What is enterprise mobility management (EMM)?

By IBM Services

What is enterprise mobility management and how can it boost your business?

EMM is a collective set of tools and technologies used to maintain and manage how mobile and handheld devices are used within an organization for routine business operations. Most often used for securing corporate data, EMM involves smartphones, laptops and tablets, and people, processes and policies across all mobile and handheld devices involved in business processes.

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A digital workplace service, EMM gives your employees mobile access to your enterprise’s apps and files, fostering a security-rich environment for data and devices while limiting expenses and mobility investments.⁽¹⁾ EMM is usually applied for businesses, helping with managing and maintaining mobile and handheld devices, wireless networks, and similar mobile computing services. Its scope is typically focused on security, application integration and management, as well as the financial implications of such solutions. 

For example, an enterprise’s EMM policy needs to ensure that the enterprise’s application is fully integrated, safe and easy to use on mobile devices and includes secure access mechanisms. The enterprise must manage the financial cost of providing EMM solutions for company and employee owned devices.⁽²⁾

Several of the core functions of EMM revolve around the following practices and principles:

  • Managing devices, apps and data
  • Modern management
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) policy
  • Separating work from play
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and contextual analytics
  • Identity and access management (IAM) for single sign-on (SSO) and conditional access
  • Application security
  • Mobile threat defense

What’s the goal of EMM?

The goal of EMM is to determine if and how available mobile IT should be integrated with work processes and objectives, and how to support workers when they’re using these devices in the workplace.⁽³⁾

How can EMM benefit your business?

EMM practices often take the form of mobile management systems and services that bolster intellectual property protections, processes that help ensure a security-rich environment for an enterprise’s data, and system integration with a broad range of enterprise IT systems that meet a large amount of corporate concerns.

Some general EMM benefits include:

  • Application management controls that determine when and where particular apps can run
  • Content management that allows a complete wipe of corporate data from a device if it’s lost or stolen
  • Network management that integrates all mobile devices into a structure that gives an enterprise the ability to manage and configure devices at all times
  • Service management that helps keep mobile costs low and provides ways to control data use

Here are several examples of how EMM can be allied for different roles and industries:

  • Doctors and nurses are using tablets to get immediate access to patient healthcare records to make informed, life-saving decisions.
  • Retailers are using smartphones on the floor as point-of-sale (POS) devices to scan bar codes, swipe credit cards and securely process transactions.
  • Field services crews depend on mobile devices to pull down pertinent client data from the cloud anytime, anywhere to stay productive on the fly.
  • Banks and credit unions are pivoting to secure data and uphold regulatory compliance with devices at the center of everyday financial exchanges.⁽⁴⁾

The principle that what works best for one company won’t necessarily work best for another company that has different needs is true for EMM. What’s a good fit for one enterprise’s mobile needs may not be enough for another enterprise. Some enterprises may take a more stringent approach to device security, opting to completely lock down their employees’ devices and wiping them if the device goes missing. Other enterprises may focus on bolstering the security for specific apps while others may apply EMM tools and services to offer their employees greater mobile freedom, enabling them to do more.⁽⁵⁾

EMM and its variants

Gartner argues that EMM is shifting towards unified endpoint management as it’s being used to support more device platforms. These platforms include iOS and macOS, Android, Windows 10, and other EMM-manageable Internet of Things (IoT) devices.⁽⁶⁾

While EMM comprises a wide range of solutions, not every vendor offers the services that enterprises need. EMM offshoots provide different offerings and solutions that can provide the missing services an enterprise needs.

What’s mobile device management?

A relevant technology that remotely manages the mobile and handheld device lifecycle, as well as mobile device platforms, mobile device management (MDM) generally involves installing unique profiles onto mobile devices. Once installed, these profiles allow an enterprise to remotely control, encrypt and enforce its policies on its respective smartphones, tablets and similar mobile devices, and includes the ability to wipe the apps and data from a device that’s been stolen or lost.

In addition to these capabilities, MDM allows enterprises real-time insights into provisioning, device inventory and operating system (OS) configuration, as well as troubleshooting tools.

What’s mobile application management?

While MDM helps enterprises manage their mobile and handheld device hardware, mobile application management (MAM) helps organizations manage their mobile applications and related software. In addition to covering the deployment and respective updates for an enterprise’s mobile apps, MAM also helps enterprises apply their security policies to their apps and apply targeted removal of any relevant data from specific devices. This policy application process helps safeguard trade secrets or certain information without having to wipe all the device. This MAM approach has gained popularity as an increasing number of employees bring their personal mobile devices into the workplace. 

What’s mobile identity management?

Mobile identity management (MIDM) encompasses systems that take different forms within an EMM framework and includes user and device certificates, app code signatures, authentication and similar security forms. MIDM’s purpose is to help ensure access to enterprise data and applications for all trusted mobile and handheld devices and users. It can also help enterprises with tracking app and device metrics, and providing department-level credentials for using approved apps.

What’s mobile information management?

Mobile information management (MIM) pertains to accessing databases remotely and is largely integrated into MAM or MDM services. This process is needed because device management and application management services depend on cloud-based tools, which sync and store files across different devices. Box and Dropbox, Microsoft and Google offer several popular public services for MIM, as well as the existing corporate-controlled and managed onsite MIM versions.

What’s mobile content management?

An EMM variant, mobile content management (MCM) helps professional access content from their mobile and handheld devices. MCM has four roles:

  1. Content security
  2. Content access
  3. Content push
  4. File-level protection

In addition to these roles, MCM can also support authentication policies. Many MCM platforms can easily integrate with today’s enterprise services from Box, Microsoft, Google and similar companies, authorizing access to data and files as needed.

What’s mobile expense management?

Created to assist organizations with controlling costs and monitoring mobile communications expenses, mobile expense management (MEM) services offer enterprises insights into their device and storage use and procurement, as well as BYOD-relevant policies. MEM can similarly enforce corporate policies and offer IT administrators a bona fide audit of mobile use.

  1. “What is enterprise mobility management (EMM)?” IBM Mobile, IBM MediaCenter, 00:53, March 8, 2018. https://mediacenter.ibm.com/media/1_4lm3aqgl
  2. “Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM).” Techopedia. https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29315/enterprise-mobility-management-emm
  3. Jan Kietzmann, Kirk Plangger, Ben Eaton, Kerstin Heilgenberg, Leyland Pitt and Pierre Berthon. “Mobility at work: A typology of mobile communities of practice and contextual ambidexterity.” Journal of Strategic Information Systems, March 25, 2013.  https://web.archive.org/web/20131110090809/http:/beedie.sfu.ca/files/Research/Journal_Articles/Journal_Articles_2013/2013_Kietzmann_MCOPs_JSIS.pdf
  4. Wes Gyure. “IBM MaaS360 Massively Reimagines Enterprise Mobility Management.”  SecurityIntelligence, April 27, 2016. https://securityintelligence.com/ibm-maas360-massively-reimagines-enterprise-mobility-management/?mhq=Enterprise%20Management%20Mobility&mhsrc=ibmsearch_a
  5. Matt Kapko. “What is EMM? Enterprise Mobility Management explained.” Computerworld, October 9, 2017. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3230510/what-is-enterprise-mobility-management-emm.html
  6. Bryan Taylor, Manjunath Bhat, Terrence Cosgrove, Chris Silva and Rod Smith. “Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Mobility Management Suites.” Gartner Research, June 28, 2017. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3751864