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Dude, where's my app?!

David Hitchen discusses the controls and freedoms that implementing a corporate app stores can bring.

Introduction of App Stores In the consumer world, app stores are virtually omnipresent. No matter what platform or device you use, there’s an associated app store offering you a wide range of services and functions to satisfy your appetite for information, entertainment and productivity. Even your average television now has its own app store! In the corporate world – where most of us spend most of our day – however, things are still a little different and app store adoption is still in its infancy. 

Our own research conducted in August 2015 (more interesting stats from that research to follow) showed that only 4% of IT users obtain their apps for non-mobile devices from a company-provided app store.

Is there a lesson that we can learn from the consumer space? Should we be looking towards corporate app stores as the future for a more streamlined, cost-effective and productive approach to provisioning business apps to users across the organization? 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons. Pros and Cons We can discuss the merits of app stores (and compare the various solutions on offer) from many different angles, from developers to support, monetization to licensing; I’m going to concentrate on the primary considerations:

Deployment

IT departments are, on the whole, very good at providing services to end users. There is a plethora of deployment technologies that are more than adequate at the job. Do we need an app store to do this? Probably not. There are three main security considerations: protecting data, protecting the business, and protecting the user.  

Most corporate IT departments have been stung by some kind of security breach and are understandably nervous about implementing a technology that might be perceived as lessening their grip on tightly-controlled app deployment approvals and processes.  In fact, I’d argue strongly that an app store adds security rather than removes it. By only making approved apps available to users, security concerns over unauthorized applications finding their way onto the network are actually lower and security policies are easier to enforce.

Licensing

The same research I referred to above found that only 17% of IT users take any kind of responsibility for ensuring that the applications they use across their devices (including mobile) are correctly licensed. At the same time, in many organizations, the team that deploys the software is not joined-up with the team responsible for checking and purchasing new licenses. Apps are all too often deployed without the appropriate checks and balances, meaning that unlicensed software finds its way onto the network and unused software is not reclaimed and reused.

This is where app stores excel, controlling the lifecycle of an application by creating a fully-integrated workflow from the user’s request, the business authorization and, assuming it’s approved, passing the outcome to the SAM manager who can control license harvesting or procurement before passing it onto the deployment technology.

User Satisfaction

Ask many users and they might describe the IT department as ‘the department of no’. Rightly or wrongly, IT users have become so used to instant gratification that the process of requesting – and waiting for – IT kit seems antiquated and slow.  Deploying apps isn’t much more fun for the IT team either.  Self-service technologies like App Stores are a proven way to improve the satisfaction levels of IT users.  

The clever part is that it’s actually a win/win scenario for both user and IT as the user feels in control while, in fact, the IT team is controlling the whole workflow. It’s just that everything happens with greater transparency and speed!

Millennial compatibility

As with a recent blog by my colleague, Matt Fisher, the entry of the Millennials into the workplace has brought with it a fundamental shift in IT user behaviors. 

These IT-savvy individuals are accustomed to self-determining their own IT needs and sourcing the apps and services that they deem most appropriate to their needs. 

The idea of IT deciding what’s best is dying very quickly.  Organizations that don’t react quickly to this changing behaviour will find themselves far more risks than they might imagine, whether in terms of loss of control of expenditure (Gartner is already forecasting that 90% of IT spend will happen outside the IT department by the end of the decade), or security breaches.  

Freedom of choice in IT terms is even starting to become a determining factor in where Millennials choose to work.  

Essential corporate consumerization

I firmly believe that app stores are an essential tool in the corporate kit bag. They ensure compliant, consistent, audited and error-free process-driven delivery and return of IT services within the business. This not only reduces the laborious tasks placed on IT, it places the decision process in the control of the business.  

When we ask the question “why does that user have that software”, the answer is in the audit trail with business justifications, ownership and license management. Implementing an app store brings consumerization into the corporate environment and makes everyone responsible for the software assets they consume. Controlling the process and lifecycle of applications enables everyone to play an active and constructive role in Software Asset Management, giving the business the transparency required to make decisions that enhance their position in the marketplace and employ the greatest talent.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of user-centric SAM and how to implement a Corporate App store, why not speak to one of our experts and discover the benefits of Snow’s Software Store Option?