Minding the Mobile App Store

Heed these tips for selecting and deploying an enterprise app store.

State and local governments develop a plethora of public-facing mobile apps for residents, but they also must consider the apps they develop for their workforce and manage how those are deployed. Because the security of sensitive organizational data remains paramount in any enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategy, the applications that access and modify data require special consideration.

Mobile application management (MAM) suites such as those from AirWatch, Fiberlink and Good Technology all provide enterprise app store functionality. At its core, this element of MAM determines what apps users can run on mobile devices, be they enterprise-owned or personally owned.

Common Features and Functions

There’s no universal agreement among MAM vendors as to exactly what functionality must be included in an enterprise apps store, but it’s common to find application whitelisting and blacklisting. As should be clear from the names, these mechanisms determine which applications may run and which are banned altogether. Whitelisted apps may include those developed by a third party as well as those developed in-house.

The enterprise app store effectively acts as a repository of approved apps made available to specific groups of users as defined in the overall EMM strategy. Additional functions often include license management usage tracking, application security and integrity management, integration with help desk and other support, app distribution and versioning, logging, analytics, user reviews and reporting. Coupled with the security management of sensitive data, an enterprise app store can form the basis of a very effective EMM strategy.

Before charging off to deploy an enterprise app store, however, IT managers must carefully evaluate the following considerations.

Think About Scale

If agencies run a fairly open shop with minimal restrictions on which apps are available or they have a small user base, an enterprise apps store can represent a significant amount of overhead with relatively few benefits.

Of course, if the IT department is starting small with the intention of growing to support hundreds to thousands of users with meaningful restrictions or permissions which differ among specific groups, then an enterprise app store belongs in its EMM deployment from Day 1.

Look at the Big Picture

It’s not essential for an enterprise app store to integrate with the remainder of an EMM solution, but the inherent benefits should be carefully considered in light of organizational requirements.

Consider the App Strategy

People generally think of apps as small programs that run on highly mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. But the full range of apps includes more traditional software running on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux; Web- or cloud-based services; and even applications wrapped, custom-coded or otherwise bound to a particular MAM implementation. It’s vital, then, to make sure that the app store product or service can handle the range of functionality required, and to understand any MAM vendor strategies up front.

Finally, the entire field of MAM and enterprise apps stores continues to evolve rapidly. Plan for regular functional reviews and nondisruptive upgrades as well as the possibility of strategic shifts mandated by experience, new requirements or consolidation within the EMM industry.

May 30 2014