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App Store Essentials: Automating Approval Workflows

By: Laura Noonan

The true power of an enterprise app store comes into play after the user submits a request for an application. A lot of things have to occur quickly, automatically and in the right order so that apps are delivered to users in a timely manner. To make that happen, you need an approval workflow process that takes over and guides the request through all approval and processing steps.

Approval workflows need to be highly flexible and granular so you can move requests through quickly while complying with both internal policies and external regulations. As you design those workflows, consider incorporating the following capabilities that are found in highly successful enterprise app stores:

  1. Security and control. Successful app stores put IT in charge of which apps require approval, who can approve requests and what routing structure to use. Additionally, they leverage in-place security groups, Organizational Units, Active Directory (AD) Properties and SCCM collection membership to protect enterprise software while speeding app store deployment and simplifying store management.
  2. Flexible routing. Support for both single and multiple levels of approval with multiple approvers per level is a must, as is support for both linear —all approvers in a list, in order — and pool approvers — approval by any single approver from a pool.
  3. Conditional approvals. The approval process should be dynamic, routing approvals based on such factors and conditions as cost, license availability, security groups, Organizational Units, AD Properties and SCCM collection membership.
  4. Integration with directory services such as AD. Use directory data to identify a requester’s manager and route requests appropriately. It’s also beneficial if your store can dynamically determine the appropriate approval process based on such attributes as department, office, organizational unit or SCCM collection.
  5. Designation and delegation. The ability to designate alternates when a primary approver is not available keeps requests flowing. Delegating responsibilities to regional, local and departmental administrators allows local personnel to order apps on behalf of their users.
  6. User options. When there’s no way to programmatically identify a user’s manager, allow the user pick a manager from a list so requests are routed and processed in a timely manner.
  7. Expanded workflows. If necessary, build workflows that trigger actions such as running a script or executing a command upon each approval action. Actions can occur at any point in the approval process.
  8. Approver support. Supply approvers with adequate information such as the requester’s business justification, license availability or application cost to improve decision making. Also, give approvers the flexibility to obtain additional information from requesters, suggest alternate software and reassign requests to other approvers.

The bottom line is that flexibility and granularity ensure consistency and timeliness in handling approvals and minimize the need for IT to intervene to keep requests moving through the cycle.

In our next App Store Essentials blog, “Tapping the Power of SCCM,” we’ll turn our attention to how out-of-the-box integration with enterprise deployment tools such as Microsoft® System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) helps integrate your enterprise app store into an overall strategy for delivering applications to users. Check back soon for more ways to enhance the success of your app store.

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