Sunday, May 22, 2011

PeopleSoft App Store: Expanding the idea

I had talked about the idea of a PeopleSoft app store in two previous posts. You can find them here and here. I went on to expand the idea a bit on the prodding of Ryan Martiny of iResume. Some key areas from the thesis is presented below. The below details represent my intellectual property and anyone wanting to quote this or expand on this can do so after consulting with me.

We already have proven and working models around us with regards to an App Store, so my ideas around this is nothing radical. The basic concept would mirror the already existing App Stores, in the sense that it will serve as an online marketplace, providing a common platform for developers and customers to interact. But considering that PeopleSoft is an on-premise enterprise software, we will need to tailor the App Store to best suit the requirements of PeopleSoft customers as well as to come up with a delivery model that will be ideal for an enterprise software.
As I look at it, there can be 3 distinct categories of content that can go in this store: (a) Apps (b) Database scripts (c) Books/Training guides/Red papers etc. Delivery of this content will vary depending on the nature of the content. For example, database scripts and content like books etc. can be directly downloaded from the app store. But, it will be interesting to think how best to deliver the apps themselves. I foresee that the installation of a lot of apps will require an impact analysis from customer to customer and this presents us with two options. One option is to let the customer download the app directly from the store and the customer itself takes up the impact analysis and installation of the app. In this case, the app store nor the developer(s) of the app would provide any ongoing support and the customer would acknowledge that they will be downloading and managing the app at their own responsibility. The second option is to let the customer download the app from the store, but leave the impact analysis and installation to the developer(s). In this case, the customer would be provided with the contact details of the developer(s) such that the two parties can interact for further installation and support. The app store will house all items required for the installation of an app, i.e. PeopleSoft project, DMS scripts, all necessary documentation, any necessary installation guides etc. Any app purchased through the app store will have to be downloaded from the app store itself and it will be illegal for participating developers/development houses to directly deliver the installation package of an app to the customer.

Posting content in the store
Considering the nature of software we are dealing with, it will be required to enforce strict quality control on the software that will be posted in the store. The credibility of the developer is extremely important in this case as it will be required for those who generate the content to provide on going support to customers. Considering all these factors, only those developers/development houses that pass certain criteria will be allowed to post content in the app store. Any content that is posted in the app store will have to go through a review process and has to be supported by all necessary documentation like functional design document, technical design document, installation guide, installation objects like project, DMS scripts etc. and detailed test cases. Minimum coding standards will also have to be maintained. Only those developers/development houses that can adhere to these restrictions will be able to post content in the store.

The following categories can be provided in the app store. Each app posted in the store can be put under these general categories and customers will be able to search for apps under these categories:
1. HCM 2. FSCM 3. CRM 4. Campus Solutions 5. Security 6. Reporting 7. Integration 8. Portal 9. Mobile Apps 10. Upgrade

General website features:
The following general features can be provided in the app store:
1. Utility to rate an app by customers.
2. Utility to ask for peer customer feedback on a certain app.
3. Feature to share an app with a friend.
4. Feature for customers to suggest apps that they would like to have.
5. Feature to compare apps so that customers can compare apps with similar functionality for price, customer rating, number of times downloaded etc.
6. Utility to find an app that the customer wants. This can be done by a series of questions which the customer can answer and at the end of the process will be presented with a list of apps that suit their requirement.
7. List of top rated developers/development houses.
8. App of the week.
9. Regional focus - I think it will be great to have apps that have local/regional focus and even apps that cater to local language. This will greatly enhance the attractiveness and compatibility of apps to customers.

All of this can be supplemented by having offline conclaves of developers, providing an app challenge etc. that should help foster the developer community.

Revenue sources:
A percentage of sales of each app can be withheld by the app store management. Relative pricing should be adopted. That is, the fee withheld will vary with the price of the app - with lesser fee being taken for cheaper apps and more for costlier apps.
A flat fee can be charged to qualify as an app store certified developer/development house.
Ads of development houses can be put on the web or if this might dilute the usability/branding of the store, a separate section/link can be provided where featured companies/products can be displayed. This is more like a pure advertising page of PeopleSoft companies/products.  Sure that there will be takers for this as the app store will generate good amount of traffic.
Developer platform - independent developers who do not have sufficient support/infrastructure to qualify as a certified development house could be provided a platform/environment for developing apps. The store will retain a higher percentage of the sales proceedings of such developers.