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Make EMM part of a broader mobile enterprise strategy

Management alone does not make for a successful mobile enterprise strategy. Businesses need to help workers with apps and access to corporate data.

If management is the centerpiece of your mobile enterprise strategy, you're doing it wrong.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) has its beginnings in mobile device management (MDM), which lets IT administrators enforce passcode requirements, track the location of devices and remote wipe lost or stolen devices, all in the name of protecting corporate data. These capabilities are important, but they don't solve all the data security threats that stem from enterprise mobility. With MDM alone, for example, there's no way to stop a well-meaning employee from uploading data to an unsecure cloud service so he can access it on his PC at home. MDM also controls the full device, so when IT remote wipes a lost phone to prevent the company's financials from falling into the wrong hands it also deletes pictures of the user's dog and other personal data on the device.

Enter mobile application management (MAM) and mobile content management (MCM). These newer components of EMM give IT more granular control, solely over corporate assets. Admins can enforce policies on specific apps and pieces of data, and they have no visibility into dog photos or other personal assets. The inclusion of these technologies has opened the door for EMM products to include features that enable mobile workers, such as enterprise app stores, managed email and productivity apps, and secure file sharing and synchronization.

Even with these advancements, EMM is still primarily a security play. Security is a crucial part of any technology implementation, but a mobile enterprise strategy should be about so much more. Mobility has the potential to completely transform how businesses operate, and it needs to go beyond EMM to do so.

The app gap

Workers have embraced mobility because it offers a new way of doing things. Employees no longer have to be chained to their desks, dealing with monolithic software suites that have hundreds of features they don't need. More agile, task-specific apps can streamline work processes and increase productivity.

Business decisions should dictate why and how a company goes mobile.

The key for businesses is getting these apps into users' hands, and that's still a challenge in 2016. Microsoft knocked down one of the biggest barriers to accomplishing real work on mobile devices by launching Office for Apple iOS and Google Android in 2014. Other common business applications, such as those for customer relationship management and online collaboration, have also gone full steam ahead with mobile.

More customized applications lag behind, however. Many organizations lack the resources and/or in-house skills needed to rethink, redesign and redevelop legacy applications, and this reality holds mobility back from fulfilling its true promise.

Fortunately, various options have emerged to help address this problem:

Desktop and application virtualization technologies can deliver legacy Windows applications directly to users' mobile devices. The major drawback with this approach is that Windows apps are made for large screens with a mouse-and-keyboard interface, which can make them hard to use on smartphones and tablets with touchscreens.

Application refactoring, an emerging technology, can modify virtual apps for touchscreens and streamline their functionality to make them more task-specific. Some refactoring products have drag-and-drop interfaces, which allow developers, IT admins and even end users to select components of a Windows app and choose how they display on mobile devices.

Mobile application development platforms (MADPs) are also beginning to include low- or no-code tools that allow staff without development skills to build their own mobile apps.

It's important to remember that, like EMM, these technologies should not drive a mobile enterprise strategy, either. Business decisions should dictate why and how a company goes mobile, and a combination of these technologies and others should then help support those decisions.

EMM's expansion

Just because EMM shouldn't be the cornerstone of a mobile enterprise strategy, that doesn't mean it's not important. Security is always crucial -- especially when it comes to distributed assets outside the firewall accessing and storing corporate data. EMM provides a multifaceted approach to protecting data on devices -- through MDM -- and in transit -- through MAM and MCM.

Other mobile technologies such as MADPs are also beginning to integrate EMM. MAM and MCM require access to a mobile app's code to deliver their full management and security capabilities, and it's easier to build management features into apps while developing them than it is to tack those capabilities on after the fact.

One last thing to keep an eye on is EMM's expansion beyond mobile. Most leading vendors support Windows 10, which means they can manage PCs in addition to smartphones and tablets -- known as unified endpoint management. It's not hard to picture a day when MAM and MCM are regular fixtures in the PC management scene as well.

Next Steps

What enterprise mobility management features do you really need?

How do you choose the right enterprise mobility management provider?

How can CIOs develop purpose-built mobile apps?

Dig Deeper on Enterprise mobility strategy and policy