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The consumerization of IT has led a growing number of organizations to initiate bring your own device (BYOD) programs which permit employees to select their own smartphones, laptops and tablets to satisfy their day-to-day business needs.
According to Gartner, "The rise of BYOD programs is the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace." Only a little more than half of the respondents participating in a recent survey commissioned by Dell said they don’t have a formal policy in place regarding BYOD.
The freedom to acquire the mobile device of their choice is now creating a new challenge for IT: empowered end-users are finding their own apps.
However, the truth is that clandestine adoption of business apps has been going on for a long time.
In fact, Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff believes that his company’s most important innovation may not have been the development of the multi-tenant architecture which underpins its software as a service (SaaS) solution. Instead, it was the unique marketing tactic of appealing to the disgruntled end-user—the salesperson in the case of Salesforce.com.
By offering renegade salespeople, who were fed up with the hassles of traditional enterprise software, an easy-to-use alternative on a try-before-you-buy basis, Salesforce.com changed the way corporate software is bought and sold.
Now, businesspeople can find apps online that enable them to perform their daily chores more easily and often better than the complex enterprise software their employers have spent millions to install—and can’t convince their employees to use.
So it is no wonder that the Apple App Store, Google Play and even the Amazon Appstore are offering an assortment of business apps alongside popular music and movies. And given that corporate employees have become adept at downloading apps to enhance their everyday lives, their propensity to search and share cool business apps is also rising.
In response, smart corporate decision-makers and IT departments are starting to roll out in-house app stores. These stores enable them to satisfy their end users’ shifting technology and software preferences while giving the organization more control of the actual buying process.
Setting up their own app stores enables enterprises to offer employees pre-approved and configured devices, as well as applications which have been tested to ensure they meet the organization’s functional needs, security requirements and budgetary constraints. As a result, companies can also better manage costs, deliver better support and more effectively trace usage patterns to optimize performance—all while ensuring compliance.
The growing interest in corporate app stores has spawned a new generation of solution providers that offer customizable app store platforms. These vendors provide hardware and software for pricing, provisioning, billing and tracking. It's very similar to the way a previous generation of traditional retail systems managed in-store sales and the way ecommerce solutions have supported online stores.
App store platform vendors, like AppDirect and Apperian, are gaining traction and funding. Older vendors, like Jamcracker and Parallels, are finding greater receptivity for their app store capabilities also. Cisco Systems recently announced an investment in Parallels primarily for its virtualization technology, but may have also been attracted to its app store capabilities.
Of course, IT managers and their corporate counterparts have to ask themselves if they are ready to become online store administrators before they start putting app stores in place. If not, you can bet that many of the leading online retailers, like Staples, will be happy to private label dedicated app stores to meet the specific needs of their corporate customers so they can satisfy the escalating expectations of their employees.
Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies, an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace, and the host of the Cloud Innovators Summit series. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.