Will Enterprise App Stores Change IT Staffing Needs?

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With the huge explosion of interest in mobile devices and mobile applications, it's no wonder that two of the six hot new IT jobs that Susan Hall wrote about earlier this summer involve mobile. Mobile technology expert is No. 4 and enterprise mobile developer is No. 5 on the list of hot jobs, which was created by InfoWorld's Robert Strohmeyer.

Problem is, there aren't enough mobile developers and experts to go around. As Susan noted, citing an interview with the CEO of a Boston-based startup that was seeking talent to supplement its ranks of mobile developers, the rapidly changing mobile market is making it tough for companies to find people with up-to-date skills. As the CEO said: "Someone with deep knowledge of how mobile worked four years ago is not that useful to us."

Sam Liu, vice president of marketing for Partnerpedia, touched upon the staffing issue when I interviewed him about the growing popularity of enterprise app stores. They will be a great solution for many companies, he told me, as they bridge the gap between what users want (added flexibility, more choice) and what IT organizations need (management capabilities, transparency into application portfolio, and hopefully a reduction in "stealth" app purchases).

Using a third-party enterprise app solution like the ones provided by his employer may also offer a way for companies to address the mobile skills shortage, Liu said:

One reason IT is open to sourcing an app store solution from a third party vs. creating their own is that the lifecycle has changed. In the past they could build something and count on the laptop not changing for three years. Now apps and devices change so much, it's almost like a single year is a lifecycle. That frequency of change is hard to keep up with, especially considering most IT organizations don't even have the right kinds of resources for mobile apps and devices. They will look more and more toward outside vendors to help them solve that problem.

As the enterprise app store model matures, Liu thinks many companies may reduce their number of homegrown apps in favor of those created by third parties. Some companies may also become more open to buying software from parties other than the usual suspects like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. Because of this, IT will need to become more savvy in vetting and procuring apps, he said. This suggests IT pros will need to rely more on "soft skills" such as vendor management.


I wrote about this back in May, citing several surveys that seem to indicate growing willingness among CIOs to outsource or use temporary resources to perform IT tasks such as application development while staffing up internally with "hybrid" business/IT skills. While such soft skills are important in dealing with external partners, suppliers and customers, they are just as important - maybe even more so - when working with internal customers. Liu said:

Today's end users have a much bigger say in business technologies. I think IT recognizes this is an opportunity for them to deliver what the end user really needs. Simply changing the perspective is important. So as an IT person, "How can I protect the company" shouldn't be my first and maybe only thought. You need to look at it first from a user standpoint. You never want to forget the issues around security and compliance, but you want to really get inside a user's head first to understand what drives adoption. After you understand that, you can map it to the requirements of the company.

Just last week I wrote a post on how IT pros can look to librarians for cues on how to deliver a superior customer experience by focusing on users' needs rather than the technologies used to meet those needs. What librarians do in helping folks gather needed information resources sounds a lot like what Liu was talking about in our interview.

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