SPECIAL REPORT: Successful enterprise app stores acknowledge that users are in charge, while encouraging them to shop in the company software mall.
Enterprises have spent the last several years learning that the consumerization of IT is an unstoppable market force that ensures that employees will bring their favorite mobile devices and applications to work, no matter the draconian policies that are put in place to try to stop them.
Rather than waging a futile battle against the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, some savvy companies are making efforts to accommodate employees’ desires to use their favorite mobile devices at work.
Some enterprises are supporting approved lists of devices and software. Some are implementing security and network access policies that allow their employees to use their devices at the office while trying to minimize the risk of data loss from unauthorized network penetrations.
Some others have gone as far as to establish corporate app stores that allow employees to shop not only for approved apps that conform to company standard, but also public apps that boost productivity.
But enterprises need to do some research and planning before they take big steps such as establishing a BYOD policy, let alone creating a corporate app store.
Research firm Forrester has advised CIOs to "build a very deep marketing understanding of who your employees are and what they use technology for" before prioritizing their device and application investments. Gartner, meanwhile, has dubbed the troublesome trend of workers downloading apps from public app stores for business use as BYOA, or bring your own app.
"Smart people will find interesting ways of solving their own problems. We have 100,000-plus smart people at Intel," CTO Dave Goldman told eWEEK
. "They're going to find ways of solving their own problems. We would rather they work with us than go around us."
Intel is among the growing number of companies to offer not only a liberal BYOD policy—Intel's extends to PCs and tablets, as well as to smartphones—but an enterprise application store to complement its BYOD policy, security efforts and bigger-picture goals of improving employee productivity and ultimately growing Intel's business through IT.
Goldman says that Intel started out by developing apps for tasks such as booking a conference room—apps that, if they didn't work so well, wouldn't have any serious consequences. Today, Intel has more than 80 applications for various devices and has other mobile platforms "in the pipeline."
"We want to make them work on handhelds, tablets and PCs, so that I can have the same user experience, no matter the device I'm working on," Goldman said.
Intel's policy is so liberal that despite offering a sanctioned store, it doesn't prevent employees from also downloading apps from public stores if they choose to in the name of productivity
Gartner expects that as more companies adopt mobile device management (MDM), and more devices come online—which will inevitably draw more people to the Apple App Store, Google Play and other app stores—more enterprises will set up their own app stores. The firm forecasts that by 2017, 25 percent of enterprises will have a store for managing corporate-sanctioned apps on PCs and mobile devices.
Having an in-house app store not only offers a business greater control, in terms of greater security peace of mind over the applications that employees are bring in from the outside, but there also are potential cost benefits. Employers proactively offering an app can negotiate a better price for a bundle of licenses (a benefit that increases with the size of the company).