Spotlight: Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise mobility 2023: UEM meets DEX

With remote and hybrid work here to stay, unified endpoint management platforms are offering digital employee experience features, stronger integration with endpoint security tools, and greater automation.

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2015: Mobile device management broadens

Mobile device management (MDM) products continue to evolve as mobility takes on an increasingly important role in the enterprise, and as vendor consolidation continues.

Research firm Gartner Inc. describes MDM as one of "three pillars" that make up an enterprise mobility management (EMM) suite. The others are mobile asset management and mobile content management (the latter includes enterprise file synchronization and sharing).

"Organizations are looking beyond the need for MDM to a more holistic suite of EMM capabilities" that includes the management of mobile apps, mobile content and how devices and services are actually being used, says Philippe Winthrop, global mobility evangelist at Computer Sciences Corp., who follows the mobility industry as an analyst.

While many companies are still rationalizing their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approaches, others are also considering, or have already adopted, a corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) scheme "that can mitigate some of the more common challenges around developing a BYOD policy," Winthrop says.

With COPE, an organization provides devices and resources such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and software to employees, which they use and manage. It's the opposite of BYOD, in which workers use their own devices for work.

What's helping to drive the need for more comprehensive mobility management is the expanding use of mobile devices in the workplace. (Here's a detailed chart of features and functions in 10 different products.)

"Organizations are rapidly moving from using mobile devices simply as communication tools -- email, voice -- to using them as general-purpose computing tools," says Bryan Taylor, research director at Gartner. "In the process, they are deploying greater numbers of apps for both productivity and business enablement, and facilitating access to content securely."

The app management and content management components of EMM are increasing in significance accordingly, Taylor says.

"In addition, there's an increasing need to accommodate use cases where an MDM profile on the target device isn't practical, such as with contractors or with employees like certain healthcare professionals, who may work for several providers in a given week," Taylor says.

For those cases, mobile app and content management deployments are becoming more common, Taylor says. In other words, instead of securing the device itself, enterprises are securing the applications and content on the devices.

"In parallel, as mobile app deployments increase, organizations are expressing a higher level of interest in capabilities like operational analytics," which will allow companies to have a more granular view of how apps are being used, he says.

A big challenge for MDM providers is that the technology today is "a tiny part of enterprise mobility management overall, and it's probably not the most important anymore," says Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, a research firm that specializes in wireless and mobile technologies.

"MDM is really about configuration management and verification, and services like backup in some cases," Mathias says. "But mobile content management and mobile application management are far more important. MDM should be viewed as necessary but not sufficient, and you'll note that most of the vendors [are now including] functionality well beyond MDM."

Expense management is another important component of a mobility strategy, as is policy management for security and usage guidelines, Mathias adds.

The biggest development over the coming months and years "will be the 'demise' of MDM/EMM," Winthrop says. "What I mean by this is that mobile technologies will have become so pervasive that they will become the primary modality for end-user computing... This is not to suggest that the core capabilities of EMM will no longer be necessary. But rather they will be integrated into larger [and] broader management suites."

The rollup of EMM "into higher-order enterprise management systems is going to become very popular over the next few years, along with cloud-based solutions," Mathias says. These cloud services could lead to benefits such as improved scalability and a reduction in operating expenses, he says.

"In terms of technology, I expect to see mobile [operating systems] vendors include more of this functionality where it belongs: In the OS," Mathias says. "Standards could be important here, but good mobility management needs to be safely inside the OS, not bolted on top and acting like a rootkit. Check out what Apple has done here with iOS. Crude, not entirely effective, but an obvious strategic direction."

Apple has built an MDM framework into iOS designed to be scalable enough to fully configure and manage all the iOS devices within an organization. It provides features such as granular control over corporate managed accounts, apps, documents and data, as well as password enforcement and remote lock or wipe of lost or stolen devices.

Vendor and product consolidation will continue apace, experts predict. "I see more organizations acquiring pure plays of MDM, which are being swallowed up into larger systems," Winthrop says.

Indeed, pure-play MDM companies will have difficulty surviving on their own, Winthrop says. "Who's to say when the next wave of pickups will occur?" he says. "But it will happen. It's a matter of when, not if."

Taylor expects to see a growing number of vertically oriented MDM solutions, aimed at specific industries such as healthcare and education. "BYOD is still growing in adoption, and solutions for managing the billing aspects, such as split-billing, are starting to appear," he says. Split billing is the division of bills for services into two or more parts, such as between employers and workers.

This and other features will become offered by an increasing number of vendors in the coming months, he says.

What remains to be seen, however, is what impact trends such as the growth of wearable devices and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will have on the management of mobile devices.

"That's a big question," Winthrop says. "Wearables in the enterprise makes a ton of sense, for applications such as patient monitoring and making it much easier to do remote diagnostics. That's a huge opportunity. But it's also an unanswered question in terms of the overall security and governance model for wearables in the IoT context. It's all up for grabs right now."

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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