Even in these unusual times, employees don’t lack motivation. According to Workfront’s 2020 State of Work Report, 91 percent of European employees are proud of the work they do. What they often lack is the right tools to do the job. According to 2019 research, the average UK office worker wastes two weeks of their year because the technology they’re given isn’t good enough.
Enterprises recognise this issue, writes Matt Elrick, Practice Lead Architect at Insight. As reported in the 2019 Insight Intelligent Technology Index, senior IT decision makers agree that their workforce is more technologically literate; that their organisations link modern technology to attracting and retaining talent; and that it is very or extremely important for corporate IT to resemble consumer experiences.
Never is this more true than in the current situation, where remote working is part of an organisation’s toolkit to be more resilient. But how can enterprises achieve this?
Consumer vs. Corporate
The heart of the issue is how end users accesses the applications and features they need. In the consumer world, app stores mean that users can access what they want, when they want it. They can choose the exact applications they want to use; change settings to suit their exact needs; and, if they want a new application, download and use it in an instant – as well as set alerts to notify when new features or applications are added.
Conversely, many business end users are still reliant on a centralised approach to applications, driven by corporate IT.
The IT department will decide what applications end users are given, and when they are given them. Even if employees request a new application or feature, the process from request to implementation to testing and final roll-out can often be measured in months, if not years.
There are many perfectly good reasons for this – from giving the organisation control over applications and data, to ensuring that rapid changes don’t have unforeseen consequences, to making certain that crucial security patches are rolled out uniformly. Yet it does nothing for improving IT’s reputation, or for changing it from being seen as a blocker to a business enabler.
Corporate App Store: Costs and Transitions
This centralised model comes with significant costs. Not only in developing the application itself, or paying for licenses. But in testing, implementation, and in educating employees so that they’re prepared for the change and can make full use of their new tech.
Yet beyond this is a range of secondary costs. First, employees will inevitably spend longer without new functionality that would help them do their jobs better. Every day spent before final roll-out is a day of lost productivity. Second, most employees will have applications that they rarely use, or even need – resulting in wasted licensing investments.
Organisations need to change the centralised, top down approach to end-user applications – transitioning to a more employee-friendly model that gives people the capabilities they need, when they need them. And consumer app stores have shown the way.
The App Store Model
The growth in software-as-a-service has made corporate app stores an excellent alternative for organisations. Essentially the IT department acts as a curator – creating an environment that gives employees direct access to corporate applications, and ensuring it contains everything an employee might need to work effectively.
While creating the store itself will demand time and investment, it will also reduce many of the costs associated with the centralised model. Employees will have instant access to the exact applications they need, while any changes such as new functionality can be rolled out immediately.
In the app store model, the greatest change is how the IT department communicates with employees. First, as with any large-scale project, it needs to ensure employees can adapt to the new approach. This means educating them on the planned model, how it will operate, and the benefits it will provide. It means introducing best practices and training on how to use the store itself during roll-out, so employees aren’t left floundering when the store goes live. And it means reaching out for feedback post-implementation to answer any queries, help with any issues, and guide further additions to suit employees’ needs.
As with a consumer app store, the IT department will also need to take a more proactive role updating employees when new applications and functionality are added. These rolling updates will in turn help the corporate application store fulfil its purpose – providing technology that more closely resembles the consumer experience; helping attract and retain a technology-literate workforce; and ultimately giving employees free access to the exact technology they need to do their jobs.
Corporate App Store: How it Might Look in Practice
In this environment the app store will still be centralised and owned by the organisation itself – and likely contain both home-grown and licensed applications. What it does do is give the organisation control over what’s used, and give the employee much quicker access Ultimately, licenses still need to be controlled centrally and key will be ensuring that licenses can be scaled up or down when needed.
Where it differs from BAU practices is that, over time, the app store will help give IT a much better idea of what licenses it actually needs – e.g. by showing which applications are being downloaded, by which parts of the business, and then which are actually being used. This in turn means the organisation can manage its licenses much more efficiently, only paying for what it needs and e.g. recycling or reusing licenses that have been downloaded but never used by an employee.