How Enterprise App Stores Are Whipping Up Productivity
As new devices like smartphones appear in users' hands, enterprise IT needs to find new techniques for application delivery. Enterprise app stores have proven to be an effective way to track, manage and distribute software. What are the steps businesses can now take to build and develop their own enterprise app store?
12/05/11 5:00 AM PT
The popularity of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has energized users on the one hand, but on the other hand, it's caused IT and business leaders to scramble to adjust to new models of applications delivery.
That's why enterprise app stores are quickly creating productivity and speed-to-value benefits for PC users and IT departments alike as they grapple with the new models around consumerization of IT. The author of a recent Ovum white paper on app stores says they are increasingly important for enterprises as they consider ways to better track, manage and distribute all of their applications.
Join this podcast discussion, then, as we examine the steps businesses can now take to build and develop their own enterprise app stores. We'll further see what rapid and easy access to self-service apps on PCs and notebook computers through such app stores is doing for businesses.
And we'll learn how app stores are part of the equation for improved work and process success on and off the job. Furthermore, we uncover how Embarcadero's AppWave solution brings the mobile apps experience to millions of PC users in their workplace in the enterprise.
The panel consists of Tony Baer, principal analyst at Ovum; Michael Swindell, senior vice president of products and marketing at Embarcadero Technologies; and Richard Copland, principal innovation consultant at Logica. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Listen to the podcast (41:01 minutes).
Here are some excerpts:
Dana Gardner: Richard, in your looking over the landscape for IT innovations, is there something about the app store model that you think will encourage users to adopt new technologies and new applications faster?
Richard Copland: Undoubtedly. The whole socialization and the social trend which I see as probably the biggest driver behind this is for the way in which people use software and the way in which people comment on a software.
The organization will cluster around the toolkits for which the feedback from the users is positive. I can think of one large global financial organization here that has 5,000 apps within their world. They would look to simplify their landscape by over 60 percent, because they recognize that they've got so many kinds of individual pockets of activity going on in the organization.
And you need to support those individual pockets of activity that, in terms of your users in the tail effect, they'll be the mainstream enterprise apps, such as Windows-based or Office-based, which the majority will use. But if you could tap into an environment, in which you are giving the people what they want, then the return on investment (ROI) from that is going to be a lot faster.
My role as a Principal Innovation Consultant is effectively twofold. It's to find new things and introduce new things to our clients. Something innovative to me is something that's new to you and provides a benefit. This can be cash, people or green ideas. I spend my day looking at cool new stuff, which means ways of working, technologies, partners and even wacky research coming out of the various universities here in Europe.
At Logica, we're a business and technology service company. We provide business consulting, system integration, and outsourcing to our clients around the world including many of Europe's largest businesses.
For me, these app stores are also the whole Generation Next piece which is about a whole new generation that is educated and tech-savvy. They're multitasking all the time. They work as consumers. They're purchasing products and customize them to their needs in terms of their lifestyles. So they're regularly sharing insight and comment on things which are good for them.
That's playing out in terms of lifestyle and that's being brought into the business scenario, whereby the formal and informal hierarchies of organizations are blurring.
Gardner: Tony, this sounds like it's something quite new.
Tony Baer: From the end-user standpoint, there certainly is quite a new win to this. But we also have to look at the fact that this is going to change the way IT serves the organization. At least this aspect of it is really going to become more of a service provider. And there are a lot of implications for that.
For one thing, IT has to be more responsive but they also have to work on more of a shorter fuse, almost like a just-in-time type of model. ...
I was a little bit surprised because there is certainly a concept leap from a (US)$1.99 little applet that you pull down from the iPhone app store or from the Android marketplace to a full-blown enterprise desktop application.
That being said, it's not surprising, given that there's been a huge demand from the bottom-up, from the people in the workplace. So it's a phenomenon that's probably better known as the consumerization of IT -- "I have these sophisticated mobile devices and tablets. Why can't I get that easy to use experience on my regular machine for my day job?"
Therefore, the demand for the comfort and convenience of that was inevitably bound to spread into the enterprise environment. You've seen that manifested in a number of ways. For example, companies have basically embraced more social collaboration. And you're also starting to see some use of many of these new form factors.
So again, what Embarcadero has been starting to introduce is symbolic in a way that's really not surprising.
But there's no free lunch in all this, it still requires management. For example, we still need to worry about dealing with security governance, managing consumption, and also making sure that you lock down, or secure the licensing issues. As I said, there's no free lunch, but compare that to the overhead of the traditional application distribution and deployment process.
So again, from the end user standpoint, it should be a win-win, but from the IT standpoint, it's going to mean a number of changes. Also, this is breaking new ground with a number of the vendors. What they need to do is check on things such as licensing issues, because what you're really talking about is a more flexible deployment policy.
Gardner: Michael Swindell, tell me a little bit about AppWave and what it takes for an IT organization to make the transition from that long process that Tony outlined to a more streamlined app-store approach.
Michael Swindell: The best way to describe AppWave is that it's just a pretty simple three-step process. The first step is taking traditional software, which is traditionally complex for end users and for organizations to manage. This includes things like installations, un-installations, considerations about applications, of how they affect the users' environment.
Then, converting those traditional software applications into the concept of apps where they are self-contained, don't require installation, can be streamed and run to a user anywhere they are, and really delivering the mobile-like experience of mobile software to the more complex traditional desktop PC software.
AppWave has tooling that allows users to take their applications and convert them into apps. And that's any type of application -- commercial application or internally developed.
That's the first step. The second is to centralize those apps in an app store, where users can get to them, and where organizations can have visibility into their usage, manage access to them, etc. So the second step is simply centralizing those apps.
The third is the user experience. One of the key drivers behind the success of apps in the mobile space has been the visibility that users have into application availability. It's very easy for users to search and find an app as they need it.
Think about how a user uses a mobile phone to come up with an app. Maybe they're walking down the street, they see a business, and they have an idea or they want directions to something. They can simply search in an app store on their mobile device and immediately get an app to solve that problem.
If you look in the business space and inside the workplace, when a user has a problem, they don't really have a mechanism to sit down and search to solve a problem and then get an application to solve it immediately.
As we talked about earlier, and Tony really well-described that the process, once they identify an application to solve a problem, that can take weeks or months to roll out. so you don't have that instant feedback.
The user experience has to be instantaneous. An area that we focused on very heavily with AppWave is to provide the users an ability to search, find apps based on the problems that they're trying to solve, and instantly run those apps, rather than having to go through a long process.
Gardner: Can we perhaps make the association that app stores can fundamentally change the way workers behave in an innovation sense?
Copland: Absolutely. You're on the money. We talked a little bit about looking at the mobile aspects of it and moving to this on-demand usage and the challenges for the organization to do that.
Certainly, the components within the AppWave solution give you the opportunity to move to more of what I would describe as smart working or remote working, by which the user doesn't necessarily have to come into the office to access the tools, which are traditionally being provided to them at their desk in their environment.
If you start remote working or are given a broader range of remote access, then you can be operating a much stronger work-life balance. So if you're in a situation where you've got a young family and you need to take the kids to school, you can come on and go off the company network and use the tools which are provided to you in a much more user-friendly flexible environment. That would be certainly from the user's perspective.
From the business's perspective, I start moving to a scenario where I don't necessarily need to maintain a real estate where if I've got 5,000 users, I need to have 5,000 desks. That certainly becomes quite empowering across the rest of the organization, and other stakeholders -- the facility's officers, business managers -- start taking real notice of those types of savings and the nature of how work is achieved.