Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Blog

Mobile Software Distribution: The Next Great Challenge

There are no effective distribution channels for enterprise mobility software. Connecting the challenge many enterprise mobility software vendors have had scaling their business with the lack of a capable sales, market development and distribution channel is certainly oversimplifying things. However, the issue is not trivial.

One historical challenge has been the propensity for enterprises to custom develop and integrate - either internally or through third parties - their mobile software solutions. This - in part - has limited the need for more effective mobile distribution options. However, that is clearly changing.

VDC's most recent enterprise mobility channel research reveals a couple of trends with respect to mobile software distribution:

1. Hardware margin erosion is forcing channel organizations to focus more on software and services;

2. Enterprise mobility hardware vendor's channel programs increasingly include ISV (independent software vendor) tracks - a historically hardware agnostic community;

3. Enterprise mobile software vendors/ISVs are significantly increasing their investments in their channel programs in attempts to scale their business; and

4. Wireless carriers are expanding their efforts to white label third party mobile software development platforms in an effort to simplify enterprise mobile application development.

Improving mobile software solutions availability and accessibility is clearly a priority for many constituents across the enterprise mobility value-chain. However, most will acknowledge that they still have a long ways to go. What about the 'app store' model for enterprise mobile software applications? VDC has long contended - and continues to believe - that, while hugely success for consumer applications, the 'app store' does not represent a viable channel for enterprise mobile applications.

Why? The need for back end system integration - a critical need when evaluating enterprise mobile applications according to our research - is perhaps the most glaring issue. Others include the need to custom design solutions (defining fields for forms based apps, for example) and other unique enterprise device and security management needs.

However, the app store model - with some modifications - may actually fill a unique need (for a specific application set and target user) in next generation enterprise mobility distribution models. This would take the share of a 'enterprise-focused' application store (the need for a separate storefront away from consumer apps will be critical as most business application developers suffer from lack of visibility in current mobile store fronts). The target solutions would be simpler applications/point solutions targeted at small to mid sized organizations. Some of the key requirements for this to be successful would include:

1. Processes and policies to track the download process and enforce/guarantee employees install the target application;

2. Tools that provide governance over which devices are permitted to download the applications;

3. On-line training and technical support services;

4. Integrated inventory and policy management services; and 

5. Ability to create custom enterprise portals that enable organizations to push custom developed applications to target users.

Clearly this addresses only a sub-set of the issues plaguing enterprise mobile software distribution. However, as enterprise applications become simpler to design and use we would expect them to also to become simpler to distribute and deploy.