Oct 02 2012

BYOD: Empower Users to Decide When It's Time to Upgrade

It’s not about if the users upgrade their OS, but when and how.

The power struggle between IT and the user is largely over. Without a dobut, some IT workers are still trying to single-handedly dictate to users which apps they can and can’t download, or which apps they should or shouldn’t use for work, but today’s user isn’t so beholden to the IT department.

This is especially true for mobile users, who often bring their own devices and have the ability to upgrade and load apps with one swipe. Unless your mobile devices are locked down with mobile device management (MDM) software, the user is in complete control.

In a recent blog post, Brian Katz, a mobility expert and a BizTech Must-Read IT Blogger, let his fellow IT workers know that it’s time to give up the OS-upgrade thumb wrestle.

The best thing that an IT worker can do for his users and his organization is educate, inform and raise awareness about the benefits and the risks of upgrading their OS. This applies to users who are under a BYOD policy and users who have corporate-owned devices, too.

What is a company to do when they are faced with an upgrade? As many people in the chat agreed upon, if it is a BYOD (Bring your own device) user, then they should be allowed to upgrade whenever they want, as they own the device. If it is a corporate device though, people were split on whether IT should control the upgrade or let users just go ahead.

The issue with both of these approaches is that they are just plain wrong. It is never a question of do we allow our users to upgrade or not. It’s a question of how do we go about the process of helping the users upgrade themselves while continuing to support the business and enabling the users to get their work done. There are many valid reasons not to upgrade your device immediately if you use it for work. The simplest reason is that the apps you may need to do your work may not work properly on the upgraded OS.

This can be a problem, as the user can’t actually get their work done. A second issue could be that the apps that the user needs to use are regulated, whether by the FDA, the SEC or some other organization. They may need to be certified that they work properly on the new OS before they can be used. A third issue is that the new OS or device may not work properly with the management software that the company uses, this could cause untold issues for either side. The good news is that these are all issues that can be solved and in most cases very quickly.

But it’s not just users who need to be educated before an OS upgrade. IT workers also need to ready themselves for an OS upgrade, and that means preparing mission-critical apps for use with the new OS, not blockading an upgrade because legacy apps are “incompatible” with the next upgrade.

In the case of iOS, the latest version has been in beta for the last three months and has been readily available to any company that wanted to pay the small fee to be a part of the developer program. This means that there is no excuse for any internal apps not to be updated by the release day.

It also means that companies should have been talking with their external vendors for the last three months to insure that they were doing everything possible to get their apps certified and ready to go at launch. Any company that woke up last Wednesday and had no idea if their apps worked or if they were going to have any issues really deserved any issues that they ended up with. There is no excuse for being the ostrich and sticking your head in the sand. There is no one to blame but the company itself for not doing its due diligence.

If more workers braced themselves for the OS upgrade instead of battling with users to prevent upgrades, there’d be more productivity and happier users.