Application portals for mobile device management are no joke

What do a Gartner analyst, a Forrester analyst, the CIO of a group of community colleges, and mobile device management (MDM) vendors have in common? (No, this isn’t the setup for a bad joke.) Answer: All four point to the use of application portals to solve a myriad of problems related to the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise.

To retain control of the applications being used on mobile devices, CIOs are building portals for internal enterprise applications. These portals contain a list of tested and approved applications that can be used on many devices — and here’s the punch line — with the blessing of IT.

Christian Kane, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst brought this topic up while we were talking about mobile device management. It seems that many MDM vendors and enterprise-portal players have noticed the need for an internal app store, and have developed customizable templates that an organization can use to populate a store with apps and set policies for their use.

Jack Santos, an analyst at Gartner Inc., predicted that enterprises would start to build their own application portals — akin to those you find in Apple’s App Store — in his talk about the changing role of IT during the Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego in 2011.

Dustin Fennell, CIO at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, decided to use desktop virtualization to give 13,000 students and 1,000 employees any-device, anytime access to data and applications. A big part of his strategy hinged on the building of an application portal. IT populated the portal with preapproved applications, but students and faculty can request the addition of new ones. These apps in turn are tested by the requestor before they are put into the application portal for general college community use.

Some might call this an evolution of the corporate intranet, but I think it’s more than that: It’s another way that IT is fulfilling the needs — particularly the mobile desires — of employees in a corporate culture driven by consumerization — while subtly making sure that security and other policies remain intact.

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