While Apple devices have found their way into the enterprise in growing numbers, they have largely been coming in “the front door” — arriving as employee-owned devices largely outside the view of IT. But Markham, Ont.-based solution provider Compugen is aiming to change that, inking a deal with the largely consumer-focused vendor to take a distinctly business-focused approach.
Under the deal, Compugen gains access to Apple’s full lineup, including Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch and Apple TV, and will concentrate much of its effort on IT-friendly device-as-a-service pacts.
“We’ve very clearly heard from lots of customers that support for the Apple portfolio is not there — there’s been a gap for a bunch of reasons, and as a result, iPads, iPhones and Macs are grudgingly accepted in the enterprise,” said Harry Zarek, president of Compugen. “There isn’t a support program or model that treats these as an IT device, but we feel we can allow Apple to be a full participant in the enterprise.”
Zarek praised Apple’s focus on the user experience, and said that has led to the company’s devices being in demand in the enterprise. IT, he said, has supported them for top executives because they’ve been forced to. But a demographic shift towards millennials, organizations are finding they have to support the user’s choice of devices to remain competitive in attracting and maintaining top young talent.
“I think there’s a latent interest in Apple in the enterprise, and when you look at the demographic coming in now, they’ve grown up with their Macs and iPhones, and we’re in a different world now, where the corporate has to find ways to attract the right people,” Zarek said.
At the same time, the concept of device-as-a-service has loosened the traditional IT role of handing out a fleet of identical pieces of company-owned hardware for computing, allowing what Zarek calls “managed diversity” of devices based on both employee needs and preferences. Under its DaaS offering, Compugen aims to reduce barriers to entry for Apple products in the enterprise by offering to “take over” close-to-the-device services on what might be unfamiliar operating systems for many IT departments. Compugen offers a variety of DaaS services, including setup and configuration, asset tagging, application loading, remote wiping, desk-side support, and end of life management.
While Macs are included in the strategy, Zarek said the company’s iOS devices — the iPad and the iPhone — are the focus of the campaign, both because they’re the devices most on the outside looking in from an IT standpoint, and because of the volume of such devices in use or potentially in use.
The company also intends to take the interesting step of bringing the App Store “app economy” into the enterprise. Apple’s devices have had a massive number of applications, from the mundane to the silly to the potentially enterprise-grade, developed by a huge rank of developers from one-person organizations to massive development shops over the last decade, but for the most part, those applications have remained in the decidedly consumer buying motion of the on-device App Store.
Zarek said Compugen will start building industry-specific bundles around Apple’s devices in fields like retail, public utilities, healthcare and hospitality, taking advantage of apps that largely hasn’t been exposed to the enterprise.
“There’s a whole ecosystem we’re beginning to understand where ISVs have developed industry-specific apps for the iPad, but they haven’t made their way into the business marketplace as yet,” Zarek said. “They’ve been driven by the App Store rather than the kind of proactive enterprise selling we can offer. There’s an opportunity there for us to help integrate those things.”
Apple, of course, has long been known for its largely direct sales strategy, focused on selling to consumers and businesses alike through its own online and brick and mortar Apple Stores, and in the case of iPhones, the mobile carriers. So how did they manage to find themselves in a deal with a business-focused solution provider like Compugen?
“We’ve been working quietly with them for some time,” Zarek said.
That work began with “sharing feedback we get from enterprise accounts that they were getting less than enterprise-level support” in dealing with Apple devices and services. While Zarek described the company as predictably reluctant to acknowledge the issue initially, as the volume of that feedback mounted, Apple became more willing to listen. Along with its own efforts, Compugen was likely helped by Apple’s recent high-profile and decidedly enterprise-focused partnerships with the likes of IBM and Cisco.
“Apple has been so focused on the consumer marketplace for so long, and they’ve done an amazing job there,” Zarek said. “But for whatever reason, that focus for a long time didn’t include the enterprise, and that’s clearly not the case now.”