In-house 'app stores' ease tablet-management woes

Although this level of control isn't for everyone, it does help keep a lid on chaos and support woes

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Going with an 'app store' approach

Imris, a provider of medical equipment based in Canada, has deployed Apple's iPad to sales and marketing representatives, product managers, executives and others. It allows users to download applications from a company app store that it deploys using a third-party tool called Enterprise App Services Environment from Apperian, says Imris's IT director, Ben VanOsch.

"Through this store, we are deploying company-specific apps to our end users," VanOsch says. As his group identifies public apps that it wants to adopt as recommended company apps, they're added to the company app store. This allows for "consistency" throughout Imris, he explains.

Ben VanOsch
Imris has adopted a company app store but also allows end users to download publicly available software, explains IT Director Ben VanOsch.

Currently, Imris has 16 private apps and two public ones. The company is using Apperian's EASE application as its app store, which is called InfoCentral, and it's using GoodReader from Good.iWare as a document repository.

It expects to deploy two more public apps within the next couple of months, after the IT group verifies the fit and value for Imris. It's in the process of developing two private applications, which will be released by mid-June.

There are 32 iPad users in the company, all of whom have downloaded apps from InfoCentral. "We are considering deploying iPads to our board of directors, other leaders within the company and to every employee in the company," VanOsch says. "We believe the iPad can become a strategic communication tool for our company, providing increased timeliness of the message and increased environmental responsibility by reducing paper as a means of communicating."

While the app store is the preferred way to go, VanOsch says it's likely that iPad users have downloaded personal software as well -- and that's OK with him.

Among the benefits of the strategy is that it provides flexibility for users while at the same time maintaining some control over what can be used on the devices. "Most [users] have the same app requirements; however, due to their different roles and localization needs, it provides them the latitude to personalize their iPad in a manner they believe will provide them the greatest benefit," VanOsch says.

Enterprise apps

A company app store "allows us to manage the deployment of apps from our main office and [keep] everyone worldwide with the same message and tools," VanOsch says. While not everyone may be using the exact same tools, "for tools and messages that we want to manage centrally, this medium allows us to accomplish this very well," he says. In the past, marketing materials or sales tools deployed to teams could be altered or become outdated, resulting in an increased risk of the company presenting conflicting messages to potential customers.

"We are currently open to empowering employees to manage public apps responsibly with the expectation they will identify and use public apps that add value to their role," VanOsch says. He plans to monitor the tablet software approach over the next six to 12 months to gauge the value and impact on device use and performance.

A mixed model

Other organizations are allowing individuals to select from a range of publicly available applications -- with some controls -- rather than creating an in-house app store.

The Morris School District in Morristown, N.J., began deploying iPads among high schools and middle schools about a year and a half ago and is using about 200 of the devices, with plans to increase the number considerably in the coming months.

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