App Stores Are Not A Build Your Own Proposition
By Mike Anderson
Mobile apps in 2013 are poised for a rapid and accelerating growth. Mobile has taken root in the heart of business strategy for a growing number of enterprises, and most are working on multiple mobile apps. As mobile apps grow the need to distribute and update them, and provide users a simple and consistent way of finding and getting them will require enterprise app stores.
App Stores Grow As Mobile Apps Expand
App stores have become commonplace tools that are part of the experience around mobile apps expected by users. Mobile ecosystem providers, especially Apple and Google, have found app stores to be indispensable, and profitable, means to reach consumers and get apps into their hands. Enterprises will reap many of the same benefits. The app store is the way for users to find the apps being offered. The apps provided in the app store can be hand-selected and curated to ensure only appropriate apps are provided, and to keep close scrutiny over malware or productivity wasters. By providing ratings and recommendations, enterprises can build communities of use, drive access to specific apps, and gain valuable insight on what works and what needs to change. As enterprises deploy their own apps, being able to easily manage the distribution and update of those apps to the intended users will outstrip the capabilities of file transfer, web downloads or home-grown app stores for distribution.
App Stores Are Not Build-Your-Own
The enterprise app store is not a build-your-own proposition. With only one or two apps, a simple homegrown approach can often suffice. But increasingly companies are planning to roll out large numbers of apps, and this takes a more sophisticated approach. Many of the mobile management providers like AirWatch, Antenna Software, MobileIron and Smith Micro include varying levels of app store capabilities. In addition, those concentrating on apps and app stores like Apperian, AppCentral (now Good Technology), App47 and Partnerpedia offer the ability to manage PC, Mac, mobile and web apps in their app stores.
App Stores For Platforms And Frameworks
Beyond the mobile movement, there is a general explosion of app store capabilities. AppWave offers a store for PC software. Microsoft has its Office Store with apps for SharePoint, and also for Excel, Word, Project and Outlook. BlackBerry can support separate app store environments for business and personal apps. And other platforms and app frameworks including Salesforce and Google Apps continue to grow and promote app stores.
Not All App Stores Are Created Equally
App stores present a solid opportunity for enterprises to gain control over the plethora of apps they will produce and simplify how users discover and get their apps. Selecting and implementing the right approach will differ by enterprise, with several important factors necessary for planning and deploying, because not all app stores are created equally.
The needs of all different constituents should be considered in deploying an app store. For example executives, sales reps and marketing teams will each have mobile app needs, but having storefronts aimed at the different groups will likely be needed to segment what is aimed at them and approved for use. Being able to deploy native apps along with hybrid and web apps is needed to offer consistency, and incorporating PC and Mac applications will help IT to better manage the entire portfolio. Implementing an enterprise app store will also take ongoing commitment to curate what is provided and allowed and to proactively manage acceptance and use.
Prepare to Manage, Monitor and Market
Enterprises will need app stores to keep their users on top of effective use of mobility. Deploying the app store and providing the storefronts will be just the beginning. Managing how the app store gets used and addressing user feedback and changing needs takes ongoing commitment. As the volume of apps grows, ensuring that each different group of users can find the apps aimed at them and navigate the app store will require the ability to market within the app store. Users are the key to app and app store success, and monitoring feedback, ratings and user input takes an active hand in monitoring and measuring success as enterprise app stores take root.