The great IT and mobile user peace treaty

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Dave Martin, CSO, EMC
Dave Martin, CSO, EMC

The conflict between IT and users appears to be coming to a peaceful end as together they are finding unprecedented common ground. For years, users have pushed software companies for easy-to-use applications to help them do their jobs, while IT has maniacally focused on delivering highly available, secure and reliable systems and applications with simplicity and intuitiveness taking a backseat.

The onset of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and bring-your-own-app (BYOA) era has meant that users can now do an end-run around IT and simply pick the apps that they want. The average consumer has 40 or more apps installed on their mobile device, many of which they use to do their jobs, whether IT has sanctioned its use or not. The problem is that creates a “shadow IT” system separate and isolated from all of the other company approved systems. Not only do users need help and support, but they can also get themselves in trouble and compromise their data as well as their company's.

With so much at stake, what has made the current treaty between users and IT possible? Two words: mobile technology.

The hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store or Google Play offer users an almost unlimited choice of productivity apps, which provide clear alternatives to the apps that IT has traditionally given them. It is now abundantly clear that a high-quality, simple and intuitive user experience is as important a criteria for determining the apps that users will adopt as the criteria that is usually top of mind for IT.  Although users are becoming as concerned about data privacy as companies are these days, security must not detract from the user experience. Apps must have a dual identity with a user friendly seamlessly integrated interface on the outside and a rock solid, best-in-class security core with  encryption technology and other functionalities underneath.

Consumers relying on their own mobile devices and applications at work want some sense of control and privacy over their personal data and don't want to feel like IT is looking over their shoulder when it comes to their personal information. At the same time, IT wants to ensure that company information on the same device is fully protected.

The role of IT is shifting from that of pure service provider to a position that assumes the responsibilities of a broker or advisor on third-party services. Users often need help understanding and maintaining an acceptable level of security and compliance for data, and especially for the apps and devices which straddle their life/work balance. Innovations such as remote wipe and device lock for the user as well as IT are examples of functionalities which allow new areas of IT services. 

In an era of landmark data breaches and controversies, the question “Do you know where your data is stored” is a more important than ever – all clouds are not equal. Although there is a major shift toward the cloud, companies are also realizing the public cloud is not the only answer. More and more, the hybrid cloud which gives IT the option to use public or on premise storage can prove to offer the best of both worlds, with the caveat being that it must not have any impact on end-user functionality or experience.

At no time in history have users been able to be store, share and manipulate their data and information on so many devices and in so many locations with such ease. This evolution has opened up both mobile risk and mobile opportunity for both users and IT and it is only by working together, truly collaborating, that organizations can expect to mitigate the risks and truly unlock all the value.
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