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The Future of Enterprise Apps

Bret Fitzgerald

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March 18, 2014 3:05 pm

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appsThe line between business and consumer apps continues to blur. As consumer tools pick up steam in the enterprise, IT is faced with an app overload issue from employees using consumer apps for business purposes. Whether it is on personal or business devices, these applications will be used to store, share and edit corporate data in an effort by employees to be more productive on the go. This app proliferation drives up the importance of the corporate app store, and organizations need to get serious about controlling consumer apps in their environment.

The first thing that IT needs to do is find out what consumer apps their employees find most valuable and/or are using most often for business productivity, and then find a way to secure corporate data within those apps or provide viable enterprise alternatives. Often, consumer apps are based in the cloud and not secure enough for sensitive corporate data.

One valid solution to consumer app usage in the enterprise is to invest in and maintain a corporate app store. Businesses are beginning to create in-house versions of consumer app stores, much like Apple’s iTunes App Store or Android’s Google Play, but this is happening at a fairly slow pace. Organizations aren’t investing in enterprise tools because they feel the work is being done adequately on consumer tools. By the time organizations realize the risk personal apps pose for business use, data may already be compromised.

In the future, it will be much more common for enterprises to house internal app stores. There will be certain factors that separate effective app stores from ineffective ones, and a lot of that lies in the individual apps that are allowed within the app stores.

  • Approval Process. IT must have strict guidelines for app approval into a corporate app store. Much like Apple has an approval process for apps to enter its marketplace, enterprises will need a process to determine what qualifies an app to be eligible for their corporate app store. This will vary from organization to organization, but two important requirements will be security of corporate data in the app and the productivity and business value this app enables. For more regulated industries, IT will have to adhere to strict guidelines for apps it allows into the corporate store. The approval process should also involve evaluating vendors and partners who are allowed to develop apps for corporate app stores, to ensure they are trusted organizations.
  • Compatibility. Enterprise apps work best when all employees can work seamlessly from the same applications. In the current corporate environment, where BYOD is more common than not, employers don’t have a lot of control over which devices employees are using for business purposes. Therefore, apps within the corporate app store need to be flexible and compatible with all device types. As wearable technology continues to evolve, compatibility will become a bigger issue, as apps will soon be developed for wearable device environments as well.
  • Employee Access and Adoption. Access to a corporate app store must be limited to employees only, but employees also need to be aware of the benefits of using corporate applications. If enterprise apps are not as easy to use or don’t provide the same benefits as their corporate alternatives, then employees will ignore the enterprise app stores and turn to their preferred personal apps. Enterprise apps need to be equivalent to or better than their consumer counterparts. IT will need to educate employees on corporate app use and what the benefits are – to both the company and to the employees.

In the current app-hungry environment, the operating system or device is secondary. Instead of hearing, “I want an iPhone,” IT is hearing, “I want Dropbox.” Employees are demanding tools that keep them productive on the go, and if businesses don’t provide these tools in their enterprise setting, employees will look to the consumer tools they are familiar with from their personal lives.

What is your enterprise app management strategy?  Has your organization considered an enterprise app store?

By Jason Blackett

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