How to navigate the growing challenge of apps in the workplace

The Psychology of Apps

Your most adventurous member of the senior management team gets a new iPad and downloads a cloud storage app to keep files in sync when on the move.

Two weeks later, they lose their phone at a conference and your entire file archive has been downloaded, posted on the internet and tweeted across your industry from an anonymous account. It is likely you will ask, "what was going through their mind?!"

As it turns out, it might be a question worth pausing on.

It's increasingly clear that the rise of mobile means there's no upper limit to the possible threat to your data security. Within this scenario many might blame the applications themselves, but the real challenge here is not so simple.

As is often the case with security, you can apply whatever technology you want to control the situation but ultimately the weakest link may be the psychology and personal preferences of your individual employees for how they use these applications.

Is there an app for that?

In a society where the answer to most problems is "there's an app for that", in the business world, this can result in your workforce becoming a well-meaning but on-going loophole of vulnerability.

Bring Your Own Device and certainly Corporately Owned Personally Enabled, may just as often mean Bring Your Own Apps; so how do you enable the business to delve into the world of apps at their fingertips while continuing to protect the companies security and data?

We've put together an array of suggestions that, in our experience, can help you navigate this tricky and growing challenge, while still allowing your team the freedom to work in ways that make their life easier.

Make the most of internal communications

Most companies have some kind of regular company-wide update. Whether this is a newsletter with information that your workers are genuinely interested in or a regular conference call, make sure that the topic is part of the discussion – an exercise in influencing app psychology is about repetition and regularity.

Although, having said that, there's a fine balance between banging your head against a brick wall and returning consistently to a theme.

Use real world app examples

Keep your eyes peeled for wider industry scares and errors that demonstrate the potential issues surrounding the misuse of apps in the workplace. This both roots the risk in real world scenarios and should help your staff to achieve the right balance between app use and when to be cautious.

Again, human minds are a sucker for stories and emerging news can provide current and vivid examples that don't feel like a boring school lecture. Since both the Android and Apple app stores are an ever-changing landscape of innovation, they can also occasionally be entertaining, which never hurts to make them more memorable.

Get them on your side

It's easy for your updates to start to become a limiting and nagging pain rather than an empowering warning, and you should probably assume that you won't be successful with 100% of your team. However, if you really want to create a workforce that will look out for your data security as much as you do, ask yourself one question: What's in it for them?

Psychologically; the more you can align their perception of the risks out there with the potential impact on the company, the better the rapport and your ability to work together to create a secure environment.

If you turn it on its head, the business may be worried about losing valued data, but your employees might also not want to lose family pictures, videos and ultimately memories. By working as a team, you can increase the general vigilance of your organisation substantially.

If you can instill one thought into your workforce, it's this: be alert. Even things like simple apps that can seem innocuous could be potentially catastrophic to the business.

As much as you can use smart software to raise the barriers, sometimes the most powerful protection can come from turning one of your potential biggest threats into confident, informed allies. It's an investment that will only pay off more and more as time goes on.

  • Stephen Midgley oversees all aspects of global marketing and product management at Absolute Software including corporate communications, product marketing, demand generation, and the company's presence on the web.