Ann All spoke with Sam Liu, vice president of marketing for Partnerpedia, a provider of private label marketplace and enterprise app store solutions, about the growing popularity of enterprise app stores.
"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."
All: What are the key differences between consumer app stores and enterprise app stores?
Liu: Both the purchasing process and the after-purchase process are different. Most consumer app stores are credit card-based. And the person who purchases the app owns the app. On the corporate side, the purchasing side is obviously different. They may not use credit cards; it may be a PO (purchase order) process. When a company buys an app, they own it, not the end user.
In the enterprise world, you'll also have a mix of external and homegrown apps. Once you procure the apps, whether you purchased them or built them yourself, there's a whole set of management issues. How do you control the publishing and approval process? What types of policies do you want to put in place for the apps?
All: Right. That seems like it could be a tough balance, to give IT more control than they'd have with a consumer app store while still offering your users more choice. How can you do that?
Liu: The consumerization of IT is becoming an overused term. But that is what is really driving this, and I don't think we want to forget that. You need to think from the user's perspective. Those benefits are kind of obvious. They get ease of access and freedom to choose what they think will work best for them. Enterprise app stores bridge a gap between what users want and what IT needs, which is control and management. IT can give users the app store experience they are familiar with from the consumer world, but they can also define and enforce policies and procedures for devices and users. You want to strike a balance between the two worlds.
All: We've already touched upon this, but how will enterprise app stores change how IT provisions software?
Liu: In the traditional world of IT, most of the decisions were driven from the top down. But now users may come to IT and ask them for something before IT even knows they need it. There's also a real opening for third-party apps, IT has always purchased third-party apps, but usually they were from traditional vendors like Oracle or SAP. With mobile devices, you're talking about potentially opening that up to individual developers. You'll need different categories and different levels of vetting.
It's one thing to use an Oracle and SAP, but a small developer is going to be different. Your requirements for vetting those kinds of apps will need to be different. It's important to define your vetting process and the testing and approval process that needs to happen before an app goes live in your store.