Why your SaaS strategy should include an internal app store in 2014

To gain more control over provisioning, security and management, IT teams should consider establishing sanctioned cloud brokerages or application hubs.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Last month, one of the cloud services management and brokerage technology vendors released some research suggesting that almost all of the biggest Fortune 500-type companies are involved in building out application marketplaces: approximately one-fifth of them are emphasizing this approach as a strategic way to deploy services for their customers, according to the data collected by AppDirect.

"Sometimes large companies can be slow to adopt new technologies, but the Fortune 500 are jumping into the app economy headfirst," said Daniek Saks, co-CE of AppDirect. "Not only do the majority of Fortune 500 companies offer apps of some type, but the overwhelmingly turn to application marketplaces to distribute them to end users."

Separate research from consulting company MarketsandMarkets underscores how potential magnitude of this trend. Its data suggests that cloud brokerage enagement technologies and services will grow from a $225.4 million market in 2013 to $2.03 billion by 2018, which represents a compound annual growth rate of 55.3 percent.

The MarketsandMarkets research covers both external brokerages, which companies might use to serve up applications for paying customers, and internal ones that businesses might use to better control and manage the cloud and mobile applications that their employees are sanctioned to use on the job.

In the latter case, in particular, brokerages might provide benefits such as single sign-on, shared document repositories between certain applications, and automated processes that link related services.

In its cloud computing trend predictions for 2014, Forrester Research uses a different term to describe the same phenenomenon: 

SaaS applications will become the standard portfolio elements, and centralized IT procurement and management processes will rise up to support them," writes Forrester's cloud analyst team. "At the heart of these processes will be the service catalog, a place not only to define, advertise and price the services IT delivers, but the vehicle to empower cloud consumers and IT proas alike through self-service, single sign-on, and centralized delivery. Service catalogs will go beyond the 'how' of cloud delivery and engage the business consumer to decide 'what' should be delivered, and 'when.'

This approach could be instrumental in returning a little sanity to the application procurement process. I'm reminded of a recent conversation I had before the holiday slowdown began with Lisa Hager, global head and vice president of the Salesforce practice for Tata Consultancy Services.

Because of the way that business teams typically procure Salesforce (often by circumventing the IT organization), as well the mergers and acquisitions that are sweeping certain industries, Hager said it isn't uncommon to find multiple instances in many of Tata's clients. (In one case, the company was managing 54 of them!) Getting a tighter grip on standardizing these processes is critical for better customer engagement.

"You need to be more efficient on the back end, which will increase the tools and creativity available to your team on the front end," Hager said.

Sounds like a pretty good argument for an application exchange or brokerage or service catalog -- or whatever you want to call it -- to me.

(This story was updated Jan. 9 to clarify the survey sample for the AppDirect study.)

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