Bargains Abound at Enterprise App Stores
With more than 1.5 million Android apps and over 1.4 million iOS apps for users to choose from, IT departments at BYOD organizations face an impossible support task. Yet the old days of curtailing employee choice and standardizing on one software program for each function costs companies top employees, weakens productivity, and ultimately is no longer an option for most businesses.
One answer lies in compromise, in developing multiple IT-approved choices that allow employees to pick their favorite app and don't overly stretch IT's support resources or endanger infrastructure or data due to the use of risky, potentially dangerous third-party applications. By 2017, one-fourth of large companies will have an enterprise application store in place, Gartner estimated in 2013. Given the multiple benefits, the number should be larger.
Baskets of Benefits
When global engineering and professional services company GHD removed user administration rights from employees' machines it placed a heavy burden on IT, although it stopped the surge of headaches users had generated by adding their own apps to workstations, CIO Elizabeth Harper told Enterprise Technology. The company wanted to satisfy both IT and end users, and researched a new software asset management (SAM) tool as part of the solution, she said.
"Our main focus was to introduce an appropriate SAM tool; an added feature of the Flexera toolset was an enterprise app store," said Harper. "This was a perfect fit under our strategy, whereby we had aimed to deliver more self-service facilities to our users."
The app store now holds more than 1,000 applications, ranging from freeware apps to complex installations, Brett Tancred, End Point Services & Australian Regional Manager at GHD, told Enterprise Technology.
"Approximately 60 percent of these applications are packaged and are full self-service to the users," he said. "At this point in time all applications are our Windows operating systems. With recent releases, we aim to upgrade our app store and provide mobile application delivery to our end users."
In addition to more satisfied users who can choose from an array of pre-approved applications to do their jobs, GHD enjoys a "huge reduction in service desk tickets and software installations," said Tancred. IT more efficiently gains approval for new software and users spend less time waiting for IT to install applications or dealing with downtime, he added.
"With the success of the project, we now have many areas of the business wishing to expand the app store to become more of an enterprise store," said CIO Harper. "A next major step will be to extend the product to our mobile fleet and provide additional functions within that technology."
Financially, enterprises benefit through centralized purchasing and an auditable track of software usage that eliminates overpayment for underused applications, Gartner reported. Whereas business users or departments could pay full price, enterprises often earn bulk discounts. In addition, monitoring usage can produce surprising results that demonstrate over-licensing.
One Gartner client, for example, determined it over-licensed is SAP installation by 75 percent because it based its license agreement on headcount, not users, the research and analyst firm said. The company was able to discontinue maintenance for an immediate savings of $5 million, Gartner reported.
Tying the app store with license reclamation and leasing is important, since it prevents organizations from paying for apps that sit idly on users' devices, said Maureen Polte, vice president of product management at Flexera, which develops licensing, compliance, and installation solutions including app stores.
"It's ideal for project-based environments where application needs change as employees move from one project to another," she said. "Tying the app store with the company’s Software License Optimization tool is critical. When users request an app, the store has to know how many licenses are owned, how many are in use and how many are available. With real-time access to that information, at the time an employee requests an application, the store can automatically reserve licenses when users submit requests, maintain continuous license compliance and trigger procurement processes for when additional licenses are required."
Enterprise app stores allow employees to innovate since they reduce training time, Polte said. Without a company-created repository of approved applications, many employees typically will bring in the apps they use at home, regardless of corporate policy.
"If employees have to wait weeks, or can’t get the apps they need to do their jobs from work, they’ll find alternative solutions. And public app stores make this easy. This is why consumerization of IT is having such an impact on IT as a service. IT teams must focus on the employees’ experience with their own technology – otherwise they face becoming irrelevant to the business," she said. " IT Teams are being forced to innovate and give their employees the same type of experience they have with their personal tech. This is why enterprise app stores are such a significant win-win. They can serve as 'universal app stores' give employees access to the software they require across all their environments and devices – from desktop to web to mobile. At the same time, enterprise app stores can provide the type of security and control they need to ensure reliability."