customers get an AppExchange of their own

Large companies beset by on the consumerization of IT conundrum want a way to let employees find and download approved applications in an easy-peasy way. The alternative is that people will just do what they want and chaos ensues — at least from an centralized IT perspective.

That’s why crm) is now offering Private AppExchange, a version of its public app store that lets CIOs (or whoever’s allegedly in charge) pick and choose available mobile, desktop and web applications that employees can download easily and which will be centrally billed.

It’s a tough problem. Users want the same easy experience they have on the consumer side, but IT wants to have at least some idea what apps employees use and — perhaps more importantly — make sure they’re getting volume pricing if applicable.

sfcom1People at work “want to be able to look for apps, read the reviews, install them and leverage Facebook or whatever for identity. That’s not there yet in the enterprise — there is no central place to find apps — it’s a black box and no one knows who’s doing what,”  Sara Varni, senior director of AppExchange marketing said in an interview.

Private AppExchange makes use of Salesforce Identity to verify user identities and integrates with Chatter so they can confer with each other on which apps are great and which are only “meh.”

San Francisco-based is not alone in this quest: BMC bought Partnerpedia in part to offer enterprise-friendly internal app stores. IBM(s ibm), Atlassian, Tibbr(s tibx), Box, Jive, Podio, Hootsuite and Nimble all have app stores but they are mostly online catalogs, said Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky.

“What’s interesting about Private AppExchange is that via Chatter employees can … discuss the applications, provide self-support, weed out the best apps, etc.  This is much better than accessing a generic public app store and having to fend for yourself to discover the best tools,” he said via email.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies said this will be useful for companies comfortable working with since it’s a replica of AppExchange configured to allow a CIO to use for internal purposes. “The fact that it offers single sign-on and unified billing is very important,” he said.

And, for Salesforce, which wants to have a bigger footprint in customer accounts, it could be useful. Private AppExchange use is free to customers who pay $125 per user per month for Salesforce Enterprise.