As companies and the individuals who work for them become more comfortable with using mobile devices and B2B apps, they are being confronted with an important challenge: how to maintain the security and integrity of company information on mobile devices.

Some of the approaches a business might consider include:

1) Allow users to use any device and app they want, without any company oversight. This is probably not the best approach, due to an inability to measure who is using what apps, and how that is impacting your business overall. If an employee has downloaded an app that allows them to do their job better, this is information your company needs to know. This is the sort of innovation that could help your entire business be more profitable, and a completely hands off approach will rob you of this knowledge.

2) Develop a formal BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. One of the advantages of using mobile apps that they can be used on any device with an Internet connection. Companies can lower hardware costs by allowing employees to use their own personal mobile devices for company business. However, these devices also bring security risks that companies need to address, and add complexity and cost around IT. One way to mitigate these risks is to develop a BYOD policy. Some companies may want to exercise more control in this area in order to keep IT costs low, but must weight this against their users’ desire for choices and their IT department’s ability to deliver. Ideally, a successful policy around BYOD allows for some degree flexibility in terms of what types of devices can be used, and clearly defines requirements and responsibilities around security to protect company information.

3) Set up an Enterprise App Store – An Enterprise App Store can be a great solution, hand in hand with a BYOD policy, to allow employees to take advantage of the latest B2B apps that can help them do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. An Enterprise App Store is web portal or mobile app that allows users to search for, download and install company-approved software and applications.

Advantages of an Enterprise App Store

There are many reasons why companies should consider taking an app store approach, combined with a well-thought-out BYOD policy, to manage their enterprise mobility needs. A few of these reasons include:

  1. Easier for end users to find the right apps. Rather than searching app stores looking for the right apps to meet their needs, and then needing to get management approval to use them, employees will simply search on the company app store for the apps they need.
  2. Better security. Companies can control what apps are available for download, how they can be accessed, when security updates will be applied, and more.
  3. Easier to manage. Companies will be better able to manage licensing agreements, subscriptions and security when important information is all in one place.
  4. Better intelligence. An app store will allow companies to see who has downloaded the apps and how they are using them, to better understand how the apps may be impacting the company’s processes.
  5. Reduced costs. Economies of scale will allow subscription/license costs be lowered across the company.

Approaches to Enterprise App Stores

If it seems like your company could benefit from these advantages, there are three basic approaches to setting up an Enterprise App Store. These are the Public, Private and Hybrid approach.

Public Enterprise App Store: One approach for an Enterprise App Store is to point employees towards company-approved apps that are available on a public app store, such as the Apple Store. There, employees can download free apps that your company has approved for internal use, or they can download paid apps that your company has approved and paid for using a voucher provided by your company.

  • Pros: less infrastructure for your company to maintain, no customization expense and more choices for users.
  • Cons: difficult to scale beyond a few apps, and difficult to manage the security of publicly available apps.

Private Enterprise App Store: Another approach for managing enterprise apps is a private enterprise app store. These are generally platforms provided by a third party vendor (Apperian is one example) that allow companies to manage and distribute apps to their users.

  • Pros: private app stores can manage the entire app lifecycle from discovery through download and app/security upgrades, automatically pushing apps and upgrades out to users, as well as remotely blocking and removing apps.
  • Cons: can be limiting in terms of the number of apps a company can support, and requires a specific app to be downloaded to each device.

Hybrid Enterprise App Store: A hybrid enterprise app store would be, as the name suggests, a combination of the two approaches. It is a web portal maintained by the company that contains a catalog and links of company-approved apps.

  • Pros: a major advantage is that a hybrid app store allows companies to make available apps that have been specifically customized for company use, which is generally not possible on a public store like the Apple Store.
  • Cons: companies need to have the web development experience to manage this in house. Unless the web portal is very “bare bones,” this is generally a more manageable solution for companies that have significant in-house IT expertise.

That’s it for our basic overview of Enterprise App Stores. Is your company considering taking an app store approach to your enterprise B2B app management? Tell us about it in the comments.