Think about the incredible level of convenience technology has brought to your personal life. A book review catches your interest. So you go online, order the book and download it to your iPad® or Kindle® . You hear a song on the radio that you want to share with a friend. You can download a copy from iTunes and within minutes it’s ready to play on your MP3 player.
This convenience is by no means limited to media content. There are thousands of applications that you can acquire almost instantly. They provide useful services in a nearly limitless number of areas. What’s more, you can access them from just about any personal device — your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Employees in enterprises of all sizes and in virtually every industry are now demanding that same level of convenience in the workplace. This demand is driving a major trend, the consumerization of IT, which involves giving employees access to business applications in the same way and from the same devices they use in their personal lives. An online app store is proving to be a highly effective model for aligning IT with this consumerization trend.
An enterprise app store gives people a simple, intuitive means of finding and acquiring the applications they need to do their jobs. Employees achieve higher productivity through the ability to serve themselves. They get full visibility into and near instant delivery of available business applications, so they no longer have to spend time on the phone with the help desk.
An enterprise app store also enables IT to meet the demands of the business for more services and higher service quality while at the same time reducing costs. User self service results in a dramatic reduction of help desk calls, and that drives down support costs. In addition, the app store gives IT higher transparency to the business and helps IT change its image from technology provider to service provider. It also helps IT increase user satisfaction.
The challenge is to implement an enterprise app store without jeopardizing security, compromising regulatory and licensing compliance or driving up cost. That requires balancing ease of requesting and immediacy of fulfillment with effective control. To achieve this balance, an app store solution must meet stringent criteria. This paper examines those criteria and illustrates how Flexera Software App Portal meets them.
Six Criteria for Success
Solutions such as Flexera Software App Portal can accelerate your transformation to user-centric computing with an enterprise app store. As you evaluate a solution for your environment, keep in mind six major criteria a solution must meet to address not only the needs of the business user but also the needs of IT. An effective solution must:
- Facilitate user self service
- Ensure security and regulatory compliance
- Ensure software license compliance
- Control costs
- Provide rapid fulfillment
- Leverage existing resources
Facilitate User Self Service
The primary purpose of an online app store is to empower business users to find and request applications on their own. If you want people to take advantage of this self service, however, you must offer ease of use and permit access from a variety of user devices.
An app store solution that creates a consumer-oriented shopping experience meets these requirements. End-user customers use an online storefront in the same way they shop for music, books or other items. They select the items they want, put them in a shopping cart and proceed through a familiar checkout process.
To avoid confusion for your end-user customers, you need to be able to configure the store catalog to display only those items that each customer is authorized to request. This ability also gives you strong control over application access because employees see only the items they are authorized to access. Additionally, employees should be able to perform all activities through a single portal, from requesting software and scheduling delivery to checking order status.
Universal access is also essential. That means the storefront should be available over the Internet so people can request items from anywhere at any time. Universality also means app delivery not only to desktop computers but also to mobile devices. Finally, if your enterprise operates in global markets, support for multiple languages and currencies is a must-have to ensure simplicity for your users around the world.
Ensure Security and Regulatory Compliance
IT organizations are (and should be) concerned that an app store may put sensitive applications and data at risk. Consequently, an effective solution ensures that only authorized people have access to applications and that they can access only the applications they are authorized to use based on their role in the enterprise.
Even when people are authorized to use a particular application, however, management approvals may be required for compliance with internal policy or external regulations. To this end, automated approval processing is a mandatory capability. And the more flexible the approval process the better. For example, the solution should support both single and multiple levels of management approval. The approval process should be dynamic, based on conditions such as cost, license need and user profile. Only designated people or alternates they choose should be able to approve requests. On the IT side, access to tools and data for managing the app store should be limited to authorized IT administrators.
Finally, an audit trail of all pertinent actions is essential because it enables IT to demonstrate strong access control and to document activities for security and regulatory purposes.
Maintain Software License Compliance
Done correctly, user self service offers huge benefits to the enterprise. Poorly implemented, self service can expose the enterprise to risk, particularly in the area of compliance with software license agreements. To avoid financial penalties, you need a solution that protects against overuse of software licenses.
The ideal solution helps you comply fully with license contract terms without overbuying. Capabilities such as software license monitoring, reclamation and leasing help significantly in this area. License monitoring tracks the quantity of licenses owned, compares it with what is installed and takes action when the count of available licenses drops below a defined threshold. License reclamation permits IT to identify assigned but unused licenses and launch email campaigns to reclaim them from the user community. License leasing temporarily allocates a license for a defined time period. Software license monitoring, reclamation and leasing help IT optimize software license utilization to keep costs in check.
Some IT organizations worry that an enterprise app store will drive up IT costs. The thinking is that users will behave like patrons at an all-you-can-eat buffet and request far more than they need. Consequently, the enterprise will waste money on expensive software licenses and virtual server sprawl.
To minimize indiscriminate requests, you need a solution that lets you display the cost of each item in the storefront, and even charge back for higher cost items. The ability to display costs helps shape user behavior by making people aware of the cost implications of their requests. An additional desirable feature is to present the user with a list of alternate, lower-cost applications that may satisfy the user’s requirements.
A flexible approval process can also help you control costs in other ways. For example, if the solution allows you to specify varying levels of management approval based on application cost, you can ensure that managers will be in the loop and intervene if their direct reports are requesting items they don’t need. You may even require the requestor to submit a business justification for certain requests. Managers can then make an informed decision to approve or deny the request. Additionally, the solution could present the approver with a list of alternate, lower-cost applications that offer similar functionality and may meet the requestor’s needs.
Provide Rapid Fulfillment
Consumers download software, books and music for their personal use in minutes. They want the same kind of speed for business applications. To address that demand, your app store solution must keep applications ready for immediate deployment in all popular platform and device formats. The solution must also offer a high degree of automation in request processing, including automated approval routing. Additionally, once all approvals are received, the solution should be capable of triggering automated fulfillment through enterprise software deployment tools.