In typical computer management, the IT department procures and distributes applications to their managed computers and controls the inventory of licenses. When it comes to managing tablets in an enterprise environment, the requirement remains, but the process is different. There are tools available that will make handling those license purchases much easier for your department. Once such tool is Apple's Volume Purchase Program (VPP).
Until recently, VPP was a tool that was enjoyed exclusively by the education market. It's now used by the enterprise market and includes some goodies and extras not found within the education counterpart. This program allows an organization to purchase bulk quantities of licenses for a single app. Instead of mandating and recommending what apps their users must use, IT admins can now purchase the apps and pass along redemption codes to their users to ensure that they have the tools required to complete their jobs.
As with anything, there's always going to be some sort of sign up process, especially when it comes to Apple products and services. When you sign up for the VPP, be prepared with at least one piece of information: your organization's Dun and Bradstreet number (D-U-N-S). If you don't have that information, you'll probably need to contact your accounting department or HR representative to find out who would have that.
Once you have the D-U-N-S number, you can proceed to sign for an Apple VPP account. There will be a waiting period of about five days before you can move forward, so please bear that in mind when planning out the steps for your organization's implementation of the VPP. Once the sign-up is complete, and you've received approval from Apple, you'll have a Program Manager ready to go.
The Program Manager role will be assigned an email address. It's a good idea to give it a generic email address that isn't tied to an individual, because if that individual leaves, then the account access goes with them and there's some difficulty changing the email when that happens.
The person who is designated as Program Manager cannot purchase apps nor distribute redemption codes. The Program Manager simply manages the account and creates Program Facilitators. All of these accounts are tied to email addresses, and a single email address cannot be used for both roles.
The role of the Program Facilitator is setup so you can create a Program Facilitator for each department in your organization — or if your organization is spread out among different offices, you can create a Program Facilitator for each IT group at each office. The Program Facilitator is in charge of doing the actual purchasing of apps and distributing the licenses to the users that need them. The licenses come in the form of redemption codes that are stored within an Excel file that's sent to the Program Facilitator once a purchase has been made. There's a special portal that the Program Facilitator can visit to find the apps and their corresponding price.
One very important thing to note is that once a redemption code is used, it cannot be used again. Whoever redeemed that code is the owner of that license, because it's tied to the redeeming account. Even through the use of third-party mobile device management (MDM) solutions, those licenses cannot be reclaimed.
Third-party MDM solutions are extremely useful when it comes to distributing the codes to a large number of devices that are managed by that solution. In most cases, the Program Facilitator can assign the codes to users and remove the app when a user no longer needs it or is no longer with the organization. That person can still reinstall the app, but the data that was there before will no longer be available.
The VPP is designed to get apps to users but not to reclaim the license later on. If this is absolutely important to you, you'll need to consider the option of redeeming a code under a generic account and installing that app with that account, exercising caution not to install more apps than you have licenses. This will give you the ability to reclaim those licenses and distribute them elsewhere in your organization.
If you have any additional ideas or experience with Apple's VPP, please share them in the discussion thread below.
Jacob Bradshaw is a Systems Admin for the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. He manages all things Mac and mobile related and still geeks out over the latest in all things mobile.