Creating and maintaining a corporate app store: Strategies for success
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Consumer mobile app stores from Apple and Google are so easy to use that corporate IT departments want to deliver services and applications to their employees in a similar way.
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Enterprise app stores are a central component of enterprise mobility management, and they allow IT to better distribute a range of applications. Now, desktop and cloud apps are included in that model, said Chris Hazelton, an analyst at 451 Research.
"A good portion of employees are computer literate now or have grown up in a mobile-first world," Hazelton said. "At some point IT needs to trust them to be able to discover and oversee the tools they need to do their job."
Vendors are banking on this trend. Houston-based BMC Software, Inc. acquired Partnerpedia this week for an undisclosed sum. Partnerpedia is a Vancouver, BC-based software vendor best known for its AppZone and MarketZone products.
AppZone has been rechristened BMC AppZone. The product will both be integrated as a module on BMC's MyIT service management app and also remain available as a standalone enterprise app store product.
Unlike other enterprise app stores that only focus on mobile application delivery, AppZone includes native mobile apps for all four major mobile OS platforms, and a browser-based store for delivery of software as a service (SaaS), cloud and desktop apps for Windows, Mac and Linux.
The product determines which device an employee is using to serve apps that can be downloaded for that specific device. Further, if a user is provisioned a SaaS application such as Dropbox, he will receive a prompt to download related apps for other devices associated to him, namely his mobile device or desktop.
Chris HazeltonAnalyst, 451 Research
The integration between AppZone and MyIT will be generally available on August 15, but BMC is already working to build deeper integration between the two. For example, if an employee searches the MyIT knowledge base for articles on editing documents on an iPad, it stands to reason they should be prompted to download the relevant apps which have been approved by IT within AppZone for doing that task, said Jason Frye, BMC's senior director of the office of the chief technology officer.
"It's only going to get more complicated trying to factor in application delivery across a range of desktop, mobile and cloud operating systems, so this is a natural progression for a consumer-style approach that started in mobile," Hazelton said.
By 2017, 25% of companies will deploy an enterprise app store for managing corporate-sanctioned apps on mobile devices and PCs, according to a February 2013 survey by Gartner, Inc. The research firm did not provide information on how many companies use enterprise app stores today, however.
More enterprise app stores arise
BMC isn't the only software vendor betting on a consumer-style app store approach. Both Citrix and VMware Inc. offer similar all-inclusive approaches to application deployment and other companies such as SAP AG and Microsoft are well-positioned to move in that direction if they decide to, Hazleton said.
RES Software will also launch an IT store product in Q1 of 2014 that provides a consumer-style frontend to its Automation Manager tool. The IT store will offer a one-stop shop for anything related to end-user requests, whether it be help desk tickets, ordering lunch from the cafeteria, requesting hardware updates or installing applications, said Jeff Fisher, RES's vice president of strategy.
"The concept of an IT store will help us accelerate the delivery of those services which employees will want to use because of BYOD and consumerization," said Mike Whitehead, senior systems engineer at Intuit Inc., a software company based in Mountain View, Calif., that beta tested RES's IT Store.
As an unintended benefit, Intuit has also reduced its dependency on the help desk since phasing in the IT store concept and self-service model. The IT department has eliminated 30,000 help desk tickets in the last year alone by automating password requests and other small tasks through the store.
Intuit's IT team may also give every employee an individual IT budget for purchasing hardware and applications through the store. It would make them more responsible for those choices and the amount they spend on IT services and tools. It would also allow them to spend money on what's important to their workflow, Whitehead said.
"If an employee likes Gmail instead of Outlook, or vice versa, we should be able to provide them that option when they join the company," Whitehead said. "Maybe they care more about having a tablet instead of a laptop. Even better if they can just select those options themselves and have them be automatically provisioned without much involvement from [IT]."
BMC AppZone will be available for $3.50 per user per month as a standalone product but will also be available as a bundled component within MyIT. Licensing for the RES IT Store is still to be determined.