The Enterprise App Store: The 10 must have features

Enterprise App stores serve a very important purpose: the ability to distribute internal applications to organizations’ employees and other stakeholders without having to upload the app onto a public app store. With the proliferation of mobile devices, BYOD policies, and the large scale adoption and usage of tablets such as iPad within the enterprise, the need for enterprise app stores has become critical.

Enterprise Appstore - Centralized distribution and control

Enterprise Appstore: Centralized Distribution and control of mobile apps, books, audio, video and other content.

The role of the App Store has evolved and is evolving to cover not just the management and distribution of mobile apps, but is extending it to include the distribution of media (audio/video), books (including internal and external manuals, and publications), business and corporate games, and increasingly mobile web apps and browser apps (like the Google Chrome App Store).

With the BYOD phenomenon, internal IT and LOBs are further burdened with the task of managing a very complex maze and matrix of internal mobile applications across some of the BYOD platforms, mobile operating systems on devices that are supported internally.

The question arises, what functionality and features does an enterprise need to consider in building an internal enterprise app store? What are some of the most requested and accessed features in order to utilize the appstore effectively, to increase its usage and usability within the enteprise context.

While the list of musthave features can vary from one business to another, here are some of the most commonly requested features and functions that are desired across a broad array of enterprises:

1. Support for multiple mobile platforms: Apple iOS, Android (multiple versions including Honeycomb and ICS) and Blackberry OS (versions 6.x, 7.x and future support for BBOS/QNX) should be supported. Some enterprises may require additional support for other mobile platforms including WP7 or Bada OS (Samsung’s Linux based OS).

The Architecture and design of the Enterprise App Store

The Architecture and design of the Enterprise App Store

2. Browser and native app support: The enterprise app store should allow the apps to be downloaded on the device from the browser via a URL or through an enterprise market app (similar to Android Marketplace or iTunes App  store).

3. Security: Integrate the app store with the enterprise SSO or identity management system and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution if available,  App downloads should be on a secure SSL (HTTPS) or secure VPN tunnel. The App store should not allow  downloads via an unsecured network connection.

4. Access control: This is the other side of governance and security. Only users that are authorized should be able to download and install the app. Authorization can work off of a server side ACL that is driven by user, role anddesignation and group multi-level authorizations. For example, an employee working in buildings and facility management may not be allowed to download a mobile app that is intended for fields sales operations.

5. Over the air updates (OTA): Both Android and iOS (5.x) now support over the air updates (OTA) for updating existing apps, installing patches and other maintenance related fixes. The App store should include a feature to push the updates to the device and notify users via the notification system on the device.

6. Push notifications: Administrators should be able to send notifications utilizing the push capability of the supported mobile platforms. The notifications alert the user on available updates for apps installed on the device.

7. Device registration and management: The App store should have the database of users, devices and apps including a matrix association. This can also be done by using an MDM solution and integrating it with the app store. In an enterprise, it is not uncommon for a user to have multiple devices. Similarly, devices may be shared with different users each having a different account and profile on the mobile device.

8. Administrative console, centralized management and control: Easy to use web based administrative console is an essential. It allows administrators to approve new apps or updates to existing ones or reject when required with appropriate information. It also allows them to retire, archive and remove apps when necessary.

9. Malicious code identification and removal: Malicious software including Trojan apps are a big problem in public app stores and marketplaces. However, an enterprise app store could also be susceptible  to such attacks form internal stakeholders (such as a disgruntled employee) or from the usage and packaging of third party software and services bundled with in-house enterprise apps.  The app store should provide a means to identify, prevent and take down apps that do not conform to organizational code of conduct.

10. Publishing process: There should be an easy to understand process for submission, approval and revocation of apps that are intended for the app store. Furthermore, a clear set of guidelines and rules should be published as to what are the acceptable policies for approval of apps. This is also an area where organizational best polices, practices and design guidelines (including branding, look, feel and UX standards) can be validated and enforced.

Identifying the right enterprise application store will help bring organizations closer to employees by creating an employee-friendly work setting. The application store will boost employee productivity and motivation by leveraging  applications that facilitate a smoother work process- all in an IT-regulated and secure environment.  Enterprise application stores are the latest additions to the increasing list of consumerized IT products that are revolutionizing the way organizations function.  Keep these 10 best features in mind on your enterprise app store journey to guarantee a truly rewarding experience for you and your employees!

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