The stores could also be useful by providing upfront advice on any potential hang-ups and extra involved costs when mixing best-in-breed components from competing vendors, Martens says. That user advice could even include information about who can help solve any conflicts, including the vendor, third-party integrators, or the customer.
Another option for enterprises is to create their own ERP app stores where their staff can choose pre-approved apps that fit their needs, Martens saysShe adds that app stores may present new purchasing challenges, but advises CIOs to not let that limit how they use app stores within their organizations.
The report lists several recommendations for determining whether ERP app stores make sense for a company :
- Start engaging with ERP app stores as a trial channel. Assess the possible benefits of making use of this emerging additional purchasing channel and gather as much information as possible to help plan your strategies.
- Use app stores as a gauge of ERP vendor vitality. Check out what they offer and make sure you are comfortable with the vendor's products, pricing, features and supported integrations with other products.
- Work with ERP vendors to gain access to usage data relevant to your organization. Use application usage and app store trial data as a basis for making internal policy decisions about who can purchase apps for corporate usage and whether you should seek changes in your current licensing agreements. For instance, with that knowledge in hand, does it make sense to move to an "all-you-can-eat" license from your ERP vendor?
- Investigate whether an internal app store would be beneficial to your company. How could you use it to foster more internal and external collaboration around app delivery and user support?
Companies using ERP app stores have to discuss all kinds of related issues, such as convenience and control, before deciding how they want to proceed with ERP app stores, Martens says. To that end, she adds, customers must ask vendors questions such as:
- How does the app store vendor stand behind the third-party apps offered in its store?
- Who provides first-line support for the apps?
- What access to usage data does the customer get and how can they control or regulate use of the app store by the company's staff?
- What is the interoperability between apps from the vendor and from other third-party apps offered in the app store? What extra costs are involved?
- How easy is the app store to use and how simple is the provisioning and billing process?
- Can a customer easily synchronize their subscriptions across a number of apps in the store so it's simple to manage renewals?
One challenge for the stores, according to the report, is that they need to remain focused to be truly useful to corporate users. "As app stores grow, business process pros may find them overstuffed with products that are poorly differentiated or of questionable fit and quality."
If they are successful, similar app stores could begin to appear for other enterprise apps beyond ERP, Marten says.
"Many app players are intrigued by the possibilities of having an app store, particularly those that are keen to highlight their PaaS and the kinds of apps that partners and customers can build on them," she says. "A key issue is whether app stores stay very individual vendor-focused or whether more aggregators appear or a particular app vendor appoints themselves to that role. It will also be interesting to see how more established mobile business app stores might in the future merge with these new enterprise app stores."