In the market for… EMM
Written by: Philip Mason | Published:

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) is becoming increasingly important as employers grapple with the implications of an ever more mobile workforce. Simon Creasey looks at the key points to consider when choosing an EMM solution for your organisation

Today, virtually every business has a mobile workforce in the sense that pretty much every employee carries a mobile phone – either their own phone or one supplied by their employer. Due to the widespread adoption of mobile phone technology, a growing number of companies are embracing the ‘mobile first’ approach. They are retiring landline desk phones and making mobile phones the primary communication tool for their staff.

There are numerous advantages to this approach, according to Adam Boone, vice-president of strategic planning at Tango Networks.

“Going ‘mobile first’ means your staffers become more responsive and can be reached more easily,” says Boone. “That means collaboration and problem resolution [are] more efficient, with less phone tag and fewer missed connections.”

While this clearly presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses, it also presents a big challenge in terms of how they can control these communications in the same way IT is controlled, to ensure that the appropriate policies, procedures and, more importantly, legislation are adhered to.

This is where enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions come in. Boone says the company is seeing “major demand” for EMM solutions “from organisations of all types and sizes as enterprise mobility has evolved to address broader enterprise communications and the ‘mobile first’ communications trend”.

But if you have never bought an EMM solution before, what do you need to watch out for when sourcing one, and what questions should you ask of potential solution providers?

According to Boone, in recent years EMM as a product category has fragmented beyond recognition. “It started as a very basic device management function, but now it has blossomed into a range of solutions that touch enterprise applications, access controls, IT security functions, cloud communications, unified communications and so on,” he explains. “Really there should be no such thing as EMM as a product category, or enterprise mobility as a unique, separate silo in your IT stack. These days, mobility touches everything and so it needs to be considered as part of everything.”

Know thyself

To ensure businesses derive value from their EMM solution they must first consider and understand the problems their employees need solving.

“Look at what employees need to access and take into account that you don’t want to lock down devices,” says Ojas Rege, chief strategy officer at MobileIron. “With the increasing consumerisation of IT, employees expect the same functionality at work that they get from the devices and apps they use at home. Therefore, firms should consider all users when looking to implement EMM. Secondly, it is important to ensure that your enterprise’s requirements are aligned with the vendor’s solution. EMM is a combination of mobile device, application, content, and security management, and you must decide which of these elements is most important to your business. Once you understand your requirements, you can look at a technology strategy and assess what your risk profile is.”

As part of this initial research stage, Boone says companies need to evaluate questions such as: where and when will employees do their work? What applications are needed so that they can complete daily tasks? What modes of communication – messaging and voice – are needed for communicating with internal and external contacts? And how do you intend to control, secure and enforce compliance rules on these mobile devices? They then need to drill down even deeper and ask questions of providers such as whether the proposed EMM solution can be integrated with the rest of the IT stack.

“For voice calls in particular – which is often a surprising weakness in existing EMM solutions – can mobiles be integrated into your voice stack?” says Boone.

“Can mobile devices be easily integrated into your existing calling policies, PBX, cloud communications, business applications, call recorders and so on? Or does mobility operate in its own silo that requires you to replicate the control and compliance processes all over again, multiplying your IT and user support workload?”

The compliance point is particularly pertinent because as mobile technology has become more commonplace in the business world, the privacy and security issues surrounding it have become heightened. “Now that the number of mobile devices has reached a critical mass, they have become attractive targets for malware and cybercriminals,” says Leigh Moody, UK managing director at SOTI. “Companies rely on EMM solutions to lock down their mobile devices, apps and content. EMM reduces the threat of data leakage while protecting strategic company assets from hackers.”

On the GDPR front line

The pressure to secure company assets such as apps and data has been brought into sharp relief thanks to the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May. Boone says GDPR is already having an impact on enterprise mobility, where there are instances of personal data being routed through a corporate system. He cites the example of someone who works in the financial services sector where there is a requirement to record and save all calls that are made on their phone relating to a financial transaction: “But if your employee places a personal call on that phone and the conversation is captured, you have potentially violated the GDPR rights of the individual being called.”

Given the severity of fines that can be imposed on organisations that are not GDPR-compliant, it’s little surprise to hear that EMM solution providers are developing features that eradicate these potential vulnerabilities.

Take the example of NetMotion Software, which offers an ‘operational intelligence’ solution that gives IT teams full visibility into all aspects of their mobile deployment, from overall performance, security and data usage to cost. “Included in this is the ability to track where data is being sent or received,” says Lee Johnson, director of global marketing at NetMotion. “For organisations concerned about security of data under GDPR, this capability becomes extremely important. Using our software will give an unprecedented view into exactly what is happening on all mobile devices and to trigger alerts or create policies to block traffic when compliancy rules are compromised.”

It’s also not surprising to discover that EMM solutions are increasingly considered by businesses as being a vital element in well-thought-out GDPR compliance programmes. “An EMM solution allows the IT administrator to establish a clear distinction between personal and business data on an employee’s device,” says Rege. “This means that the controller does not have any access to the content of personal apps or email accounts on the device. This is vital to the data minimisation, integrity and confidentiality principles of GDPR.

Secondly, an EMM solution provides a clear record of any unauthorised access to business services. It gives the IT administrator clear visibility into which devices and apps are accessing business services. This supports the GDPR principle of integrity and confidentiality, as well as accountability. Finally, an EMM solution allows the IT administrator to protect devices from security threats, which is important for the principle of integrity and confidentiality, as well as of accountability.”

While GDPR may be a hot topic, it presents an all-too-familiar challenge to EMM solution providers who have been dealing with similar compliance requirements for many years, says Moody. What is more interesting to him are the exciting areas that enterprise mobility is starting to expand into.

“More unmanned/unassigned devices and IoT endpoints are being deployed at the edge of the company network,” explains Moody. “Tiny things like temperature sensors in the backs of trailers, more complicated things like digital signage and kiosks in the aisles of stores and complex integrated systems such as unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) delivering parts and components on an assembly line. The edge of the enterprise network is getting further away and much more crowded with thousands of new IoT endpoints and solutions that need full-lifecycle security and management, even more than personally allocated and assigned smartphones and apps.”

EMM’s evolution

Another market trend, that has been detected by Gartner, surrounds EMM suite functionality evolving into unified endpoint management (UEM). “Employees today are using cloud services on mobile endpoints, and this poses new challenges,” says Rege. “The benefit is more information is moved to the edge of the network, so people can make better, faster decisions. However, the data is no longer confined to your data centre and corporate networks, so you need a new security approach – and it has to encompass all endpoints.”

Another challenge is what Boone describes as a “fundamental shift” in how enterprise IT teams think about mobility. “Mobility is an IT blind spot in many cases,” he says. “Mobile communications take place outside of the scope of visibility and control of IT. Think about everything else in the IT stack – your campus Wi-Fi, internet access, wireline telephony, business applications – all of them are in the direct control of IT.”

There are also growing issues around making sure devices are secure, which present challenges and opportunities. “With more and more mobile devices being used for corporate purposes, organisations will need to find ways to protect devices from security risks, update device firmware and software remotely and monitor where and how devices will be used,” says Johnson.

These challenges are not insurmountable, but they will need to be overcome sooner rather than later given the rapid adoption of enterprise mobility by businesses large and small.

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