While enterprise app stores may be a smart option for organizations seeking to get a handle on app management, simply building one doesn't guarantee success with your users. In fact, developing a clunky app store may actually have a more detrimental effect than not building one at all.
"Neglected or slow-moving enterprise app stores aggravate all employees, especially in the app inclusion process," says Dan Croft, CEO of Mission Critical Wireless. "If an employee requests an app for inclusion in the enterprise app store, it's important to ensure a speedy approval or block process. If the process is too slow, employees may get frustrated and find a way to circumvent IT and access the app, which can compromise security."
With IDC predicting that the global mobile workforce is set to hit 1.3 billion people by 2015, and Gartner naming mobile app stores as No. 5 of its 10 most strategic technologies for 2012, now is the time to start thinking about how to make upcoming app store build-outs successful. Here's what mobile experts think it will take:
1. Have pre-defined policies. Before any code is written or architecture is designed, IT needs to get to work setting policies.
"Define which users get access to what apps, who is responsible for app selection, rules of app distribution, pricing and licensing, legal terms, right to wipe device or selectively wipe apps and user responsibility for data protection," says Brian Reed, chief marketing and product officer at BoxTone. "You will fail without thinking through the permutations."
2. Link your policy engine to your enterprise directory. Once those policies are defined, it's critical to link the enterprise app catalog with a policy engine linked to your enterprise directory, be it Active Directory (AD) or LDAP--similar to the way PC app management tools work, Reed says.
"That [way,] mobile user rights of who gets what mobile app are managed centrally via AD using the same defined policies and practices already used in the business," he explains.
As he puts it, in the traditional enterprise, organizations use AD to ensure that sales reps get access to ABC sales resources, while sales executives get access to ABC resources, plus XYZ executive resources.
"You don't want sales getting access to XYZ executive resources," he says. "Many enterprise app catalogs don't restrict access to users based on corporate policy; instead it's one big app catalog for all employees. You don't want this risky setup for failure."
3. Build in cross-platform support. A "cross-platform sensibility" is fundamental to success of an enterprise app store infrastructure, says Andrew Till, senior VP of connected devices for Symphony Teleca.
"In the future, it'll be increasingly important for global enterprises to support their employees bettering their productivity through any tools they'd like, and an integrated app store will be critical to those efforts," he says.
This will mean that the in-house project manager will need a solid understanding of every mobile operating system utilized by the company, warns Jordan Hudgens, senior software engineer at MCW Services.
"For larger enterprises, this can mean knowing tens of thousands of smartphone operating systems, and subgroups that have different versions of the OS software," he says. "If a company uses iOS for all users this becomes less of a challenge. However, if employees have BlackBerry or Android devices, cross-platform compatibility offers a unique obstacle to overcome and could ultimately require the company to develop multiple app stores."
Next: More Tips for Building an Enterprise App Store