals in the provision of care must be," Happtique President Corey Ackerman said in a statement. "Happtique is leveraging AppCentral to help provide medical professionals the freedom to use their own devices while enabling institutions to ensure that sensitive patient data and apps are properly managed and secured."

Singer said one statistic from the survey that surprised him was that 60% of respondents said their organizations were developing at least one mobile app for internal use. "I expected it to be about half that," he said. While he knows that is something all of his customers are doing, he was surprised to get such a strong response from a more general survey. "When you just ask people openly to respond to a survey and get a 60% response, you know you've hit on something that's gone beyond the saturation point," he said.

Other survey results:

-- Target users for internally developed applications included sales (47%), executive support (46%), field services (43%), IT (32%), and other departments (30%).

-- A majority of companies reported a need to deploy apps on at least three major platforms: iOS (57%), RIM (66%), and Android (50%). Another 36% see a need for apps on Windows Mobile devices.

-- Some 76% of organizations surveyed pay for employee smartphones in some way, and 35% pay for tablets.

Innovative IT shops are turning the mobile device management challenge into a business opportunity--and showing that we can help people be more connected and collaborative, regardless of location. Read the new report from InformationWeek Analytics. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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