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Business apps - BYOD's best friend

Mobile apps first hit the headlines six years ago when Apple launched the first iPhone and the accompanying App Store. Consumers were immediately drawn in and during that first weekend over 10 million apps were downloaded. By the end of 2008, it was obvious that apps weren't just a fad, as over 500 million had been downloaded and were being used to do all sorts of things - check train schedules, plan holidays, get great deals on shopping and even organise themselves professionally to enable more efficient working.

As apps and smartphones became more widespread, people increasingly began relying on a mobile to do more than just make phone calls and send text messages. They could also access documents, data, and even get work done remotely. Nowadays, using mobile for these purposes seems like a no-brainer, but just a few years ago, using your smartphone to enable work was cutting-edge - the privilege of tech-savvy Generation Y youngsters and tech entrepreneurs.

Today, mobile apps are no longer confined to just the smartphone. Tablet devices have joined the category and have gained widespread popularity. It's no longer the early adopters who are using mobile apps and keeping their lives organised with mobile devices. Now it's busy commuters, corporate business executives and small business owners alike, who are embracing the convenience of mobile apps to run their daily lives and accomplish tasks on the go. Some small businesses even use apps to help them run their business. Need to create invoices? Organise events or people? Balance a business budget? Yes, there are apps for that now.

Consequently, mobile is impacting the workplace like never before. Where people once used only computers and phones provided by their employers, leaving work at the workplace. Over the past few years, the personal and the professional have converged. Due to this convergence it's become increasingly common for people to bring personal mobile devices into the workplace, enabling them to work remotely, off-hours, and in new innovative ways - thanks to the devices and their apps.

Known as 'bring-your-own-device' or 'BYOD', the prevalence of people using their personal mobile devices in the workplace certainly increases productivity. Equally it is also the bane of existence for a many employers and IT managers, who are concerned about security. Most employers are happy to have their employees using mobile devices and productivity apps as part of the job - after all, if it makes the employee more productive and more widely accessible, that's a good thing, right? The answer is yes, as long as the use of these devices doesn't compromise the security of the company.

BYOD is now a permanent fixture among many businesses, big and small. Sure, some companies still prohibit employees from integrating personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones into their IT infrastructures, but their numbers are quickly dwindling. Accordingly, IT managers need an effective way to ensure devices are secure, software remains universal and therefore work is transferrable from employee to employee and device to device. And what better way to do that than with the right apps - apps made for business, otherwise known as 'enterprise apps.'

As we reach a tipping point, where mobile, apps and business intersect, many believe that 2013 will be the year enterprise apps finally take centre stage. With the rise of business' security concerns, enterprise security is going to centre on the enterprise app, through which companies will be able to control the manner in which employees access information on their mobile devices and therefore maximising security. For example, enterprise apps can be tethered to a location or network for security, or can exist solely in the cloud. Therefore not permitting file and document downloads to the device, which prevents sensitive documents going missing in the event of a stolen or lost phone or tablet. Instead of banning BYOD or ridding the workplace of mobile devices, enterprise apps facilitate security so that companies can enable this type of working, thus keeping up with innovation and evolving productivity trends.

Companies know that they need to innovate to keep up with new business and technology trends, but they must do so carefully and with attention to proper security, so that no confidential company information is compromised. One way of doing this, is to control what apps users can download and some organisations are going as far as to create their own app store. The advantage of an enterprise app store is that apps can be configured before they are downloaded, and you can create blacklists or whitelists of apps for specific users. IT then has a single point from which to manage the provisioning and decommissioning of apps and the implementation of security policies.

What's more, enterprise apps can offer real business benefits. For example, in the space of just one fiscal quarter, Intel saw 640,000 emails sent from employee's mobile phones, which it calculates as creating an average of 51 minutes extra productivity per day. BT has also demonstrated an increased level of productivity since implementing its BYOD policy with 42 percent of employees saying their efficiency and productivity have risen. With such findings becoming the norm, it's clear that mobile working and enterprise apps are here to stay.

It's also clear that the ways in which we work are changing due to device technology's migration from our personal lives and into our work lives. Products available on the market today help us do things in ways that are better, faster, and more efficient than ever before. As a society, how we conduct our affairs is changing. Rather than fighting the evolution of how we work, it's up to companies to evolve as well. The opportunities and the benefits that these advances have to offer are many, as are the possibilities for companies and their employees. The first few years of mobile apps were about consumers; now it's business' turn to shine.

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