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Making a success of enterprise apps stores

It’s not about having a store, it’s about making it viable and successful

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Gartner made headlines recently with its prediction that 25 per cent of organisations will have their own ‘app store’ by 2017. While this forecast is not outside the realms of possibility, will these app stores be a success? Delivering an iTune-like experience in the enterprise will require a lot of preparation, planning and stringent controls for execution and management.

The consumer environment is fundamentally different to that of an enterprise. Consider the following:

  • Enterprise apps can cost up to hundreds or thousands of pounds per user - compared to most consumer apps that are either free or cost less than a pound.
  • Most companies run in complex environments such as Windows, virtualised environments, private and/ or public clouds and SaaS. On the other hand, consumer apps are mostly designed to operate on specific operating systems such as iOS, Android and the like.
  • Enterprise apps must run on multiple devices including desktops, laptops, mobile devices as well as in virtual environments. Consumer apps are created for specific (generally mobile) devices - e.g. iTune apps for the iPhone.
  • Software licence compliance is a major issue for enterprises. Businesses buy licences in bulk for groups of users, which come with terms and conditions of how those licences can be used. Failure to stay in compliance can result in unbudgeted true-up (annual reconciliation of software used, but not paid for) penalties - often millions of pounds --- which businesses must pay to their vendors. On the other hand, consumers simply download individual apps, which they pay for on a one-off basis, without need for concern about ongoing license compliance.
  • Enterprise apps also have to be managed in terms of their usage, and re-usage. If apps are freely downloaded, but not used by an employee, this represents significant economic loss to the organisation unless those licences can be re-harvested and re-allocated to employees that need them. Consumer apps can be used, deleted or even forgotten about with no real economic impact.
  • Enterprise apps require packaging, patches and updates, necessitating an app readiness strategy to keep systems up to date, whereas consumers can opt not to keep their apps updated with few consequences.
For these reasons, implementing enterprise app stores is not easy and requires a robust and well thought through strategy for executing and managing an app store environment. The strategy should be one that puts the user at the centre to provide the convenience and access to a repository of apps from any device and from anywhere, offering a truly self-service type scenario.

In addition, the strategy should also encompass the back office - one that ties the enterprise app store to back end systems that automate essential IT business processes for software licence optimisation and application compatibility testing, packaging, deployment and compliance. The back-end systems should broadly execute the fulfilment processes - such as gathering approvals where necessary, enforcing licensing, delivering software to the user, verifying installation, maintaining detailed audit trails, and the like.

Given the uniquely complex nature of enterprise applications and the environments in which they will run, a properly buttoned down approach to app delivery and management is essential to avoid unexpected costs and risks, which could have a lasting economic impact.

A balanced approach that provides the front end convenience and ease of use to users, with back end tied to essential software license optimisation and application readiness process solves the problem, allowing employees to access their apps in the smoothest possible manner while ensuring IT accountability and control.

Steve Schmidt, VP of Corporate Development, Flexera Software
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