The Main Benefits for Application Packaging - A Business Perspective
There are situations when you have to know the difference between expense and investment. Within the packaging industry, we know that it is definitely not cheap to package all applications in your organization respecting all quality standards.
For sure, it’s important to know what you will get in return for your investment - in this particular situation, what are the main benefits of application packaging.
So, since these benefits may impact our decisions, I will lay them out for all of us - technical and non-technical people - to get a better perspective of how it could help our organization.
If you're wondering:
Is it possible to look at Application Packaging as an investment considering how expensive Application Packagers for SMEs can be, and that some organizations need more than one to cope with the volume of work?
The answer is yes. And here are some of the ways...
If you want to read about the end-to-end application packaging process, including some of the most common challenges encountered by enterprises and how to overcome them, check this article.
1. Ensuring a stable, standard environment for your organization
It is well known among industry professionals that it is a best practice for each organization to have a reference image (also known as the Golden Image), as it reduces fragmentation which leads to a high standardization of the environment.
This is nothing else but a vanilla Windows image (a clean OS with no applications installed on it), customized to fit the organization's requirements.
As the Golden Image is used for building all the devices within the organization, our recommendation is to keep it as bare as possible.
Keep in mind that a full understanding of your organization’s environment along with its requirements and roadmap for the most common applications (like Office 365 and Adobe Reader DC) is highly recommended.
I'd like to emphasize that if you decide to include any application within your Golden Image, that application must be packaged first. You will need to be careful with the amount of applications you include, though, as the more applications you add, the more frequently you will have to recreate or update your Golden Image.
Any other packaged application not included in the Golden Image could be targeted separately at the build time or later on.
2. Reducing support costs
Having a stable, standard environment in place reduces the risk of running into all sorts of different issues with your applications. How?
When an application is packaged, it must have passed through multiple rounds of testing before it is rolled out to live users. If there is any issue with your application, it is very unlikely that it could slip through discovery, packaging and UAT altogether without being noticed.
Because of the superior testing, your organization can reduce the time and resources spent in providing support to the end users.
You can find more details about the end-to-end Application Packaging process here.
3. Packaging once and distributing everywhere
Let’s say you have a software which needs to go to a couple of hundreds devices within your organization. It would be very time consuming, costly, and not practical for your IT team to manually install it.
Here you can read more of why it is not recommended to install applications manually.
A great benefit of application packaging is that once an application is packaged based on the requirements provided by the business, that package can be distributed everywhere.
Keep in mind that you will still need to make sure you're covered from a licensing perspective.
4. Less business disruptions
It does not matter which packaging format you are using (MSI, AppV or MSIX) - package installation, uninstallation and upgrading can all be done silently in the background, without interrupting or prompting an action from the end-user.
Most of the time, business users will not even notice that something got installed on their devices until they see the application shortcuts.
5. Easier application management
And because we brought package installation, uninstallation, and upgrading to the table and how smooth these processes are from a business user perspective, let’s see how it looks from the IT Pros side.
Once the application is packaged and set up in the Configuration Manager, then it’s just a matter of adding the devices and/or users to the corresponding collection and managing it accordingly.
Moreover, the Configuration Manager comes with the great capability to handle the installation of any dependency required for your application (assuming that it is packaged and set up in the Configuration Manager) so you will not have to worry about it.
On the other hand, you can also easily monitor the deployment of each of your packaged applications by using the Monitoring workspace in the Configuration Manager.
6. Effectively running application inventory and reporting
There are times when you, as an IT Pro, will need to run reports to either investigate some aspects further or to present them to the managers.
Let’s suppose that your application worked without any issues, but a recent change in your environment broke your application or is preventing it from working as expected.
If you use a deployment tool like Configuration Manager to distribute your packaged applications, then you can identify the devices/users affected straight away and have a clear picture of how big the impact is. Once you have a fix for your issue, all you need to do is fix the affected devices.
Configuration Manager comes with a list of built-in reports that are grouped in various categories. Apart from those, you can also create your own custom reports.
7. Reducing security risks
Since the package installation, uninstallation, and upgrading are managed through the Configuration Manager Console, the vast majority of business users will not need admin rights - which will lead to a low-security risk. As it is common knowledge, the least amount of people that have access to admin rights, the more secure an environment is.
Also, if the software has any security issues, then they will most likely flourish during the discovery or packaging process when the application is looked at and reviewed in detail.
8. Mitigating uncontrolled software installation
No admin rights for business users means they will not be able to manually install any application on their own.
The application must either be installed using the Configuration Manager which is the preferred form, or by involving IT to manually install the application for them.
9. Customizing packages to suit business requirements
It is very rare for business users to have technical knowledge about the software they use.
Generally, they just use application software as helpful tools to complete certain tasks in their job.
This is the reason why packaged applications are already customized to meet business requirements. If there are any configurations needed, they are all included within the package.
10. Adhering to the best packaging practices
MSI is without any doubt the most known packaging format used across enterprises all over the world, followed by App-V and most recently, MSIX. Each of them comes with their own benefits - and limitations.
However, there are still a lot of ISVs that currently don’t deliver the installer of their software in any of these formats and therefore enterprises have to repackage it and convert the installer they get from ISVs to whatever packaging format best suits their needs.
Moreover, application packaging allows you to stick to best practices in terms of creating the installer. And this is relevant because there are some ISVs that don't fully comply with enterprise best practices. A good example here is the Google Chrome Enterprise which has its own installer and uses MSI, just as a wrapper for that.
Administration and management of the applications, along with application issues, are and will always be an ongoing and expensive headache for every organization.
But, by packaging and standardizing your applications, you can make it a more manageable and less costly process.
The amount you will save will depend mainly on the number of users and how many applications you use within your organization.
But, time is money and as we've seen in this article, there are so many other benefits to application packaging that don't necessarily involve lower costs, but more superior outcomes as the ones we've listed in this article.