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The capabilities and challenges of an EMM platform

Enterprise mobility management is essential for companies today. Find out what an EMM platform does, the challenges it may bring, and what a successful EMM process looks like.

There is no doubt that mobile devices have changed how enterprises execute work. Look around any meeting you attend -- almost everyone will have a smartphone. The first surge of mobile management started in 2012-2013 with the push for BYOD. The presence of both personal and company-owned mobile devices is fast-growing, since their processing power is useful for many different types of projects, and because they are cheap and disposable -- for example, good Android tablets are available for as little as $50. The slew of different mobile devices on the market, however, has made them challenging for IT to manage.

Mobile device management (MDM) was once the standard approach for device protection. But using just MDM to address this issue was akin to using a sledgehammer to put in a nail. MDM requires the owner of the device to allow the company to have complete access to the device, but companies soon realized that the device isn't necessarily the issue, but rather its data.

What is EMM?

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) developed as a more mature and complex process to augment and, in many cases, replace MDM. The main difference between the two is that while an EMM platform leverages many of the same tools, it extends the core functionality of MDM with increased support for security, identity management, content control and development.

The focus for EMM is the following:

  • Device Management;
  • Secure and control access to corporate apps; and
  • Secure and control access to corporate data.
EMM components
Components of EMM

Capabilities of EMM

There is no one process for an EMM platform. EMM is a collection of services that manage the whole mobile corporate environment. The following are the most traditional services that should be part of any EMM strategy:

  • MDM: As discussed prior, MDM provides control over the whole mobile device and is the most mature management service in EMM;
  • MAM (mobile application management): MAM provides more precise control over an individual app -- often wrapping the app in a container -- that enables the app to be separated from the rest of the device;
  • MCM (mobile content management): MCM enables companies to secure the content in an app by separating the content into a container within an app;
  • MIM (mobile identity management): Identity management is a much more streamlined method of user authentication than using the VPN, which often actually prevents users from wanting to connect to data. A good example is the identity management provided in Microsoft's Office 365 login process.
  • UEM (unified endpoint management): UEM allows IT admins to manage all devices including mobile devices, desktops, laptops and servers.

These five technologies form the foundation of an EMM platform.

EMM differences between iOS and Android

Apple's iOS and Google's Android are the dominant mobile operating systems in corporate environments. The two OSes are very different and should not be lumped together just because they power phones and tablets.

Apple iOS has a strong foothold in many companies largely due to its security capabilities while malware and viruses have plagued Android products for many years. Apple has unique enterprise deployment challenges, however. The largest problem is that an admin cannot push out updates to the core mobile OS; Apple has always managed OS and point releases.

Arguably, Apple has done an excellent job. Within four weeks of an OS patch or upgrade release over 60% of all active devices have upgraded. There are many other EMM platform features Apple has implemented in iOS, as well as changes that affect third-party EMM services. For instance, Apple Managed Services for education gives school admins excellent control over iPad rollouts. Apple's device management support options include managed app configuration, streamlined deployment, features for managing work and personal data and for supporting user-owned devices. See the complete list on its support page.

Google is aware of Android's underlying problems and has been working hard to change them. Releasing Android for Work was a step in the right direction. Starting with Android Marshmallow, Android for Work is a service that separates business and personal data through the use of android profiles on a device.

The bottom line is not to treat iOS and Android as one and the same. Both mobile operating systems have significant differences and it is important that the EMM service you chose effectively supports each OS.

What does a successful EMM implementation look like?

An EMM platform is more complicated to implement than MDM. As with any complex project, you will want to ensure that you are applying the most efficient plan and putting forth the best team.

The first step in implementing EMM is to leverage the help of a consulting company that has already successfully done the work before. Many companies specialize in EMM processes, so take advantage of the experience these companies have collected. One note of caution: Avoid bias by hiring an independent consultant to implement the EMM platform, not the company that owns the EMM service you're buying.

The next step is to review all of the products that are available on the market. Keep an ongoing plan that will show the impact when choosing one service or another for a rollout.

The last step before rollout is a communication plan for stakeholders in the project. Do not rely on just email. The EMM platform has the potential to affect every employee, so treat it as mission critical. Thus you should present the EMM strategy to your company's executives, group directors and managers.

Also, ensure you have secure communication during and following the rollout of EMM services. Unfortunately, nothing ever goes 100% as planned.

The final step in your implementation is planning future support. Mobile is not going away; in many ways, it is maturing and changing. Your EMM platform should support the changes you see.

Challenges of EMM

There are many challenges that companies will face when implementing a successful EMM platform. Some of the challenges include:

  • Security
  • Providing mobile data access
  • Securely delivering applications
  • App distribution
  • Supporting a mobile workforce
  • Managing employee expectations

The challenge for EMM is not unlike the challenge in rolling out new desktop or laptop computers and other digital tools. Work closely with your leaders to define a strong plan to support your workforce's use of mobile devices.

The final and most dynamic challenge is keeping up with the rapid changes in technologies. It is important to keep adjusting your strategy as newer devices enter the market. Low price points for hardware and rapid upgrade cycles for software and services ensure that there will be rapid change to keep up with. EMM today includes support for phones and tablets; the next stage will be to support wearables such as Android Wear and Apple Watch and the internet of things. Companies should keep a close eye on the rapid explosion of hardware as the EMM platform will need to expand and evolve to support the data on these new devices.

Next Steps

Read about the four crucial errors to avoid in EMM

Learn how different EMM software functions

Learn more about how MDM tools can benefit your EMM platform

This was last published in October 2016

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