How (not) to manage apps in an iOS and Android world

As users get apps from an app store, how does IT manage and support them. Guess what? It doesn't

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IT needs to think different. Let go of the endpoint mentality, and instead focus on the information and access to it. Then you won't be asking about how to manage apps or worry about site licenses -- at least not for stuff outside the data center. The poster child for this new approach is Bechtel, whose CIO Geir Ramleth sucessfully exited the endpoint business two years ago. I hear more and more CIOs at conferences and in interviews starting to think the same way.

The reality is that users are smarter about tech and need less mothering than in the 1980s and 1990s. I remember when fax machines, photocopiers, and printers were expensive, complex, and fragile. Secretaries guarded them carefully, and regular staff were kept away; many companies had departments to manage copying and faxing. Over time, the technology got better and cheaper, and employees got more familiar. Today, these devices are broadly available to everyone, in a self-service context. Many of us have them at home. You call a contractor when they break, and facilities or low-level IT monitors paper and toner levels -- or the staff does. And no one vets what you copy or print to make sure it's authorized; the assumption is you can be trusted with the information you have access to.

Well, that's what's happening with PCs, mobile devices, and some classes of apps.

Also rethink app support
As for enterprise support plans, just think about all the money you'll save as users spend more time on mobile devices whose apps don't carry that additional expense. Yes, you'll have to train your support staff to know the apps that you decide are corporate-standard or corporate-preferred. But you do that anyhow with tools like Office today.

For tools that employees choose to use beyond your standards, the employee provides his or her own support -- that's the trade-off for the flexibility to choose from outside the official list. It's a trade-off that many people are willing and even happy to make. (Those that don't want that choice will use whatever you issue and support.)

Mobile and desktop apps that come through app stores follow the same model as SaaS "cloud" apps and open source apps -- developers update them regularly and users get those updates when they are ready. There's very little in the way of support; the notion of vendor support phone lines is pretty much dead already for individually oriented software, including business-oriented apps like Office and Creative Suite. The fact that mobile, app store, and cloud apps don't provide it is really just more of what's already happened.

If you really need support for such apps, you'll find a cottage industry of consultants and support firms happy to take your business. They just won't be the same companies that developed the apps. It's basically no different than those copiers, printers, and fax machines -- or a home appliance or car: You usually rely on a local independent service provider rather than the manufacturer. That's where computers have been going for some time, and apps are following -- outside the data center that is.

This article, "How (not) to manage apps in an iOS and Android world," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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