Mobile device management was big news a few years ago, with Gartner predicting that 65 percent of enterprises would adopt an MDM solution by 2017. Now, however, mobile device management is morphing into the more sophisticated practice of enterprise mobility management (EMM).

"EMM takes MDM to the next level by utilizing more robust application and content management suites in addition to device management," said Dan Ortman, an analyst at SoftwareOne. "EMM leverages policy and configuration management tools through a mobile application management console."

How EMM Differs from MDM

Terrence Cosgrove, an analyst at Gartner, explained that earlier MDM products lacked these application and content management elements. Enterprise mobility management packages consist of mobile security, policy management, configuration management and a management overlay for applications and content intended for mobile devices based on smartphones, he said. 

EMM offers a broad range of IT support to mobile end users and provides an easy way to maintain security policies. This includes the maintenance of hardware and application inventories, and ways to manage OS configuration, deploy mobile apps, set policy and perform remote troubleshooting and wipe of mobile devices, among other functions.

Operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone do not provide robust enough management capabilities. EMM provides a centralized platform that can be used to enforce authentication policies, police file sharing and place restrictions on copy and paste, as well as downloads while roaming. Audit capabilities enable organizations to track which employees have been accessing and downloading files.

Enterprise mobility management tools vary in their specific functionality, Cosgrove pointed out. Some come with file share and sync capabilities, some are tied to a specific mobile platform or application, and others are deeply integrated with endpoint protection tools. Companies should establish their specific requirements and priorities before selecting an EMM tool, he recommended.

EMM Drivers

EMM is moving from a back-end IT function right into the heart of end-user computing, thanks to the growing emphasis given to enterprise mobility. Mobile devices are becoming the preferred computing platform for enterprise and mobile apps, with users demanding to use these devices to get their work done.

This shift to mobile is the biggest transformation IT has seen since the rise of the PC, said Ojas Rege, vice president of Strategy, MobileIron, and it is requiring the CIO to consider a new approach to securing corporate data and mitigating risk.

"As mobile becomes strategic, the security and management requirements of the organization are becoming much more sophisticated," said Rege. "Top of mind today are the separation of personal and professional data to protect privacy, the deployment and security of enterprise apps, breaking the traditional compromise between security and user experience, and the emerging mobile model of threats and countermeasures."

Mobile technology is consumer technology that changes at a pace outside of IT¹s traditional comfort zone. It has led to more and more devices and apps entering the enterprise, and including new wearables like the Apple Watch.

While this trend is one driver of EMM, another is the fact that the data center is being blown up into a broader information fabric in which information flows continuously between mobile devices, business cloud, personal cloud and the traditional data center. This makes it difficult to guarantee that all information is secure.

Rege said this architectural shift requires education within IT on mobile operating system architectures and evolving threat landscapes for Android, iOS and Windows 10. The security framework, therefore, needs to shift to one that is more iterative and assumes ongoing migration between technologies.  It will also require more than just technology.

"Mobile strategy is decentralized and IT must gain the skills to partner with the business and end user and effectively design, disseminate and enforce policy through partnership instead of edict," Rege said.