The Rise of Mobile App Management

Published on: June 6, 2012

IT’s initial “lock ‘em down” reaction to the smartphone influx several years ago gave rise to many mobile device management (MDM) platforms. What if a device was stolen or someone used a camera to snap sensitive pictures? IT responded with a risk-averse strategy to control the device and MDM’s flagship features quickly evolved into camera disablement and the remote wipe. But today’s growing “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend and the healthy fear of wiping out your boss’s photo collection is shifting IT from Draconian MDM toward more nimble app management options with finer grained control.

Mobile app management (MAM) platforms take a different approach to enterprise mobility, focusing on effective app management rather than total device control. MAM solutions offer app discovery, provisioning, update notifications, entitlement, revocation, and other app-centric features. MAM platforms are sometimes referred to as “enterprise app stores”, as they reproduce many of the capabilities found in consumer stores but backed by an enterprise-grade feature set and integrated in real-time with enterprise systems.

Some key things to keep in mind when considering mobile app management include:

  • Multiple approaches: There are several approaches to enable secure app management including containerization, virtual machines, OS partitioning, and remote presentation. Each option promises to enable app access with centralized entitlement and revocation control. Each approach also balances risk/reward around app performance, server complexity, IT control, and user experience. Consider how these options align to your IT and user requirements, and choose wisely.
  • UX is king: Mobile users are passionate about their user experience, and this issue comes to the fore when discussing app discovery and installation. Users have become accustomed to varied metaphors for managing apps on their respective devices. Well-designed MAM solutions enable discovery and entitlement via a native-feeling yet enterprise grade mechanism.
  • Keep it central: MAM platforms rely on corporate policies and core systems in order to work effectively. Users may have access to apps based on their department, role, organization level, location, device type, tenure, and more. The best MAM solutions are able to draw this data from corporate directories, and provide and restrict access to apps based on this centralized source of data. When not integrated, app deployment quickly becomes chaotic and out of date.
  • Challenge of change: While MAM solutions ease app deployment, don’t underestimate the complexity of upgrading an installed base of corporate app users. Large user populations spread across time zones, geographies, languages, carriers and device types, making for challenging deployment scenarios. These challenges are magnified when server changes must be synchronized, as is common in enterprise scenarios. Mobile development platforms that enable instantaneous deployment of x-platform app changes reduce the need for production software updates and complement MAM services.

The authoritarian approach to device management that emerged after smartphones hit the enterprise has given way to a finer set of controls aimed at the app layer. Today there is less worry about cameras and much more attention paid to efficiently provisioning the right apps to each role within the enterprise.

What are your top priorities for mobile app management?

Todd Christy is the chief strategy officer for Verivo Software.

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