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Are Enterprise App Stores a vital ingredient for any successful BYOD strategy?

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Rick Delgado’s recent Compare the Cloud article about a subject gaining a lot of traction at the moment, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), raised some interesting questions about the realities of implementing such a policy. Just where do the personal and the professional overlap? And what is the best way to police this border territory?

Could Enterprise App Stores be a way of managing the overlap? And, if so, who stands to gain?

The “Store-Ship Enterprise”

A recent Gartner report predicted that by 2017 25 per cent of enterprises would have Enterprise App Stores where workers can browse and download apps to their computers and mobile devices. It is argued that they offer a cost-effective and faster way of distributing Apps to end users and, crucially, of managing the Apps that users chose to install on their devices.

Could Enterprise App Stores be a way of managing the overlap? And, if so, who stands to gain?

It is this second point that could make an Enterprise App Store attractive to any organisation considering a BYOD policy. By encouraging end users to stick to a narrow range of approved Apps, it shifts some control back into the hands of IT. If successfully implemented and widely adopted, it could go some way to alleviating the dual risks that a BYOD policy may represent. Namely: what are the users installing and taking in to the organisation? And: what are they taking out?

The Perception of Greater Risk

By encouraging end users to stick to a narrow range of approved Apps, it shifts some control back into the hands of IT.
Of course, these risks exist for any organisation, and in some ways, a BYOD strategy requires nothing more than the management of a fleet of mobile devices – something any organisation is doing already. The difference, of course, lies in the fact this fleet is no longer homogeneous; it consists of a huge range of devices, platforms, OS, and software all running all kinds of version numbers.

Plus, because the devices are seen as personal devices by the end user, end users are much more willing and likely to install Apps that fall outside corporate guidelines and policies.

A report conducted by Frost & Sullivan for McAfee, recently reported in The Register, found that more than 80% of surveyed staff (in both IT and line of business) were using at least 1 non-approved SaaS application. The authors suggest it is likely that more than a third of all software within organisations has been installed and used without IT oversight.

It is the fear of this tide of ‘shadow IT’ that underwrites much of the business nervousness about BYOD strategies. And yet the one thing this survey makes clear is that this isn’t a BYOD issue. Shadow IT is happening anyway; with or without BYOD policies being formally in place.

My experience tells me that, in fact, it isn’t just shadow IT that is happening anyway, without a formal BYOD strategy being in place: BYOD is happening anyway.

Canute-like Strategies

Resisting BYOD is a little like setting one’s throne at the water’s edge. Organisations need to be manage the complexities of this developing reality, which is set to be further complicated as wearable devices take off.

Given this complexity and the ‘on the ground’ reality, Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems begin to make sense. And an Enterprise App Store is the carrot accompanying the MDM stick.

Using an Enterprise App Store within a BYOD strategy is not so much about stopping the horse from bolting, but rather offering Dobbin some nice green pasture in the hope he doesn’t make a break for it and take some of the fence with him.

The Audacity of Hope

The success of Apple’s App Store and Google Play has encouraged non-IT people to install and manage applications on their devices in a way most people couldn’t have predicted 10 years ago. This does present issues for IT, but using the very tools that are driving these risks to restrict those same risks seems like a sensible plan.

The Enterprise App Store offers an opportunity for IT to approve and package up tools for BYOD end users in a way that both enables them to ensure that the Apps are secure and managed and offers an opportunity to manage licensing and purchasing agreements in a more coherent fashion. Staff have clear guidelines about which tools they should be using for which task; enabling better collaboration within the organisation and (hopefully) ensuring they comply with organisational standards.

‘Hopefully’ is the key word here: because, while a good Enterprise App Store will enable end users to do everything, it doesn’t prevent them doing anything.

The Threat to Traditional Software Vendors

The key to success will be populating the App Stores with the tools that end users want to use so that they are encouraged to use the Enterprise App Store route, and refreshing content regularly enough to prevent them straying.

This means populating the App Stores not only with Enterprise solutions, but also the approved SaaS solutions with which users are familiar; everything they need to do their job. It seems such a pragmatic approach that Gartner’s prediction of 25 per cent seems low to me.

But the biggest winner from this seemingly inexorable shift has to be the SaaS vendors.

The fast implementation times make Cloud-based management tools and Enterprise App Stores an attractive proposition. But the biggest winner from this seemingly inexorable shift has to be the SaaS vendors. While ‘thin client’ access to the Enterprise systems might be one solution, it is likely that organisations will be tempted more than ever to look more towards the SaaS model.