Tip

Your EMM vendor was just acquired. Now what?

Mobility management vendors are getting acquired, and some may even go out of business as the market matures. IT shops should set a strategy to manage the possibility that their EMM vendor's product gets folded into another offering or becomes extinct.

It might seem as though enterprise mobility management

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(EMM) has been around forever, but the market is still young. EMM is not just about devices, but also applications, network services, expenses, data and policy. This range of diversity in technology, strategy and applications has led to an oversupply in the number of EMM vendors and products that are available for IT shops to choose from. Plus, as IT tries to meet new management requirements, vendors are finding opportunities for innovation, but often hit the ceiling in their ability to compete and grow. Being acquired is an excellent cash-out strategy for companies in that situation.

Acquisition is often good for the company being bought because it can provide resources for expansion, a path to a more robust product line, or even a cash lifeline. But for customers, that acquisition can be a little frightening. IT managers value reliable suppliers just as much as they do a product that fits business needs and has the appropriate feature set and support. Those things are put in jeopardy when an acquisition occurs. The acquirer may continue to support and expand the firm or products it acquires, but a small vendor's new owner may also extract pieces of the original product and discard the rest.

Consolidation in the EMM market is already occurring. For example, IBM recently bought Fiberlink Communications, Citrix got Zenprise, Dell acquired KACE and LANDesk added Wavelink. As larger and more prominent vendors such as Fiberlink are bought up, it behooves IT management to have a plan in case their EMM vendor is acquired. The steps outlined below needn't be specific to an EMM vendor acquisition; they also apply to divestitures, spin-offs and major changes in direction that can occur at suppliers as well -- or even in the event that any of an IT shop's vendors are acquired.

Have regular meetings with critical vendors

It's vital to keep up with vendor activities, plans and financial conditions. Vendors that cannot make the time for regular teleconferences are not likely to be reliable partners. Make sure you understand product plans and directions and keep a finger on the business pulse of suppliers. It may not be possible to anticipate a specific acquisition, but the possibility of doing so is increased with regular conversations.

Apply forward-looking contractual terms

Contracts and agreements should be about what will happen when things go wrong, rather than when they go right. It is not inappropriate to have specific wording to describe what will happen in the event of an acquisition. For example, an IT shop could specify that source code should be placed in escrow and made available to the customer on a licensed, nonexclusive basis in the event of an acquisition, in case the acquiring party decides to discontinue sales or support of software that has become mission-critical to the customer.

Maintain relationships with multiple vendors

Any mission-critical deployment needs a backup plan. It's important to maintain contact with one or two competitive suppliers, or even do pilot deployments of those products. It may become necessary to abandon a particular supplier for reasons well beyond the consequences of an acquisition.

This was first published in January 2014

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