30 May 2012

App Stores, Standards, and the Power of Developers

Written by: Romuald Restout

Want to get the latest Florence and the Machine album or the latest "Game of Thrones" episode? There is an App store for that. Want to manage your pictures across all your devices? There is an App store for that. Want to manage your to-do list? There is an App store for that. Want to exchange files with your colleagues or family? There is a .... You get the idea.

App stores are convenient; they give you the ability to access all apps in the same virtual place, to browse apps for a particular category or function and to even discover needs that you didn't even know you had. So it's no surprise that App stores have become a predominant -if not the main- way for consumers to acquire (whether free or paying) software or media.It's no surprise either that App stores are flourishing or that each social platform is creating their own. Latest to join the party is no other than Facebook.

Part of the success of these stores is how these brands (Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, …) dominate their respective market.However, having a brand name is not enough to ensure the continuous success of the App store. Developers too have a part to play in that success and even have the power to make or break entire brands. See the case of Nokia app store (HBR article "A Sad Lesson in Collaborative Innovation"
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/05/a_sad_lesson_in_collaborative_innovation.html?awid=6001084872765852006-3271). Empty shelves are of no interest to buyers. App stores bloom because, on the seller side, their virtual shelves are full and can reach any specific need for any individual.

That works fine on the consumer side. In the world of HR and Talent Management though, there is no market dominance. On one hand, there are a few major players and a lot of market consolidation going on. On the other hand, there are a multitude of start-ups that are born, some of which will become successful and enrich the ecosystem. Similar to the consumer app stores, there are buyers and users. But they are scattered across multiple platforms, middlewares, and technologies. Vendors and developers are here too, but they are on various technology stacks. Thus, market dominance cannot be the basis for a relevant -and successful- app store for HR solutions. Open standards can. By defining a common language and common transactions, it becomes possible to have focused solutions (e.g. background checks, assessments, recruiting,....) that seamlessly connect to your own HR platform.

The HR-XML Consortium recently launched an initiative that references existing implementations of the HR-XML standards: the HR-XML marketplace (http://marketplace.hr-xml.org/). While far from exhaustive, this is a starting point for an app store that includes those solutions in the market that organisations can use without having to buy into the platform. If you're already using HR-XML, I strongly encourage you to register your solution. If you're looking for a solution, I strongly encourage you to check what's already registered.