How to choose the right EMM provider for your business

Evaluate your enterprise mobility needs before considering any EMM vendors. Then ask the right questions about features, support and integration. And make sure to choose a provider that will evolve with the market.

Picking the right enterprise mobility management vendor can be a daunting task.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) is a relatively new and rapidly evolving technology. IT admins are often surprised to discover the range of functions available in contemporary EMM implementations, and vendors continue to offer new features in response to customer feedback. The lack of industry standards, however, may delay decisions regarding deployment even within organizations with a clear and obvious need for EMM capabilities.

The major components of EMM include mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management, mobile content management (MCM), mobile expense management, mobile policy management and mobile identity management. Not every component is required in every case, but the accelerating mobilization of users demands an EMM strategy that addresses -- at a minimum -- cost, security and productivity.

Here are a few tips to help in selecting an EMM provider:

Start with mobility requirements: The basic questions of size, scope, scale, applications and data access need answers. Also consider management, budgets, device support and security before any discussion of possible vendors takes place. It's always advisable to begin with a limited pilot deployment before moving forward with a volume rollout of any IT service.

Speak with multiple vendors: EMM remains a hotbed of innovation, so going with the biggest name may not yield the best results. For example, EMM began with MDM, but MDM is less important (although still necessary) today because bring your own device continues to gain popularity. MCM and the containerization of sensitive data should take center stage in almost every EMM strategy.

Evaluate EMM features: EMM products can range from do-it-all suites to point products that are perfect for a specific situation. A custom-assembled set of products and services may seem ideal, but consider the effort required to support such a set. It may be better to compromise on certain aspects of functionality than to have to deal with products and features that overlap and even conflict in some cases. Similarly, it may be better to compromise than suffer the overhead of multiple management systems and their inherent learning curves and operating costs -- and the resulting complexity.

Consider integration with other IT management systems: To minimize cost and maximize IT staff productivity, it is increasingly desirable to integrate EMM with other management systems, directory services and related capabilities. EMM has evolved almost in isolation from more traditional IT management systems. While mobility and cloud take center stage in IT strategies everywhere today, support for legacy systems will remain important for at least the next five years. Thinking through the overall mobility and IT management philosophy and establishing a path to an integrated strategy are essential before deciding on an EMM provider.

A degree of functional and even organizational consolidation is now occurring across many EMM providers, with sub-functions being rolled up into comprehensive offerings; mergers and acquisitions are also altering the market. These trends make for a particularly tricky environment with respect to vendor and product selection. Will they survive for the useful life of the implementation? How will pricing and support be affected? And how will a given vendor integrate future offerings into more comprehensive products and services? These are important questions to raise with any EMM providers you consider.

Next Steps

EMM from Microsoft enters the arena

A timeline of EMM vendor consolidation

This was first published in July 2014

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