Corporate internal app stores can distribute the tools staff need, but they can
also control who uses what and shore up data security.
Today, many employees use their personal smartphones and tablets for work to access a variety of mobile applications and some companies are deploying mobile applications to interact with partners, suppliers and customers.
Companies often task security and risk (S&R) and infrastructure and operations (I&O) executives with managing and securing not just the device itself, but the work-related applications on them as well.
Some IT executives are addressing the challenge by deploying app stores that provide a self-service, user-friendly channel to distribute corporate-approved mobile applications and services to employees.
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In-house app stores a handy weapon against malicious mobile apps
IT departments use today’s corporate app stores primarily to distribute corporate-approved mobile applications to employees, partners or customers. However, during the next few years, these app stores will include expanded functionality such as content sharing, granular discovery, provisioning and reporting and monitoring services to support smartphones, tablets and even PCs.
Consumer app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play enable mobile device suppliers to distribute applications to individuals who use their mobile platforms.
Consumer app stores have been phenomenally successful at engaging consumers, creating expectations for how people discover and acquire applications and content. With the Apple App Store and Microsoft’s Windows 8 app store, analyst firm Forrester predicts app stores will become the main way for workers to obtain applications. App stores will go beyond distributing apps for smartphones and tablets to include PCs. Many app stores are enabling technology suppliers and service providers – such as AT&T, Cisco Systems, Salesforce.com, Samsung, SAP and Verizon – to distribute their mobile apps to customers.
Consumer app stores primarily distribute games, entertainment and sports applications and content; however, they also provide an increasing number of business-focused applications to enhance employee productivity, such as expense management, time management, note-taking and contact management.
Today, 35% of firms allow employees to purchase mobile applications from consumer app stores. However, consumer-focused apps pose significant challenges for S&R and IT infrastructure and operations executives considering a corporate implementation. Most app stores are platform-specific, which poses problems for IT organisations that must support multiple platforms and device types. Consumer app stores don’t offer a realistic distribution channel for non-native applications or applications the IT department has developed in-house.
Transform employee engagement by deploying apps and content
Most IT organisations start their mobile initiatives with small, simple pilots that offer email and calendar applications on new platforms. The success of these puts pressure on security and risk and IT infrastructure and operations teams to quickly expand bring your own device (BYOD) programmes and offer a variety of applications for collaboration, expense management, document synchronisation and share and so on. To help address these issues, IT professionals are beginning to look to corporate app stores, which Forrester defines as: "Technology solutions that enable companies to selectively distribute approved mobile applications and services to internal and external users, including employees, partners, suppliers and customers."
The IT organisation can block certain applications to avoid legal and security issues
Today’s corporate app stores are purely internal distribution and engagement channels that allow IT organisations to distribute and manage mobile apps. However, they have the potential to do much more than that.
Corporate app stores enable IT teams to change how they support and deliver apps. With app stores, IT infrastructure and operations teams can give users a self-service option and an intuitive interface to access corporate-approved mobile applications. S&R professionals are happy because they gain some ability to control mobile apps and manage access policies. Employees can also use the app store as a portal for accessing all the tools that they need to do their jobs.
Leading firms use examples from consumer channels to change how the IT department engages with business. Neither users nor IT infrastructure and operations teams enjoy today’s error-prone process of pushing out applications or installing them on PCs. As more users gain access to more tools, managing delivery across a broadening application landscape becomes much more complicated. Thus, progressive IT organisations aim to use app stores to distribute content and manage access policies. However, even progressive firms are only addressing users’ basic needs. In the future, users will expect access to all the applications they need, regardless of which device they’re using. S&R and IT infrastructure and operations professionals must prepare for three stages of corporate app store evolution. To succeed in each stage, they must incorporate evolving feature sets and expand awareness among users.
Current corporate app stores support both custom-developed apps and corporate-approved consumer marketplace apps. Internal corporate app stores offer employees a self-service way to discover and use mobile apps approved by the business for their work activities. Such apps include custom-developed business applications, such as executive reports and dashboards, document libraries and enterprise application apps. These corporate app stores include links to web apps and approved business apps from consumer-focused app stores such as the Apple App Store.
Use the right app for the job
A corporate app store can provision apps to specific workforce segments. Simplified application development for mobile devices speeds development of a large number of applications targeted at specific workforce segments, lines of business and industries. App stores provide S&R teams with the ability to make collections of apps available to employees based on criteria such as region (for example, employees in Europe), function (for example, sales) and device (for example, iPad).
The corporate app store can control application configuration and distribution. Today’s internal corporate app stores help security and risk teams control mobile app authentication, configuration and distribution. Application discovery functions highlight approved applications for each user, based on their unique role profile, device type and mobile operating system (OS) platform. security and risk professionals can deploy corporate authentication, configuration and monitoring policies to track usage.
Use the app store to tighten data security
Finally, a corporate app store provides security features to control and protect mobile apps and data. These enable the security and risk organisations to manage application inventory, identify approved applications and blacklist apps that may contain malware or other malicious content. For example, the IT organisation can block certain applications such as enterprise file-sharing for particular employees to avoid legal and security issues resulting from sending data to other devices through the synchronisation feature. security and risk professionals can remove corporate apps from an employee’s device if he or she changes jobs or loses the device.
An increasing range of application types, development architectures and supported platforms is creating the need to streamline the delivery process for workforce applications while ensuring the security of sensitive data, such as intellectual property and the personally identifiable information of employees and customers. As app stores add more content management capabilities, they can provide self-service access. The corporate app store can become a one-stop shop for all the tools and data employees need to do their jobs.
This article is based on the Forrester report: Build A Corporate App Store Into Your Corporate Mobility Strategy. Christian Kane is an analyst at Forrester.