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Why UEM could overshadow the EMM market

As IT has been overwhelmed with too many tools to manage devices, UEM attempts to simplify the situation. Here's what to expect in the years to come and what organizations should do.

As mobile device management vendors evolve into unified endpoint management vendors, IT should ensure that its provider is ahead of the curve.

Organizations first used mobile device management (MDM) to manage and secure mobile devices. MDM mostly focused on device asset management and some minimal app control.

Then, enterprise mobility management (EMM) entered the market and provided a richer set of management functions, mostly as a result of vendors offering better features and control mechanisms on their mobile devices. EMM included capabilities such as mobile app management (MAM), secure browsing and workspaces, separate work and personal profiles, enterprise file sync and share, and security management methods such as biometrics, encryption services and virtual private network support.

But the EMM market has changed over the past two years. Even as the majority of corporate users deployed mobile devices, EMM tools remained standalone products. Organizations had to deal with multiple tools to manage a user's work life. IT had to not only deploy a mobile-centric tool, but it also had to deal with the legacy management functions of PCs and servers -- both of which had their own unique tool sets.

With this level of complexity, something had to give. Enter unified endpoint management (UEM).

A changing market

Traditional MDM and EMM vendors seized the opportunity to consolidate all their endpoint management functions into one product. For example, vendors in the EMM market such as BlackBerry, Citrix and VMware changed their philosophies and added capabilities to manage PCs along with mobile devices. Many vendors also renamed their products to reflect those changes and stay competitive in the market.

Initially, vendors did not integrate these product linkups well, which often resulted in two disparate management consoles connected by a web-based interface. But, over the past year, vendors have integrated products much more on the back end.

As MDM vendors added capabilities for PCs, PC management vendors added capabilities for mobile. Microsoft added Intune to System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), its dominant management product for PC and server management. The capabilities of Intune and SCCM aren't as rich as the mobile-centric tools that manage mobile devices, but they are still good enough for the majority of organizations that need to deploy a single management instance.

A true upgrade to a UEM product is more than just a change in buzzwords.

The UEM saga isn't over yet. Vendors in the EMM market see the writing on the wall. In the next one to two years, IoT devices will likely surpass the number of both PC and mobile devices in most organizations. This means that there is a major opportunity for UEM vendors to include functionality to manage IoT devices -- and most are doing so. Organizations should consider changing vendors if their current vendor does not include these capabilities.

What IT should do about it

Many organizations never moved beyond the earlier product phases of MDM and EMM. Once an organization invests and installs a product, it's a challenge to migrate to something newer. Organizations in that position should upgrade in the next one to two years or risk being significantly behind in managing and protecting devices, as well as maximizing the productivity of both IT staff and end users.

Organizations that already use EMM, and particularly those that have a SaaS cloud-based installation, should implement a UEM approach. It is far easier to upgrade a SaaS installation than one installed on internal servers.

Organizations must decide whether to upscale EMM to UEM or downscale from PC and server management to include mobile. To decide, organizations must assess the tradeoffs and benefits of each approach. This also depends on how confident IT feels managing one approach over another because the burden of deploying UEM rests almost exclusively with IT.

A true upgrade to a UEM product is more than just a change in buzzwords. Organizations that are not looking at such a capability for their users' endpoint devices are ultimately exposing themselves to increased security risks, higher total cost of ownership and increased IT burdens.

This was last published in February 2019

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