The combined enterprise consumerization and “bring your own device” (BYOD) trends are creating enormous challenges for IT departments — not the least of which is figuring out their role in a do-it-yourself environment for employees and their technology. When workers embrace the app store delivery method and pick and choose the apps they want to use on their own devices, who needs IT anymore?
The entire enterprise, that’s who — assuming the business is smart enough to set up its own app store to distribute company-approved apps. If business apps are delivered the same way that consumer apps are, then employees will flock to them — and IT departments can play a major role in provisioning apps and setting policies.
It’s plain to see that enterprise app stores are becoming popular: Gartner predicts that by 2017, 25 percent of corporate IT departments will deploy private enterprise app stores. Thanks to the BYOD influx and the corresponding rise in mobile device management, businesses see the appeal of a one-stop-shopping destination where people can download the correct versions of enterprise-approved apps. It’s the logical evolution of enterprises embracing the cloud.
When built and administered properly, an enterprise app store does what a commercial app store does, and more. It offers the convenience of a single location to get apps that are relevant and useful to users in a particular company and makes these apps easy to download.
App stores also offer enterprises control; they can reduce the likelihood that employees will use outdated apps or apps that are not premium versions sanctioned by the business. This adds up to greater safety and higher productivity for the workforce. It also empowers employees to seek out new apps that help them do business better.
Why app stores are good for business
They assist and encourage the mobile workforce. For a workforce that is heavily mobile, app stores can provide a hassle-free user experience. Employees can quickly download an app and figure out how to use it in just a few minutes. App stores can also increase user adoption because they mimic the consumer app stores that employees love to visit for their personal pursuits. Enterprise app stores also allow IT departments to exert more control over policies and security, since they’re managing which apps employees can download (and which versions).
They help IT boost adoption and improve app life cycle management. Enterprise app stores help IT departments do a better job of pushing custom apps out to employees. Enterprise app stores also allow IT staff to manage the life cycle of apps, reducing the opportunity for employees to deploy out-of-date applications that may not be productive or may have security issues.
They can boost productivity. The right selection of apps can empower the workforce and improve productivity. With more employees than ever working remotely, employees now have access to company information and data in the field and can return the favor by delivering this information back to the enterprise from wherever they may be working.
Is your organization ready? What you need to launch your own app store
The time and staff to make ongoing updates. Enterprise app stores require close attention to make sure they stay fresh, and full of the most current offerings. If your IT department is stretched too thin for this task, users may find the app store unhelpful, which means adoption rates will be low and applications will become outdated.
Development of apps for every platform — that is, for every platform that your employees are using — and with mobile devices, that could be a lot. Are you prepared to create versions of your apps for Windows Mobile, iOS, BlackBerry and Android devices? You need to give some thought to the platforms most in use by your workforce and whether you can respond with multi-platform versions of company applications.
A user-friendly storefront. Your enterprise app store will need to be as accessible and as easy to use as a consumer app store, or employees will not engage with it. So time needs to be devoted to creating an easy-to-use interface, or you may want to outsource this part of the job to people who can do it correctly.
Strong security and compliance management. Your IT team must be prepared to deal with potential security issues involved with the app store model. For example, user authentication must be strong, ensuring that only employees can access enterprise applications and the subsequent data that is accessed from and delivered back to the company’s network. The same goes for compliance: When your company’s policies change, IT admins will have to ensure that each app complies with these standards.
The arguments for building an enterprise app store are compelling and give IT an enormous opportunity to help drive employee satisfaction, increase productivity and reduce IT friction. While enterprise app stores may take some time to make their way into many companies, they deliver a huge opportunity for businesses to take control of the app revolution and IT departments to deliver to employees what they have come to expect from technology today.
Mark Settle is the CIO of BMC Software, the IT software and services provider to tens of thousands of IT organizations around the world. Including BMC, Mark has served as the CIO of five Fortune 300 companies. He can be reached at: Mark_Settle@bmc.com.