Apperian proves enterprise app stores don't have to be difficult

Credit: Donna Sullivan Thomson via Flickr

At the 2013 Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit in June, a panel predicted the death of mobile device management (MDM) market and predicted that mobile app management (MAM) solutions would eventually become the primary mobile security tools of enterprise IT. That followed a Gartner predication from February that said that by 2017 one quarter of enterprise companies will have deployed an enterprise app store for employees. Both statements are in line with overall evolution of mobile management concepts, which has become a move from the BlackBerry model of locking down a device as much as possible to securing data stored on the device.

In theory that migration from MDM to MAM is quite logical. It follows the growing trend of providing enterprise apps, developed in-house or by contracting a development firm, that mobilize existing enterprise tools and/or business processes. It also helps draw a privacy line between personal and business data on a device that addresses concerns about unsecured apps from public app stores as well as privacy of personal data on BYOD devices. MAM also offers the advantage of being a more lightweight solution that MDM.

The problem is that many IT organizations haven't even begun to formulate an app management policy or plan enterprise app store. There are a number of reasons that MAM remains on the back burner of IT projects.

  • App purchasing and licensing still follows a consumer model without volume or site licensing options (though Apple's iOS 7 will introduce an enterprise licensing option).
  • MAM and enterprise app stores both focus on developing a curated selection of public apps, an endeavor that can be daunting given that the iOS App Store and Google Play each offer about a million apps.
  • Mobile and/or BYOD policies may still not be drafted or vetted with non-IT stakeholders like HR and legal departments.
  • Enterprise app development is still ramping up in many organizations (and may not even have begun in some).
  • Other IT projects, possibly including rolling out an MDM suite, could be higher priorities than app development, deployment, or management (in a survey last year, a majority of IT leaders said they expected more demands around mobility without an increase in budget or staffing).
  • In some quarters, there's the perception that app management, particularly securing apps and their content, may be too complex and costly to address regardless of other IT projects.

Introducing ApperianONE

Apperian, which specializes in mobile app management, has taken aim at those last two points today with its new freemium cloud-based ApperianOne service. The service allows companies to deploy any number of public apps to employee devices through an enterprise app store at no cost. If companies find value in the solution and want to use it to deploy multiple enterprise apps or they want a richer feature set, they can easily transition to company's full featured Apperian Enterprise.

It's worth noting that the feature set of ApperianONE is actually pretty complete and includes easy to implement secure digital app signing and detailed usage reports on the apps that users are installing on their devices. For iOS devices, it also includes access to Apperian's App Remote Control feature that lets help desk agents or support staff view the screen of a user's device when it is running a managed app -- a feature that has significant value for both users and IT.

Crowdsourcing app selection

Like Apperian's EASE platform, ApperianONE also includes social capabilities to help IT departments and enterprise developers receive and integrate feedback from users and for users to share their opinions with each other in the form of reviews and ratings.

If managed well, features like these (variations of which are offered by some other MAM vendors as well) have the opportunity not only to drive app improvements and wider adoption by end users, but also to help an organization standardize around a set of apps. The feedback model essentially crowdsources app suggestions and let's company's workforce determine which apps fit best with the needs of the entire company, a specific department, or specific job functions. The end result is greater satisfaction across an organization and the potential to encourage users to work with a set of apps that are known to be secure.

Freemium in an attractive way

What makes ApperianONE particularly interesting is that it is designed using the freemium model in an attractive way.

Typically, a freemium solution offers just a subset of a solution's capabilities -- limited commands, size or access restrictions, and a watered-down experience of the full product. Apperian isn't really watering down the experience at all. One of the major components of any enterprise app store is the ability to curate and offer public apps to users and Apperian isn't putting any limitations on this functionality, even though some companies might only needs this particular capability and have no plans to create any in-house apps. In doing so the company is delivering a complete solution for free for many organizations, particularly small businesses, while letting organizations in need of a broader solution for their enterprise apps to dip their toe into the MAM and enterprise app store market.

During an interview, the company's CEO David Patrick told me that ApperianONE isn't just an IT solution. Individual departments or teams that feel they need such a solution and aren't able to motiviate IT to provide a solution could introduce ApperianONE on their own thanks to its ease of deployment as a cloud service. That ease of adoption stems from a desire to "simply remove all barriers and excuses" that have kept companies from implementing enterprise app stores or MAM.

Apperian isn't alone here. Last week MobileIron unveiled its Anyware service that, like ApperianONE, is designed with ease of adoption in mind and that can be adopted even without IT buy-in. In doing so, both companies are taking a page from Apple's playbook of delivering a high-end solution that any tech-savvy user could implement, an idea likely to become more prevalent in the coming months and years.

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