In-house stores can also help to lighten IT's load—instead of pushing out applications, employees can help themselves to what they need, which is something they understand best, anyway.
How to deploy an enterprise app store
An enterprise can support its own store or have its MDM vendor host one.
"Today, most MDM providers have a simple way of extending apps to mobile devices, usually through a basic agent on the device, but many are launching more sophisticated app stores that can host enterprise- and third-party apps to be accessed by smartphones, tablets and PCs," Gartner said in a February report. "This fits in well with the software management that many MDM providers include in their tools."
Gartner analyst Phillip Redman, a co-author on the report, told eWEEK that while app stores are still new for many companies, there are nonetheless some best practices emerging.
First, said Redman, "Start small. Don't try to move every app and every user to this model right away. Second, keep it simple. If you have a limited number of apps—say, under 15—don't get complex. It doesn't have to have all the social components like the commercial apps stores. And third, use what you have. There are specialized vendors, but you may already have some capabilities with your end-point computing, MDM or mobile application management (MAM) vendor technology."
Redman's baby-steps advice is in keeping with the report's suggestion that any enterprise app store investments made in 2013 be treated as "tactical."
"Enterprise app store options are evolving rapidly and the solutions available today may have a short usable life," the report advises.
"I agree with that statement," Dan Maloney, global vice president of eCommerce Mobile and Cloud Sales at SAP, told eWEEK. "It's early in the maturation cycle," he said.
Vendors from all areas are coming to the space from all angles, "and not one of them is wrong." That said, in two years' time you could have a store focused on what turns out to be the wrong thing, "and then you've missed the boat."
SAP includes the option of an enterprise application store as part of the Afaria mobility management platform that it offers to enterprise customers.
It also has a public store that customers can visit to find and try out the applications that SAP offers. It's currently building a store for its own employees that Maloney says has been shaped by its experience with its public app store.
"So many of our internal groups—sales, for example—started loving what we were doing for our customers and said, 'can we do this for us? We want some of these demo scenarios.'"
The internal store that it’s building, said Maloney, has been a decade-long activity that started with what SAP called a "software corner," which was a place for its now well more than 50,000 employees to find applications that many of them needed.
Today it includes a mixture of applications from SAP and from outside developers. If there's an application that's popular with employees, but that SAP has chosen not to stock in its internal store, it will still include a listing for the application and a link to where employees can go to download it.