How to choose the right enterprise mobility management (EMM) tool

As mobile device management continues to morph, consider what EMM features you need right now as well as what you might need in the future -- and don't neglect the user experience.

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It’s almost redundant to refer to a “mobile workforce,” because so much of the workforce today is using mobile devices in some fashion. Managing this large and expanding environment continues to be a huge challenge for IT, and for a growing number of organizations, enterprise mobility management (EMM) is the solution of choice.

Recent industry research shows the expected growth in demand for EMM products, which typically incorporate mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), mobile security and mobile content management. An April 2017 report from The Radicati Group forecasts that worldwide revenues for the EMM market will total $1.8 billion by year-end 2017. This will increase to more than $3.3 billion by year-end 2021, for an average annual growth rate of 18% over the next four years.

Among the driving factors for the rising demand are the ongoing growth of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, the growing mobile workforce, mobile app proliferation, cybersecurity threats, and regulatory and compliance requirements, according to the report. EMM tools can be cloud-based, on-premises or a combination of both.

“At the most basic level, EMM technology allows organizations to support employee autonomy and choice while simultaneously protecting the enterprise from the threats that come from enabling employees with mobile,” says Andrew Hewitt, a researcher at Forrester Research. “Our research shows that if organizations mobile-enable their employees, those employees are happier, more productive, serve happier customers, and ultimately increase revenue for the organization.”

Device management capabilities are still a key driving need behind most organizations’ enterprise mobility initiatives, says Adam Holtby, a research analyst at Ovum. “EMM solutions that help organizations manage and secure a broad variety of connected endpoints will be very important going forward,” he says. “But enterprise mobility is moving beyond its device management roots.”

What’s new in mobile management

Today’s EMM products include MDM, MAM, security and content management features, but also offer advanced capabilities such as next-generation policy management and the ability to derive meaningful context about devices and their users. At the same time, there’s rising demand among organizations for capabilities that can help them manage the growing number of mobile threats. That’s creating a greater focus on the need for mobile identity. EMM vendors have begun providing more contextually relevant identity tools in their products, to permit or restrict access to corporate resources based on the network an employee is using.

Another key trend is more sophisticated use of analytics with EMM systems, spurred by advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Data gathered by EMM systems can allow enterprises to gain new efficiencies in workflows and make better business decisions. “Organizations are increasingly recognizing that mobility is a key digital transformation pillar,” says Holtby.

Along with these new capabilities come increasing costs, and prices are indeed rising for EMM products, according to experts. They say costs will continue to go up as the variety of devices increases and the mobile environment becomes even more complex.

And some companies have found that one EMM product isn’t enough to meet their needs. EMM is a sticky technology, Hewitt says, meaning it’s hard to completely remove one vendor and move to another. The majority of companies Forrester speaks with deploy multiple EMMs to serve a diverse device portfolio that typically includes multiple mobile and PC operating systems and form factors.

“We do expect organizations to consolidate their EMM portfolios as EMMs mature,” Hewitt says. “Organizations will standardize on EMM vendors that can serve the biggest variety of use cases.”

All this means that choosing the right EMM vendor and platform might be one of the more important technology decisions IT and business leaders have to make, given how many employees are using devices and the importance of mobility to the business. Here are some factors to consider before making that selection.

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