Who’s Minding the Store?

Before I could enjoy my Father’s Day brunch this past weekend, I found myself with a list of things to do around the house – cleaning out the garage, vacuuming the car, replacing our mailbox which “someone” in my family (not me) ran over. The latter of these tasks, of course, required that I go out and purchase some tools and supplies – a new post, new box, numbers for the box and a post digger – to get the job done.

My first stop in obtaining the necessary equipment, as always, was my local hardware store. I’m a huge proponent of buying things at local businesses rather than going out to the chain stores. I usually find the more local the store, the more helpful they are.

A similar theme, only from the “provider” point of view, is becoming pervasive among corporations when it comes to making applications available to their employees. Companies are “keeping it local” when it comes to making apps available. As InfoWorld’s app development guru, Paul Krill, points out:

“Companies developing their own custom applications, for example, do not want to make their intellectual property available in a commercial app store, so they set up their own.”

And who could blame them? With “Bring Your Own Device” (i.e., BYOD) one of the driving forces behind companies opening their own, proprietary app stores, organizations need to be certain that their customized apps do not wind up in the hands of those outside the company and they must be sure that the apps being downloaded by employees to access company files can be trusted.

With public app stores of today, that’s not always the case.

Buyer Beware

It’s little wonder companies want to keep their app stores close to the vest and their employees should actually be thankful for that move. If the news over the past 18 months about public app stores has shows us anything it’s that the quality of the available applications doesn’t always meet the highest standards for structural…and that’s being kind.

Take the Android app store for example. There are those who openly question if Google has any application software quality standards that need to be met before being offered in Android Market. Google would cite this laissez faire attitude as being part of its open source nature, but the old adage of programming – “Garbage in, garbage out” – should somehow apply to offering mobile apps in Android Market.

Even Apple, which posts a list of application standards for developers to use if they want to post an application to the App Store, has its issues with applications, but they see fewer of them. Why? Because their example of having a set of standards — and perhaps even a certification process —in place helps ensure structural quality and curbs the availability of malware in app stores.

Start at the Top

When it comes to application software quality, there is plenty of responsibility to be shared at each of level of mobile application distribution, and that’s a big reason why businesses are right in opening their own app stores for employees. Under their control, they can have oversight over the structural quality of the apps being offered and those who handle them – from those who develop the apps to those who administer the app store.

After all, responsibility for the structural quality of application software being offered rightly should begin at the top. The CIO or IT Director needs to establish a set of software quality standards for the apps being made available and then ensure any application that is offered meets those standards. This will help curb new issues and prevent vulnerabilities from older versions creeping into the new versions built on top of them.

Should companies fail to provide the necessary oversight for their app stores, they place their entire operation at risk because not taking responsibility for structural quality through a corporate app store is the same as nobody minding the store.

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