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The app store model for enterprise IT is not enough

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Jeff Fisher, VP of strategy and co-head of RES Research in Boston, RES Software
Jeff Fisher, VP of strategy and co-head of RES Research in Boston, RES Software

IT complexity continues to grow as new technologies are added to today's increasingly diverse corporate computing environment. At the same time, employees want the simplicity of accessing their business and personal information across a myriad of devices – demanding the availability of their corporate email and workplace applications away from the office. As users continue to accelerate the trend toward consumerization, IT leaders need to implement solutions that address the variety of devices, apps and operating systems that make up the IT infrastructure and meet the anytime, anywhere access capabilities imposed by today's flexible work styles. This explosion of disruptive enterprise technology and working trends presents IT administrators with new challenges, often leading to more time spent on manual processes and higher costs to meet more demanding needs from users.  

While IT administrators have longed for “one size fits all” solutions, these realities of corporate IT have resulted in a multitude of technologies, with each new addition breeding additional complexity. Organizations are at the point where they desire an efficient, dynamic IT experience that improves IT productivity and keeps users satisfied. Some have begun to implement an app store model within their enterprises to give users an experience similar in quality to that which they enjoy with their personal technology. But they realize rather quickly that simply developing a front-end corporate app store is not enough. Offering applications without other critical IT services that end-users are looking for and that are required to run a business leaves a gap, and without underlying technology that can remove the manual tasks associated with delivering these services, IT is missing an opportunity to improve how all IT services are delivered to users.

With an array of business challenges and pain points within their enterprises, IT administrators require systems management flexibility in solutions in order to optimize functionality. And, it's not only physical environments that need to be managed but also virtual and cloud-based environments, together with distributed networks, systems and services, as well as regulatory and security models. The enterprise solutions they choose must work with existing infrastructures that have the capabilities to simplify and automate IT operations, not add additional complexities.  

Today, most enterprise app store solutions only offer apps and provide a user-friendly front-end experience, which still leaves IT with the responsibility of manually delivering requests. IT departments need to address all of their critical functions for users, such as software installs, password changes, new hardware requests, access to specific data, printer access, backing up data, and maintaining anti-virus solutions. Simply implementing a self-service interface for apps, rather than a holistic solution, ignores many of the factors users require from IT.  These solutions do not take into account the need for IT to manage and control all services for users. 

For example, the traditional app store model also doesn't allow IT to track details about how employees are using each app; nor can it set policies and regulations to limit application usage based on role, location or time.  With no way of implementing an approval process, companies are putting themselves at risk of losing thousands of dollars if there are costs associated with a specific application that not everyone should be allowed to use. Additionally, IT administrators must be armed with the ability to remove or return services from devices if an employee changes roles or leaves the organization. Enterprises can potentially save enormous sums on just software license costs alone with automated returns, for example, but the typical enterprise app store does not allow for this. 

IT administrators need to employ an enterprise IT solution that can be tailored specifically to their organizations' unique needs and enable them to automate a large portion of the predictable IT tasks that make up approximately 80 percent of IT services needed by users. Implementing a full-service enterprise IT store, unlike app-store only models, will ensure that users are granted access to all of the basic IT services, not just apps, they need to be productive, without the intervention of IT, instead of requiring them to request even the most fundamental services.

An effective full-service IT store should take into account both the need to manage and control IT services and the need to support users' autonomy.  It doesn't improve IT efficiency to simply have an interface creating help desk tickets in the back-end because IT will still be required to execute manual tasks. This manual effort on behalf of IT is enormously resource intensive; yet, users crave immediate access to IT solutions. By automating the delivery of IT services on the back-end of an enterprise IT store, users can receive the same instant gratification they are accustomed to receiving with their consumer app stores. 

Organizations can also better manage use of their technology by enabling users to log into an IT store containing the IT services they are qualified for based on the changing contexts of their roles, specific projects they are involved in, office location, etc. Another crucial element addressed with a robust IT store solution is the return of certain IT services. Organizations need to have a vehicle for getting those IT services returned automatically based on events – like an employee leaving, changing roles/departments, projects ending, etc. The automatic return of delivered services when people no longer qualify will increase security and ensure compliance can be met.

The right enterprise IT solution can empower organizations to rethink their entire approach for delivering IT services to users, far beyond the concept of self-service. Eliminating the need for performing manual recurring system administration tasks through the use of automation will free up IT to focus on more strategic initiatives that will propel their organizations forward and allow companies to have much more control over how they access technology to effectively manage users. 

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