Enterprise mobility 2019: Dawning of the age of UEM

What began as MDM has continued its evolution through MAM and EMM to unified endpoint management. While some enterprises have already moved to UEM, the complexity of the transition is holding most companies back — for now.

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2018: UEM is the next step

Get ready for some significant changes in the way enterprises manage their growing fleets of mobile devices — and in the technologies they use to provide that management.

A number of trends are impacting the market and vendors’ enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms, according to experts who follow the latest mobile developments.

“Enterprise mobility is at an interesting inflection point,” says Adam Holtby, a research analyst at Ovum. Device management capabilities, specifically those that help organizations secure devices running mobile operating systems, have been the core driver of interest in enterprise mobility products up to this point.

“However, new capabilities are set to further increase the value of enterprise mobility solutions,” Holtby says. “App management and development, next-generation policy management, data and identity protection, security, machine learning, and mobile analytics are all examples of capabilities that are driving interest in enterprise mobility solutions.”

Moving toward UEM

The most compelling advancement is that of unified endpoint management (UEM), a strategic approach that unifies and centralizes how enterprises manage an estate of deployed devices. Experts say EMM is gradually evolving into UEM.

“We are a still a way off from UEM becoming mainstream, but it will certainly have big appeal to organizations,” Holtby says. Mobility is transformative when the data and insight that can be gathered from the mobile workforce are used to optimize the way that people work, improving workflows and helping make tasks more efficient, Holtby says. “The single, unified view of the devices and apps being utilized by a workforce provided by UEM platforms enables organizations to reimagine working practices,” he says.

UEM is most valuable when it’s used not only to provide a unified view into devices and apps, but when cross-functional workflows that extend across different endpoints are improved because of the insights and data the unified environment provides.

It delivers a consolidated and more reliable level of data into the state of devices and apps used by employees, as well as insight into identity and how hardware and apps are being used. “This is in some contrast to the more fragmented approach businesses have been used to that involves different tools and disconnected workflows,” Holtby says.

One of the biggest benefits of UEM is that the added visibility around mobile use leads to better reporting and analytics. Workflows can be enhanced by factoring in this information. “For example, using real-time geolocation information to deliver contextualized services or notifications to employees can have a positive impact on the user experience,” Holtby says.

When evaluating EMM platforms, it’s important to note the ability of the product to support the eventual move to UEM, says Chris Silva, research vice president at Gartner. “There are some products out there that are pure PC or pure mobile and will not scale,” he says.

Many of the market leaders including VMware, BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Microsoft, and Citrix are actively pushing this goal for clients, Silva says. “Anyone using a tool that doesn’t have a roadmap toward UEM at this point is likely going to need to go shopping for a new tool in a couple years,” he says.

Data analytics, security and privacy take center stage

More powerful data analytics and proactive problem remediation are among the biggest recent developments in EMM, Silva says.

Some vendors are building dashboard capabilities that enable administrators to see not only how many devices have not updated to a particular operating system version, but which are susceptible to certain vulnerabilities as a result, Silva says. There’s nothing available yet in terms of automated actions based on these analytical findings, he says, but that’s coming.

An emerging feature is the ability to do risk-based analysis to grant access to applications, says Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Some of the vendors in the space are able to assign risk scores to users and grant them access — or block access — based on certain attributes,” he says. “This risk-based approach has the ability to greatly improve the experience for the user.”

Another key trend is the need for better mobile security and privacy.

“Enterprises are increasingly becoming aware of the necessity of mobility for business success, but still are weighing the compliance and risk factors related to more open access,” Hewitt says.

The emergence of new regulatory requirements such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 will help drive the appeal of mobility management platforms. While security has always been a key theme driving adoption of EMM, initiatives such as the GDPR and the CCPA will make this an even greater priority for organizations.

“A lack of data protection and security will place organizations at risk of serious financial penalties and reputational damage,” Holtby says. “At worst, the repercussions of a data breach could see businesses risk their very existence.” EMM can help organizations standardize and audit how they secure and govern mobile devices, apps, and the content and data on them.

While the market is seeing shifts in the focus of EMM technology, product pricing has been fairly steady, Hewitt says. “There's definitely a decrease in price for commoditized features of EMM, like MDM [mobile device management] and anything else that is now available in an OEM API,” he says. But the influx of new features such as analytics keeps the price about even.

What’s next: AI, ML, AR and more

In the coming months and years, mobile technologies will continue to evolve. New capabilities, such as on-device artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), augmented reality, and advanced biometric capabilities, are beginning to deliver new ways for workers to leverage mobile devices and apps.

“It’s hard to have a conversation around enterprise technology without the subject of artificial intelligence being a focal point,” Holtby says. Ovum research shows that 71% of enterprises are either considering or planning to use AI, bots, and machine learning over the next 12 months, and 65% of organizations think AI will have an impact on their workplace over the next three to five years.

“In the realms of enterprise mobility — a vital digital workplace element — AI provides many opportunities and challenges that organizations need to be aware of,” Holtby says. “Increasingly, providers of enterprise mobility solutions are introducing AI capabilities to support organizations in optimizing mobile workflows and in improving mobile reporting and analytics.”

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