What's the best way to acquire third-party applications?

Only some organizations have the means to develop in-house mobile applications, so IT often has to make the most of the third-party options available.

As enterprises gain a better understanding of what it means to go mobile, organizations frequently are caught in a middle ground when it comes to applications. In many cases, IT departments know which business functions they want to mobilize, but don't have the ability to develop the corresponding applications internally.

Companies in that situation still have a few options: research and purchase the consumer app that comes closest to meeting their criteria, or contract a developer to produce a custom application or version of an app. Each approach has its advantages and learning how to acquire the right third-party applications for your enterprise can only improve employee productivity and spending efficiency.

Third-party app development offers flexibility

Organizations that have a flexible budget, but no in-house developers, should consider commissioning a contractor to create or customize programs based on the company’s specifications.

There are two variations on this option for mobile app development. The first is very similar to internal development -- an organization hires a skilled developer to produce new, custom mobile apps.

Learning how to acquire the right third-party applications for your enterprise can only improve employee productivity.

The enterprise still has plenty left to do in that case. IT needs to provide standardized user experience and style guides, define device types and handle quality assurance. It must also consider verification and performance monitoring. The benefit is that third-party app development often reduces the overhead and the potential complications of developing the applications yourself.

The second type of third-party development involves minor tweaks to an app that is already commercially available. These are usually applications that are proven to boost productivity and have an existing user base.

For example, I have purchased apps from an application service provider whose features didn’t need any changes. I just wanted to add my corporate logo and shift the app’s colors to match that of my company. There’s often no need to reinvent the wheel -- there are millions of applications out there, and some may fit your needs perfectly with only minor cosmetic alterations.

Public mobile apps are available in bulk

Consumer versions of applications are widely available and are generally used unchanged. These may be similar to the second type of third-party applications but with no changes needed whatsoever.

The main consideration here is licensing. Smartphone and tablet apps are available through the iTunes, Google Play, BlackBerry and Windows Marketplace app stores. Any user can purchase and download these apps at will. But if you are at a big company, you may want to buy in bulk to save money.

All of the mobile technology service providers named above will allow for this, but they require a volume-purchasing agreement with the application provider and the mobile operating system provider. IT can manage these licenses through most of the popular mobile device management products and then push or pull the application to and from employees' mobile devices via an internal app store.

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