In early 2000s, an exciting technology surfaced promising to make buying and selling between businesses quick and easy. Called business-to-business exchanges, or e-markets, the idea fell flat largely because of the lack of neutrality among e-market operators. Businesses offering up goods and services in an e-market run by a major vendor didn't feel like they were getting a fair shake.
So the problems and the promise of enterprise app stores are nothing new. "The Apple App Store wasn't even officially out yet when we were floating this idea to the Board of selling SAP products and ecosystem products online through an app store concept," Maloney says.
SAP's Dan Maloney
The Board wasn't initially enthusiastic, he recalls. Members worried whether or not e-contracts could be used to sell multi-million dollar products. They fretted over the idea of customers and partners reviewing and rating solutions. What if a review was negative?
The SAP Store has some of the same challenges as the Apple App Store. As an app curator, Apple has taken a lot of criticism for a lack of transparency when allowing some apps into the store and disallowing others. Apps that don't perform well, contain malware or sneakily track user information bruise Apple's image. And then there were iOS developers gaming reviews to rise higher on all-important top ten lists.
"We have a lot of the same challenges, and I think even tougher because the enterprise concept of an app store adds in so many more complexities," Maloney says.
Consider the kind of apps on a consumer app store and an enterprise app store. An iPhone user who buys a buggy $.99 app on the App Store may be a little miffed. But software bought on the SAP Store that doesn't work in the customer environment can crash a manufacturing system and lose the company $10 million a day, Maloney says. "We have to worry much more about the quality, the certifications, these products go through."
Not just anyone can buy apps on the SAP Store, either. Newell Rubbermaid, for instance, has up to 60 different entities within the company but only two are allowed to purchase software on the SAP Store. "We've done a lot of great things there, but we still continue to struggle with those challenges," says Maloney.
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One of the great upsides of the SAP Store is that software has indeed been rigorously tested to work in various customer environments so that manufacturing systems don't crash. Apps are already designed to integrate into SAP.