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August 13, 2013

Guest Blog: Will the ‘corporate app store’ help IT regain control of mobile enterprise?

David Akka - UK MD Magic Software - looks at whether the method of businesses sanctioning apps for employees can help them stay in control of BYOD.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

David Akka, Magic Software

In today’s consumer-driven technology landscape, where the public leads, the enterprise soon follows.

With the prediction that 160bn apps will be downloaded in 2017*, a new strategic technology trend is really starting to make its mark – the enterprise application store.

According to latest research by ABI, enterprise app store adoption across the globe will increase 30.4 percent year-over-year*. The app store is the next logical step from the BYOD revolution, providing a kiosk-style approach in which applications that have been approved and sanctioned by an enterprise are delivered to employees according to their department and job role.

It places users in the driving seat, empowering them to select the applications best suited to help them to do their job effectively.

Taking Control

From a management perspective the concept of a centrally managed store, which has policy controls, and in which apps are tested to ensure that they fit in with corporate requirements, is an appealing one. There are security benefits as well as cost benefits – apps can be checked to ensure they won’t introduce malware or viruses into the organisation and the IT department can automate and centralise things such as security updates.

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The whole area of app stores is evolving quickly and controlling the enterprise app store requires a new approach to manage the cost and complexity of different apps running on different devices and platforms.

Since the dawn of BYOD, tools such as MDM (mobile device management) have been hotly tipped as the ‘catch-all’ solution for providing protection at the device level – settings, profiles and security. However in the new era of the app store they fall short of addressing the challenge of managing the applications running on the devices.

An integrated approach

In order to truly retain control, approaches must be deployed which not only secure the device but also provision for the controlled delivery, distribution, monitoring and measurement of applications. The basis of app stores is that they place control in the hands of the users – the ultimate in self-service.

IT departments must now facilitate this in a controlled way, which is where MAM solutions (Mobile Application Management) are offering the means through which the benefits of the enterprise app store can be fully realised.

These tools also enable apps to be deployed and configured, and manage the controlled release of new versions of applications. On a strategic level, they also enable enterprises to gather statistics on usage of applications or even parts of applications for specific user groups.

Organisations can identify the early adopters and information on usage of applications can provide a rich source of data and feed back into application decision making. Enterprises can use stats not only on applications that are downloaded but also on how they are used, be it for employees, customers, partners or suppliers. This enables management to make decisions on which departments have access to certain applications and which applications to retain.

Enterprises can also ‘shadow’ and support end users – useful for finding out if there are parts of an application which users are not easily able to use. As more consumer, as well as enterprise-based applications enter the workplace, this also provides a way to centrally control those that have been sanctioned for use.

For developers looking to capitalise on this trend there are two key considerations. Firstly, the application needs to be flexible enough to meet the varying standards of corporate app stores without major redesign. Further, providing a level of granularity on application usage is important to help ‘sell’ an application to an enterprise.

It is important to consider the kinds of data managers would require, for example, the ability to provide usage stats within the app, which can be broken down by use type and processes.

Whilst the app stores is still in its infancy, if the predictions are realised, we’ll see a greater percentage of apps delivered in this way in the future.

Organisations should seize the opportunity to explore ways in which an integrated approach to device security coupled with application management can help them manage the explosion in devices and apps in the most controlled way.

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