Creating a Well-Stocked, Well-Managed Enterprise App Store

Executive Summary

Today, organizations in just about all industries rely on business applications for many if not all of their business processes. As a result, information technology (IT) is under intense pressure to deliver new applications, keep existing applications up to date and make applications easily accessible to end users. At the same time, IT continues to face significant pressure to reduce costs, a large portion of which is contributed by software licensing and inefficient application management processes.

To meet the challenge, IT has to effectively manage application usage through the entire application lifecycle. This means addressing three major issues: keeping applications in a state of readiness for deployment into a variety of environments; making applications easily and immediately available to users; and effectively managing software licenses to ensure continuing license compliance while optimizing usage and minimizing spend.

Flexera Software offers three industry-leading products that enable enterprises to address these issues. AdminStudio Suite helps IT maintain application readiness. App Portal provides an enterprise app store that empowers users with convenient self-service access to applications. FlexNet Manager Suite helps IT and the business optimize software licenses.

Now, Flexera Software has integrated these three products to enable a comprehensive approach to managing applications throughout their lifecycle — Application Usage Management. Application Usage Management is a unified and centralized approach to optimizing application usage and maximizing software value across the entire application lifecycle. It employs processes and technology to manage software assets and ensure continuous license compliance for on-premise, virtual and cloud-based applications. This strategic approach helps enterprises gain optimum value from their applications, and drive down costs through license optimization and increased IT staff productivity.

An important component of an effective Application Usage Management strategy is the implementation of an enterprise app store that gives employees a consumer-like, self-service experience in gaining fast, reliable access to the applications they need to do their jobs. An enterprise app store boosts employee productivity by enabling users to serve themselves. It also helps drive down IT costs by taking a huge load off the IT staff by automating the process of employees’ requests for applications.

Because of the significant business benefits, many enterprises are striving to implement enterprise app stores. Gartner lists enterprise app stores as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2013.1

If your organization is among the many that are launching app store initiatives, this paper offers guidance and presents factors that you need to consider to help ensure the success of your project. It also describes how the Flexera Software Application Usage Management approach can help you address these factors and create a unified process for managing applications. Employees can have a rich selection of approved applications from which to choose and management can rest assured that the right controls are in place to minimize risk and optimize software spend.

1 “The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013”, David W. Cearley, Carl Claunch, Gartner, 12 February 2013

An Important Strategic Move

If your organization is like most, you have a lot of money invested in your application portfolio. But are you getting the maximum return on this investment? You’re probably not if you're using traditional software request and fulfillment processes. These processes are usually quite cumbersome and involve several IT groups. Users have to fill out detailed request forms which may have to be routed to managers for their approval. Service desk agents and administrators then have to get involved to fulfill the requests.

Many of these request and fulfillment tasks are performed manually, so they are slow, inconsistent and error prone. Users may wait days or weeks to get critical applications that would make them more productive and help drive enterprise success. Moreover, processing a constant barrage of one-off application requests consumes valuable IT staff time. What’s worse, checking for license availability is not always done, and that exposes the organization to the risk of over-buying licenses. Conversely, when software request and fulfillment processes are cumbersome and slow, end users sometimes install software themselves, circumventing the IT process. In this case, the organization is at risk of noncompliance with license agreements. This can lead to unbudgeted true-up expenses as a result of a software audit.

Compare this to how people obtain applications in their personal lives. They have convenient and immediate access to hundreds of thousands of apps through online app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. They simply select the apps they need from a catalog and take delivery immediately to their computers, smartphones or other devices.

Not surprisingly, employees are demanding this same level of convenience and immediacy in accessing business applications in the workplace, a trend known as the consumerization of IT. If organizations try to buck this trend, they may lose control of their application portfolios as employees bypass IT and purchase and/or install the applications they need on their own. This circumventing of IT can expose organizations to serious risk that includes overspending on some software, noncompliance for other software, and loss or theft of corporate data due the introduction of malware into corporate systems.

Enterprises can respond to user demands and eliminate the motivation for going around IT by creating an enterprise app store that delivers a consumer-style shopping experience. Users get full visibility into and fast delivery of all the business applications available to them, so they are no longer put off by onerous request procedures and long delivery times. At the same time, IT remains in control of software assets and enjoys the cost savings that result from user self-service.

Factors to Consider

The enterprise app store presents IT with an opportunity to provide substantial business value. With some upfront planning, you can ensure that you realize maximum return on your investment in your app store initiative. In planning, keep in mind that enterprise app stores differ significantly from their counterparts in the consumer marketplace.

Here are some of the important factors that should be addressed in planning, selecting and installing an enterprise app store:

High Licensing Costs

Unlike the majority of consumer apps, enterprise business applications can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars per user. Consequently, IT cannot allow users to indiscriminately download applications. Some app requests may require manager approval and IT may need to track costs to individuals or business units for purposes of chargeback or showback.

To maintain control of your application portfolio, your enterprise app store has to employ effective checks and balances. In establishing control and tracking processes, however, be sure you don’t put off users with overly complex requesting procedures or long delays in fulfilling requests.

IT Environment Diversity

Consumer app stores typically deal with only a single operating system such as IOS or Android. The business environment, however, is much more diverse and may encompass Windows, UNIX and Linux platforms, virtualized infrastructures, private and public clouds, software as a service (SaaS) and more. Consequently, enterprise app stores have to be far more sophisticated so they can deal with the diversity and heterogeneity found in most enterprises.

In addition, apps ordered from consumer app stores are designed specifically for the devices that will be downloading and running them, such as iPhones. If you need apps for your iPhone, you order iPhone-specific apps from the app store listed on your phone.

Enterprise users, on the other hand, need to download business apps to a variety of devices, ranging from servers and desktops to laptops and mobile devices. Your enterprise app store has to accommodate all these different device types. Additionally, it has to be sophisticated enough to determine the appropriate operating environment and device type for each application requested. That’s the only way to ensure delivery of the right app, in the right way, for the right operating environment and for the right device, so the app works properly.