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Beyond MDM: Today's EMM suites add sophisticated capabilities

Beyond MDM: Today's EMM suites add sophisticated capabilities

Enterprise mobility management tools are evolving far past their mobile device management roots. New features include better analytics, integration with Office 365, mobile identity management -- and preparing for the internet of things.

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The global workforce is more mobile than ever. And for many organizations that are trying to control the burgeoning mobile device and app environment, deploying enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems has become standard operating procedure.

“Mobility continues to transform how employees undertake work, and EMM technology is an important component in the successful execution of digital transformation initiatives,” says Adam Holtby, research analyst for enterprise mobility and productivity at Ovum.

Originally called mobile device management (MDM) software, EMM products continue to evolve and now offer features that go well beyond device management, Holtby says. “Being able to manage a broad device estate via EMM is a compelling proposition for organizations,” he says. “Next-generation policy-management capabilities and the ability to derive meaningful context about not only the devices being used by an employee base, but also about the employees themselves, can be transformative for organizations.”

As smartphones and tablets did previously, a new wave of connected devices is set to disrupt the enterprise technology landscape with the growth of the internet of things (IoT).

“EMM solutions are well-positioned to support organizations in managing many of these connected things,” Holtby says. “This should help organizations in adopting a more strategic, less chaotic, proactive approach to how [IoT] can be effectively leveraged within the business environment.”

EMM vendors are investing heavily in expanding their products into more functional platforms that can support organizations as they try to manage a more diverse endpoint environment, Holtby says. Supported by increased use cases and improved capabilities, these unified endpoint management (UEM) tools will gain in popularity, he says.

The move toward UEM will not happen overnight, notes Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester.

“Vendors like AirWatch are pushing for unified endpoint management to allow organizations to manage mobile devices, PCs and even IoT devices,” Hewitt says. “For now, we're seeing this as a mostly vendor- and analyst-driven movement, though, as the complexity of managing legacy Windows applications and [operating systems] remains a significant challenge.”

New areas of focus: Mobile identity, analytics, Office 365

The expansion of EMM capabilities will come with challenges associated with security. Specifically, there will be a heightened demand for capabilities that can help organizations manage mobile threats along with other endpoint threats, Holtby says.

Indeed, one of the more notable trends in the market is a greater focus on mobile identity.

“Employees today use multiple devices and are always on the go, connecting to company resources from different locations throughout the day,” Hewitt says. “As a result, we're seeing the EMM vendors provide more contextually relevant identity tools," to either allow or restrict access to corporate resources based on the network the employee is using.

There is also more sophisticated use of analytics with EMM systems, helped by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies.

“The data and information that EMM solutions can gather and present provide organizations with an opportunity to realize new workflow efficiencies, react more quickly and relevantly to employee behaviors and demands, and make better business decisions armed with data,” Holtby says.

Another trend in the market involves Microsoft Office 365 (O365). “As O365 becomes more commonplace, many of the users we talk to are struggling to figure out how to best optimize that experience with their current EMM of choice,” Hewitt says.

“Employees want a seamless, native experience with O365, and so far that has been hard to come by in the EMM market,” Hewitt says. “We expect vendors to continue to integrate O365 into their portfolios, expand their ability to manage Windows 10 PCs, and offer better support for Windows Store.”

The outlook for EMM

All of this is happening as prices are rising for EMM products. Prices will continue to go up as the variety of devices increases and becomes more complex and the threat landscape grows larger, Hewitt says. “I don't see the increase as being price prohibitive, though,” he says. “The risks of not managing your enterprise mobility efforts are too great.”

The rise in prices “is in response to a greater number of organizations embarking on enterprise mobility strategies, and they need technology to support their efforts,” Holtby says. “Demand is strong and the need for capabilities that extend beyond solely device management is increasing. Additionally, EMM solutions are evolving far beyond their modest MDM roots in offering capabilities that can help organizations deliver against broader digital initiatives.”

Just prior to the spate of acquisitions that took place in the market in the 2012-2013 timeframe, prices were in a downward spiral due to intense competition for market share, but prices at that level were not sustainable, says Bryan Taylor, research director at Gartner. “Though prices did rise over the last year and a half to two years, we don’t expect this to continue,” Taylor says. “Already, some leading vendors are restructuring list prices across all of their SKUs, and we’ve seen a slight downward trend for street prices in the last quarter or so,” Taylor says.

Looking ahead over the next few months, Taylor expects to see EMM technology vendors increasingly focus on analytics capabilities, as well as PC/Mac management capabilities and, for some vendors, forays into IoT.

Short term, there will be relatively small changes in what EMM software offers, Hewitt says. These include: Updated dashboards to make them more user-friendly and to offer more dashboarding capabilities; expanded support for Android for Work; and better analytics on device usage.

“Long term, I do think EMM will evolve in a number of ways,” Hewitt says. “First, it will manage an increasing array of devices as the market goes towards [unified endpoint management]. It will be a key ecosystem player for the IoT eventually.”

Second, EMM will become more contextually aware, offering up apps and services to mobile users depending on the location in which they are working, Hewitt says. Finally, EMM will need to contend with the likes of new collaboration methods, such as chat.

“Overall, we expect the market to turn its focus away from simple management and security of devices, apps and data to better enable employees to accomplish their jobs,” Hewitt says.

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