More enterprises are providing employees, partners, and suppliers with one-stop application shopping via internal app stores or affiliations with third-party providers of these software-as-a-service smorgasbords.
InformationWeek reports that Manpower created a Solution Store, which helps the multi-national, multi-billion-dollar staffing firm work on multiple projects simultaneously, improve job satisfaction, and enhance innovation. The Whirlwind store from IBM (this site's sponsor) has more than 500 apps. ZDNet says the store has been a "huge hit."
Having an app store gives IT and department managers more control over the apps employees use on their smartphones and tablets, especially at the growing number of organizations with bring-your-own-device policies. Strategic Analytics has predicted that more than 350 billion apps will be downloaded through 2017, when the market will be worth more than $35 billion. It's no surprise, then, that IT professionals want to control what could devolve into app pandemonium.
A quick trip through the wildly successful Apple or Google app stores is all you need to figure out that IT professionals could have a lot of applications to support -- and multiple tools for the same job -- if they don't figure out a centralized way to control these tools across devices.
This flood of apps is an opportunity for several businesses that specialize in creating and managing app stores and leveraging the data they mine from customer behavior. Today, SaaS Markets unveiled Appclick America, which offers more than 1,300 Web-based applications for small and midsized businesses. These tools address tasks such as accounting, data management, IT, sales, security, and content management. Most cost $15-$20 per month.
Enterprises are also adopting app stores. SaaS Markets CEO Ferdi Roberts told us companies such as financial institutions and chambers of commerce use stores such as his company's MarketMaker white-box offering to support staff and differentiate themselves from competitors. In the case of HSBC, SaaS Markets stocks its private-label store with third-party software, as well as apps developed internally by HSBC.
No matter the source, SaaS Markets uses a stringent four-part testing process to ensure all software meets its criteria before it becomes part of any company app store, Roberts said.
It's a pretty rigorous process. Today we have an 82 percent rejection rate. There are lots of potential points of failure that, if the SaaS application provider doesn't meet that, we don't approve the app. We expect that to reduce over time as companies become more aware of the minimum standards.
There are several reasons SaaS Markets turns down apps. They might not be appropriate for the audience. They might require too much technical overhead. The Website's quality might be too poor; it might be insecure or unstable, or it might have inadequate infrastructure, he said. (Developers can reapply.)
Customers select the apps they want to include in their enterprise store, and SaaS Markets curates the software for them. The stores also include training videos, whitepapers, presentations, demonstration videos, case studies, best-practices, and other collateral material.
Through its marketing services, SaaS Markets provides clients with analytics insight into end customers' search and site use patterns, enabling them to follow up with specific materials or sales pitches, Roberts said.
There's a lot of intelligence behind the app store. It may be informational insight we have outside the application space. That's a core part of each deployment. We customize the data analysis space we provide to the end partner.
SaaS Markets is pursuing chambers of commerce around the country; more than a dozen are implementing its white-box app store, he said. A state chamber can have several hundred local chambers, each of which interacts with hundreds of nearby small and midsized businesses.
Constant access to updated software, predictable monthly costs, and a broad but more controlled menu of choices add up to good reasons why more businesses are considering enterprise app stores.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution