Two Kinds of Government App Store

In the recently published UK Government Cloud Strategy one of the key planks of the strategy was the development of a “Government App Store”. In fact, the first part of the Government App Store – renamed CloudStore – has just been launched. In other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and the US, there has also been talk of government app stores and even some deployments. In general, in both the public and private sectors App stores do seem to be flavour of the month. What is a Government App Store? And what could it look like? Well first we need to distinguish between two different senses in which the term “Government App Store” is being used in the various discussions (and in the news reports linked to above).

The first sense is the app store as a sort of flash enterprise IT service catalogue. The UK CloudStore is this kind of app store. This is a portal where a CEO, CIO or business unit manager can log to order the use of an enterprise or line-of-business app for her organisation (e.g. agency, department or business unit). What is supposed to make this an app store is that ordering an application (whether on-premise or Software-as-a-Service) is made as simple as ordering an app from the iTunes App Store (well as nearly as can be achieved). This is really a system that is analogous to an app store, rather than being just a government version of iTunes or the Android marketplace. To make this possible the organisation running the app store has to have achieved (at least) a few key things:

  1. The charging must be simple and transparent.
  2. The legal and commercial contracts must have been previously agreed.
  3. There must be some automation of the ordering, provisioning and sales processes.

So, for instance, as a CIO I can go to the app store portal, see how much a particular enterprise application will cost me, see the status and level of its certification, I don’t have to worry about getting my legal or commercial people involved, I can just order it and then it can be deployed to my staff.

The second sense in which we use the term “app store” is more familiar to us as consumers. It is an organisational version of the iTunes app store, which end users can use to select corporate apps to deploy to their devices. This is the kind of app store that all the cool corporations want at the moment and that the US government is using. In order to provide an application on this kind of app store an organisation needs to have achieved a few things:

  1. An overarching agreement between the software vendor and the organisation.
  2. Some form of automated ordering/charging mechanism.
  3. Packaged deployment of the application.

So, as the employee of an organisation, I can open the app store, and select one of the approved applications. If it is a SaaS application then I am granted access to the application and a link to it is deployed. If it is a standard desktop application then it is installed on my device for me.

We can see that the two different senses of “Government App Store” are not inconsistent with each other – in fact they complement one another.

Interactions between two different models of Government App Store

Interactions between two different models of Government App Store

A senior manager could use a service catalogue to order a desktop app (say MS Project or Adobe Photoshop) or a SaaS application (like SalesForce) for their enterprise. This would make the application available to their employees through their corporate app store accessed through their desktop or iPad. The employees could then select that application and have it deployed and ready to use immediately.

This could be the nirvana of automation from an overall organisational perspective – a fully automated app store for the corporate control of applications, and an individual end-user app store for the control and personalisation of each person’s devices. This would be the ultimate “Government App Store”.

When we talk about a Government app store we need to be clear about what kind of app store we are proposing. There are at least two different kinds (three if we include the combination of both as a third) which are radically different in purpose, target audience and architecture. If we aren’t clear about what we mean by “app store” then we run the risk of disappointing our key stakeholders if or when we finally launch it.

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One Comment to “Two Kinds of Government App Store”

  1. pretty good insights. I’ll be sure to stop by and read more from you. thanks.

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