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How EMM tools have changed with the market

With so many EMM vendors fusing over the years, EMM suites have evolved beyond mobile device management and offer more capabilities. IT can expect to see more suite changes ahead.

As the EMM market shifts, with continual acquisitions and mergers, so do the features companies can expect to find in EMM tools.

The role of enterprise mobility management (EMM) has changed dramatically since the early days of mobile device management (MDM), when what was most important to companies deploying the technology was primarily asset management and device kill switches. The reaction to the influx of mobile devices and BYOD caused companies to react and quickly deploy whatever tools they had available.

But as the EMM market has matured, the days of IT pros having dozens of MDM tools to choose from have dwindled. EMM is essentially an offshoot of MDM, as vendors try to find ways to compete and add value in a competitive -- and sometimes undifferentiated -- market.

IT pros can expect to see a continued push by most EMM vendors -- including BlackBerry, Citrix, IBM and VMware -- to change the conversation on EMM suites from one primarily of management to one of greater functionality and user productivity, as enterprises demand more functionality and integration for their money.

To this end, some major trends are emerging.

Continued consolidation of EMM and vendors

With the exception of BlackBerry and MobileIron, most of the major EMM vendors have been acquired over the past few years -- for example, when VMware acquired AirWatch and IBM acquired Fiberlink MaaS360. Other big names that acquired MDM companies, such as McAfee and Symantec, left the market when they didn't have enough focus or momentum to become significant EMM players.

Still, others -- such as SAP, which acquired Sybase -- have refocused on more lucrative enterprise suites that include big data and analytics. Infrastructure giant Microsoft has rolled basic EMM capabilities into its existing suites of PC and server management tools. Even cloud players, such as Google, offer basic mobile management functions as part of their offerings.

More and more enterprises look to have their preferred infrastructure providers include traditional EMM capabilities in their overall offerings, rather than having to purchase a stand-alone product. As a result, it will be increasingly difficult for EMM vendors to remain independent players in the market. There will be room for some niche players to remain, but overall, the EMM market will continue to shrink.

Focus on security

While MDM and EMM tools have always had a security focus, the current generation of offerings has a larger emphasis on protecting against new threats that expose companies to data breaches. It's no longer just enough to protect the device itself. A major focus now targets data on and off of devices, as well as the connections and interactions at the app level.

Capabilities such as application wrapping, secured file sync and share, and protected browsers and email inboxes are now standard. Of course, operating system providers Google Android and Apple iOS have reacted to these needs by offering enhanced capabilities that, in some limited cases, eradicate the need to add EMM suites such as the now defunct, in name only, Android for Work.

Nevertheless, security will remain a key cornerstone of why companies purchase EMM suites in the first place.

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Move to the cloud: EMM as a service

One major trend is the move from on-premises EMM suites to cloud-based as-a-service offerings. All of the major EMM players have made this transition, and IT pros can expect 80% to 90% of new installations to follow this trend. Don't expect companies with existing on-premises suites to simply rip and replace; rather, they will likely migrate to cloud over the next few years.

With the move to cloud, basic EMM service will also become very inexpensive -- $5 per user, per month or less -- but premium services consisting of full workspace capabilities will be more in the $50 range.

Workspaces

Many companies still view EMM tools simply as management of mobile workers and devices.

As a result of larger companies absorbing EMM vendors, along with a need for more differentiated value for customers, most of the EMM tools now include once unrelated capabilities, such as enterprise file sync-and-share offerings from BlackBerry WatchDox and Citrix ShareFile.

Virtually all of these have capabilities equivalent to VDI -- for example, VMware Workspace One coupling AirWatch to Horizon -- to allow mobile devices to access information previously intended for desktop PCs. And all have containerized, protected desktop apps, such as browser, email and document editing functions, which are required productivity tools for most enterprise users today. Expect this trend to continue, although many companies will be slow to adopt a full suite; rather, they'll most likely choose to implement these capabilities in a more ad hoc, as-needed approach.

A gradual shift

It's unclear, however, whether or not the trend toward more complex EMM suites will work for most enterprise users. Many companies still view EMM tools simply as management of mobile workers and devices, and not so much about providing consolidated workspaces and security platforms.

Newer-generation EMM suites offer much-needed capabilities to an increasingly mobile workforce, but it will take a mindset change for companies to adopt many of the products' full capabilities. Expect to see a gradual shift over the next two to three years.

As a result, users will have far more capable tools at their disposal, and companies will create much more secure and managed workspaces for their employees, making for a win-win situation.

Next Steps

Evaluate the top EMM vendors

What to do if your EMM provider is acquired

Find the right EMM provider for your company

This was last published in May 2017

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What should your company seek in an EMM suite?
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It's important to look for a suite that fits the workflows that your end users need on mobile in order to meet organizational goals. (Ex. Your bank wants to increase customer service so you decide to mobilize your bankers to better remote productivity. A banker may need access to corporate email, document editing/ annotation, and secure file sharing)
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EMM was a gradual evolution from MDM as the later was no longer able to cater to all the mobility requirements of a business. As MDM was concerned only with securing and managing business devices, there was a gradual shift in the enterprises’ need to manage the data and connections shared between the devices as well, especially at app level. This gave arise to creation of Enterprise App Store for Mobile Application Management that dealt with implementation of security polices at app level. MAM was followed by content management solutions to securely allow transfer of important files and documents between business devices. This was done through encrypted file stores. The evolution of EMM has also catered to different marketing strategies like BYOD and COSU.
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