1. Distribution and Deployment Support
An enterprise app store is one of the first steps organizations are taking to gain better operational control over what apps are running in the enterprise.
"The primary aim is to provide a controlled distribution environment for both internal and external apps," says Vishal Jain, mobile services analyst at 451 Research. "One of the benefits is that an app store allows IT to configure and customize app views and access based on roles, hierarchies, groups and departments."
According to Erik Johnson, mobile strategist at Lextech Global Services, enterprise app stores smooth out the app provisioning process, giving organizations the power to buy off-the-shelf commercial and consumer apps in bulk, while controlling the chaos of requisite licensing deals.
"This will reduce overhead administrative costs of managing potentially thousands of small, individual expense reports from employees purchasing apps on their own within a BYOD program," he says.
Not only that, but an app store can also help automate change management and retirement, both issues that many organizations forget about, says Reed of BoxTone.
"Consider if you have 200 devices and one app. That's easy to manage. But if you have 10,000 employees and five corporate apps, and they all have a tablet and a smartphone, that's suddenly 100,000 managed nodes [10,000 x 5 x 2] you need to take care of," he said. "With employees coming and going and apps getting updated periodically, you will fail without automation in place."
2. Policy Enforcement
"Using the app store, along with compliance and quarantine policies for apps that you won't permit in your environment, will allow you to shape how your users use their personal devices in your environment," says Howard Creed, a solutions consultant at MCPc.
Though it doesn't stand alone as the sole means of mobile security, it is a key piece to ensuring that proper protections are in place, according to Dan Croft, CEO of Mission Critical Wireless.
"A corporate app store is a key piece in the mobility puzzle because it's the most effective solution to manage and overcome potential security threats that unregulated or rogue apps pose to the network," he says.
3. App Improvement and Tool Set Development
Enterprise app stores can go a long way to encourage discovery of third-party apps and the development of better internally produced apps, says Chris O'Connor, CEO of Taptera. If the organization can encourage ratings and reviews of apps through the store, it will help IT offer a meaningful set of business applications that can foster innovation throughout the user base.
"In the future we anticipate in-house IT decision makers to put together 'dream' suites of apps for mobile devices, both phone and tablet, for their sales teams and other employees to adopt," says Croft. "By recommending best-of-breed apps that solve specific pain points, employees will be able to collaborate more easily within the same apps while on the go and benefit the bottom line."
4. Branding and User Satisfaction
According to Creed, the corporate app store is the company's "face" on the mobile device and offers a lot of branding and service-shaping opportunities for BYOD devices.
"Through this store you will be able to showcase your internally developed apps and the apps you have vetted for corporate data access," he says.
While administrative control is an objective, IT can turn the app store into a way to improve user satisfaction by offering that so-called dream suite without any effort required. In effect, it can be turned into a killer platform for a bit of internal marketing for IT.
5. License Management
Improving the enterprise's app license position is one of the key drivers for managing an enterprise app store, says Juris.
"The enterprise app store should provide safeguards preventing access to and download of applications that are unavailable due to licensing and entitlement restrictions," he says. "With built-in app store capability to alter the approval process based on ever-changing usage of applications, licensing requirements and entitlement rights, enterprises can adapt quickly to license availability limitations and prevent noncompliant use that would subject them to software license audit risk."
In spite of these drivers, it isn't necessarily smooth sailing for enterprise app store development. "Several enterprises also question the need to have an app store. This is because different enterprises have found out that they can realize app management without the need to have an app catalog," says Jain of 451 Research. "The direction that they are moving towards is app management, of which app catalog is just one component."