BYOA influence underscores need to redefine SMB application management

More than 80 percent of SMBs contributing to LogMeIn's latest assessment on the 'bring your own application' trend use employee-introduced technology.

The influence of the "bring your own application" (aka BYOA) phenomenon is holding relatively steady, according to a new survey by LogMeIn and researcher Edge Strategies. But its grip on small and midsize businesses (SMBs) is even stronger, with 81 percent reporting active use of employee-introduced applications, the data shows.

About 1,390 IT and non-IT professionals responded to the survey, representing Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. For the purpose of this survey, SMBs referred to companies with one to 100 employees.

Not surprisingly, there is a different of opinion as to how many apps are actually present, depending on the respondent. Overall, for example, those on the IT side figured that their company was using an average of 2.8 applications. The actual number appears much higher, closer to 21, according to LogMeIn.

These applications ran the gamut, ranging from cloud file synchronization and sharing services such as Dropbox, Cubby or Google Drive to collaboration tools like Skype, and Trello and productivity apps including Evernote and Google Apps for Business or Google Docs.

It won't surprise you much to hear that cloud file sharing and synchronization applications were the most prevalent.

There's another disconnect: While 56 percent of the IT professionals surveyed indicated that they play a role in the selection of applications, only 45 percent of the non-IT respondents admitted to asking for any sort of guidance.

What's more, most of the services being picked and used most heavily are the free or "un-managed" editions, according to the survey data. When it comes to file synch and sharing, for example, 54 percent of the respondents used the un-managed free versions, while only 26 percent used the centrally managed, "business" versions.

There's little reason to expect BYOA to go away, either: across the respondents, 42 percent expected the phenomenon to grow more prevalent over the next five years.

Against this backdrop, the IT professional's role within SMBs -- which varies dramatically from company to company anyway -- is undergoing a dramatic change. LogMeIn categorizes them into these three buckets:

  • Active gatekeepers who block cloud apps from the workplace
  • Strategic facilitators who manage their BYOA exposure by analyzing Web traffic, packet sniffing or device monitoring 
  • Passive observers who are aware of what's going on, but choose to overlook it

How would you categorize your company's own approach? It's unlikely that your IT organization will be available to stem the flood of employee-chosen cloud applications or services being used for day-to-day tasks, but you can probably benefit from guiding them to certain ones.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had recently with a cloud integrator who works primarily with small businesses to integrate and manage SaaS portfolios into existing workflows. His team was called in to assist a midsize healthcare organization with rationalizing the many cloud services that had snuck into the organization. In particular, the company was concerned about the cloud storage applications being used by the sales team to share documents and presentations. Rather than banning those services, the integrator helped this company settle on the most appropriate one for its needs and migrated employees to that option, which could be secured and managed more easily than the others. 

This is the sort of compromise that IT organizations will need to make more often in the months and years to come.


Here is LogMeIn's full infographic detailing the survey results:




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