As personal mobile devices flood the corporate workplace, you'd think every company would have its own app store, right?
Not so fast. Despite the obvious benefits of efficiently and securely distributing mobile apps to employees to use their personal iPads, iPhones and Android smartphones, enterprise app stores are not widely in use. In fact, only an estimated 10 percent of enterprises have their own stores -- though it's worth noting that Gartner predicts that by 2014 private app stores will be deployed by 60 percent of IT organizations.
The current low usage numbers are surprising given that the enterprise app store model follows the popular consumer trend started by Apple's iTunes App Store and Google's Play Store (Android). Such familiar platforms are the place where users go for apps and content, and without them smartphones and tablets would just be pieces of aluminum and plastic.
Some big companies such as CDW and General Electric have successfully implemented private app stores, and smaller niche companies, particularly in the healthcare field, are also looking at private app stores with help from big vendors like Cisco and SAP as well as smaller players such as AppCentral and Virtusa.
However, despite the efficiency of the model, the enterprise store is still not at the core of the BYOD (bring your own device) movement. The main reason seems to be shoddy, mistake-prone implementations.
More specifically, for example, this means having little to no social media interaction and recommendations within the stores and not having a consistent user interface, to name a few reasons, says Rauf A. Adil, director of technology at Virtusa, an IT services and consulting company based in Wesborough, Mass.
"The fundamental reason users visit an enterprise app store is to discover apps and get other users' feedback," says Adil. If youre not building your app store with that in mind, it's likely to fail.
Here are five mistakes to that will quickly turn employees away from using enterprise app stores, according to Virtusa.
1. There's No Easy Discovery
The biggest mistake organizations make is they do not provide easy search and discovery for applications in an enterprise app store. This often goes unnoticed at first as the number of apps available is limited. But over time, as the numbers of apps grow, discovery becomes more important. Apps should be categorized with the capability to create bookmarks and favorites, and there should be a seamless search and discover capability to get to a specific app or a set of apps.
Also, discovery helps in avoiding duplication.
"If someone can easily discover an app for a specific purpose, they are less likely to duplicate its functionality in another app and perhaps use that app to solve the business problem or re-use the components, design and code from the existing app to build a new one," says Adil.
2. No Feedback or Ratings
Ratings and feedback are essential components of the enterprise mobile app. If you dont provide this feature, then it is hard to track user satisfaction of the app within the organization. It is important to get feedback and ratings from users separately and then tie that information to the app usage data, according to Virtusa. The app store should provide a view of where apps in a specific category such as human resources can be ranked by ratings in a search or on the dashboard.
3. No Social Media Integration
Many organizations are using social media for internal communications and sharing, but they don't tie it into enterprise app stores. The enterprise app store should integrate seamlessly with social media to facilitate the information, discovery, recommendations, likes and comments on the apps. This will only draw internal users to the app store.
You should also provide a way to integrate feedback, comments, likes and recommendations from the internal social media sites and apps with the enterprise app store.
4. Lack of Security and Privacy Policies
When an app is submitted for publishing on the enterprise app store, the administrative and review board should check it against a security vulnerability check list, according to Virtusa. It also recommends using software and programs to check apps against a security and cyber threat vulnerability assessment list.
For example, if the company policy is to not allow unencrypted data links, then the app should not connect to third-party web services over unsecured data links.
Keep an up-to date "vulnerability assessment list" with newly found and documented vulnerabilities. Similarly, you need to do an assessment on the privacy-related compliance requirements to ensure that no data is disclosed or leaked to unauthorized persons within the enterprise, to third-party sites, to apps via links or by using third party services (such as geo-location or mobile check in).
5. Not Enforcing User Interface and Visual Design Best Practices
All enterprise app stores should live up to the organization's published guidelines regarding user experience (UX), visual designs, color and navigation schemes and other UI (user interface) and UX guidelines.
For instance, if an app has a different color scheme or variation in logo or font from the published guidelines, then the administrative and review board should reject it with feedback on why it was rejected and what should be done to bring it in compliance with the enterprise app store publishing guidelines.
Yes, consistency counts, right down to the color of your enterprise apps.
Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org
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