Gartner predicts that 25% of enterprises will have implemented an app store of some kind by 2017. Enterprise app stores are seeing unparalleled levels of demand fuelled by the rapid rise in the consumerisation of IT and the need for agility in an overcrowded marketplace. With this heightened clamour comes the opportunity to innovate and reinvent enterprise computing, by introducing the ‘Workspace of the Future.’

As consumers continue to embrace the app revolution in their personal lives, they will increasingly demand the same ease of use and accessibility from their working environment. In other words, if employers don’t provide users with access to the apps that they want and need to do their job effectively they will simply get them from elsewhere, regardless of corporate policies and licenses.

Exacerbating the problem even further is that the plethora of cloud services being used in enterprises largely remains unmanaged. This not only creates a logistical nightmare for IT departments trying to manage passwords and logins, it also inevitably results in a mass of duplicated, unauthorised and dormant subscriptions to services that enterprises didn’t even know they had. This mess could be costing organisations thousands, if not millions.

The beauty of an effective enterprise app store is that it hands control back to the IT department, allowing it to provide a true IT-as-a-Service capability. Enterprises need to wake up to the reality of utilising app stores as a secure, cost-effective employee management function. Whilst app stores seemingly appear to be a one-size-fits-all dream solution to managing employee cloud services, it requires a realistic evaluation of the need for control across all departments; from procurement to IT.

Whilst many IT and business professionals are well versed in the benefits of cloud-based services, the case for implementation is often a confusing and extensive one. Developing an enterprise app store is by no means a small project and depends entirely on the building blocks the organisation has in place to begin with. An enterprise app store could have a set of standard elements that are simple to install, but if it includes a Hybrid Cloud model or large numbers of custom applications, then it becomes a much larger undertaking.

Put simply, this is a project that needs to cover all departments within the business, whilst requiring a robust strategic focus to fulfill the productivity and flexibility benefits of the app store. The assets need to feed into the app store for it to work effectively, and many organisations miss this crucial connection.

Coping With Mobile

The surge in demand for app stores has been driven by the widespread adoption of Bring Your Own Device. Enterprise app stores allow business users to have “data on the go,” delivered on demand by a target set of business critical secure applications, requesting access to products that have been identified to support the mobile strategy.

As Gartner recently stated, few enterprises are in a position to control their entire mobile chain. Enterprises need to accept that the majority of their employees will not accept in-house app stores on their own devices with privacy and employee law overruling such policies. Compliance and application policy is a quicker route to success and is a tactic that is easily enforceable and manageable.

Avoiding Software Penalties

It has recently been suggested that enterprises may be leaving their business open to software audit penalties by implementing app stores, but in fact it should have the opposite effect. If all items are available through the app store only, then the associated workflow behind the scenes could, and should, take care of management approvals as well as validating that software licenses are in place before any provisioning is performed.

This of course assumes that the organisation’s app store and software asset systems are either one and the same or very well integrated. If they are not then an app store could allow users to obtain software for which the enterprise does not hold a valid license, leaving the entire business vulnerable.

Compliance Is Key

An app store will reduce risk by providing the correct app for employees to do the right job. It also ensures the organisation complies with license policy and that the overall governance policy is achieved. The net effect is providing huge cost savings by helping enterprises only pay for the applications that are in actual use by their employees.

While an enterprise app store is a significant step in achieving true Bring Your Own App (BYOA) in the workplace, this challenge can only be met if policies are developed for securing and provisioning this content. However, if correctly implemented and managed, enterprises will also ensure long-term internal business development and growth.