Are Mobile Apps In The Workplace A Blessing Or A Curse?

Business Mobile Apps

Mobile working – once an alien concept, it has become a constant source of both excitement and worry for employees and businesses alike. It’s easy to see why the modern workforce has become so dependent on mobile devices and the applications (apps) that are available through them.

From keeping track of finances and calendar events to updating work documents, timesheets and booking leave – mobile applications enable employees to access, update and respond to things no matter where they are. But as they become ever more present in our daily lives, are these little virtual helpers indeed a blessing, or should we be worried about our increasing reliance on their presence?

While our obsession with apps began as a playful pastime among computer geeks, there is no doubt they are now firmly ingrained in our working routine. In fact, according to a recent study: employees in the UK access an average of five work applications on a daily basis – including Office, Salesforce, Google, Concur and internal business apps.

Yet what is truly startling about our obsession with online gadgets is just how far we will go to stay connected, in even the most unlikely of places! The study revealed that nearly a third (31%) of UK citizens access work from their bedrooms, while around a fifth admitted to logging in from a club or cinema (22%) or a famous landmark (20%).

Brits won’t stop there though. Other obscure places employees used their mobile device to log into work applications included during a date (17%), from a medical establishment (20%) and a sporting event. Strangest of all, 14% of UK employees disclosed that their garden shed was their place of choice to access work apps.

On the surface, the fact employees are proactively pushing to be more connected with their work is great. However, having a workforce that is carrying corporate data wherever they go poses obvious risks to the employer.

From accidental data leakage, to theft, hacking and compliance issues, employees taking company data out of the physical office can have serious consequences for the business.

These dangers are not just hypothetical – in fact, nearly a third of employees admit to have lost or stolen a device which contained corporate data. As a result, almost a third (27%) of employees are not granted access to the applications they need from their mobile devices and only 3% are able to access all the apps they need from a mobile device.

The majority (61%) are allowed to access some work applications though, highlighting a growing understanding of employers that their workforce does increasingly demand and require mobility.

The challenge is how to offer the tools that give employees the flexibility, immediacy and access they need without compromising security. This trend will continue to grow and businesses need to solve this challenge before their staff take matters into their own hands and log on from a mobile device without appropriate measures in place.

But how can businesses protect themselves, and their workforce, against a rising number of threats without drowning their staff in a host of different passwords and access mechanisms?

The answer is to look at the person rather than the applications and devices they carry. Security measures must start with an individual’s identity, not the application they are accessing or device they are using. Staff are going to log into business applications in any situation, however obscure, so enterprises need to verify and manage this remote access as securely as possible.

Granting staff seamless access to critical applications both within and outside the business, and managing these connections closely, is essential to ensuring continued business success. Technologies such as Single-Sign-On (SSO) can help enable businesses to maintain control of access points without the headache of multiple passwords.

The app phenomenon is not going away – in fact, in a world being increasingly infiltrated by the ‘Internet of Things’ they are only set to become more crucial to every aspect of our lives. The challenge is to integrate them securely now – as this new way of life is evolving – rather than fire fight when it’s too late.

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Jason Goode

Jason Goode has been working in the identity and access management space since the late 1990s. He has worked across broad range private and public sector identity projects in Europe and the Middle East. Before joining Ping Identity, Jason helped a number of leading software companies establish their business in Europe including Netegrity, Aventail and Imprivata. He is currently the Regional Director for EMEA at Ping Identity.