Today's Enterprise App Store Special: ERP

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ERP: Who's Running the Show?

When faced with usability challenges in enterprise software, Microsoft Excel is the most frequent alternative.

There's no question the so-called consumerization of enterprise IT will have deep and lasting ramifications on how many of us do our jobs. Many of today's hottest enterprise trends, from mobility to cloud computing to tablets, were initially championed by consumer-oriented companies like Amazon and Apple, leaving enterprise stalwarts like Microsoft, IBM and HP scrambling to catch up.


Mobility seems to be the "sexiest" story right now in consumer tech's invasion of the enterprise. But I am more intrigued by the idea of enterprise "storefronts" for purchasing applications, modeled on Apple's wildly successful App Store.


Back in December, I wrote about the potential for enterprise app stores to end "stealth" software-as-a-service purchases. Later I mulled over the shortcomings of most enterprise app stores while considering the enterprise implications of Amazon's Android App Store. Two of the biggest knocks against many of today's app stores targeting enterprise buyers: They don't adequately address the sometimes complex nature of buying enterprise apps. They don't make it easy to buy complementary apps in bundles.


There's also the risk of app store overload. Enterprise app stores can be maintained by software vendors, by systems integrators or other third-party service providers, or by enterprises themselves. IT Business Edge contributor Mike Vizard wrote about an app store run by cloud infrastructure provider Rackspace, noting that potential management and integration headaches should be minimized because the store features apps that can run on a common cloud-based IT infrastructure.


A CIO.com article discusses enterprise app stores based on application type, in this case ERP. It cites a Forrester Research report about ERP app stores, noting that while such stores are still largely in an experimental stage, they have the potential to fundamentally change how companies purchase ERP.


Many of the stores feature apps developed on a common cloud platform. This means apps should have similar user interfaces and possible shared functionality and also be easier to integrate. Not surprisingly, companies that offer mobile and/or SaaS ERP have been among the first to embrace the concept.


The article includes several tidbits from the report, including a half-dozen key considerations to include in evaluations of these stores. Among them:

  • Who will provide first-line support for the apps?
  • Is it easy to synchronize subscriptions across multiple apps in the store so that managing renewals won't be a hassle?


The Forrester analysts who authored the report mention a benefit that hadn't previously occurred to me: Stores that offer access to usage data may help enterprise buyers make more informed decisions about licensing agreements.


ERP app stores could grow rapidly in popularity, if Forrester's bullish prediction for market growth in ERP SaaS is on target.