A look ahead at 2017

6 EMM predictions for 2017

Enterprise mobility management trends will be driven by growing complexities in hardware and software, concerns about privacy and a push for mobile management compliance in the workplace.

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With an increased focus on wearables, the IoT, machine learning and virtual reality, CIOs will need to ensure their enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategies can scale. Mobile devices aren't going away, and they're only getting more difficult to manage. Whether it's employees or customers, the number of potential hardware and software exchanging corporate data day in and day out can be staggering.

"If EMM is managing millions of devices today it will manage billions of other assets in the future," says Clare Grant, general manager of Red Hat Mobile.

The coming year will see a number of changes in how businesses approach EMM, moving from a device-focused approach to a more comprehensive strategy. These are six of the most significant predictions from experts about how EMM will change in 2017.

Companies will embrace Android

Will 2017 be Android's year in the enterprise? Chris Silva, research director at Gartner, who worked on Gartner's 2016 Magic Quadrant for EMM report, thinks Android will finally have its time to shine. He points to tools like Android for Work and the latest Pixel devices as two signs that businesses will start bringing in more Android devices.

It's already started, says Silva, with an increase in enterprise-ready Android devices, like those from Samsung. Although, he acknowledges that iOS "remains the preference of most enterprises for corporate-owned mobile devices," he to sees corporations embrace Android devices as well.

EMM suites will only make it easier for IT departments to support multiple types of hardware and software, while maintaining a streamlined approach to security.

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Wearables will find their place in the enterprise

In addition to an increase of Android devices, Grant says 2017 will see more wearables at work, especially as they grow in consumer popularity. "As enterprises start extending wearables for B2E workflows and find more use cases targeting consumers, we expect that concerns over their management and data access will arise as it did in the early days of smartphones. Evidence of this is seen in Samsung announcing their EMM for wearables," she says.

Each new device and applicatoin can bring efficiencies and boost productivity, but they also increase complexities around security and mobile management. "Whether it's a smartphone, a tablet, an IoT sensor, a personal digital assistant, or a wearable, every organization needs to consider connected devices as part of their EMM strategy," says Grant.

Moving forward, EMM strategies not only need to consider current hardware, but also make room for hardware that is on the horizon. Any device that has the potential to become "connected," will require some level of management on IT's end.

BYOD gets a makeover

Silva says he's seen most businesses struggle with a push to go completely BYOD -- that is, to let employees use their personal devices for work. But as privacy and compliance come to the forefront of mobile device management, businesses are finding it difficult to manage policies around BYOD.

"As the number of apps in the enterprise app catalogs grow, and with them, the number of places on a device that enterprise data can be stored, a need to manage the whole device through traditional MDM has driven many organizations back to corporate owned devices," he says.

But he isn't putting the nail in the coffin for BYOD just yet, noting that BYOD is "not dead, but not the only answer." Rather, he sees a future where businesses might start pushing back on employee-owned devices, but will still find a middle ground to allow workers to bring personal devices into the office. As more employees expect access to business apps on their personal phones, CIOs will need to create more reasonable approaches to BYOD.

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EMM consolidation

MDM is quickly becoming old news. Instead, Gartner coined the term EMM, pointing to a shift in mobile management to complete suites that include multiple tools for device, app and software management. And as the line is starting to blur in what defines a mobile device, Silva says MDM solutions will have "an tough battle against more full-featured EMM suites." If anything, more businesses will embrace EMM platforms and continue to use familiar MDM tools that are included in the suite.

EMM also helps businesses consolidate certain practices -- like compliance regulations for example -- and deploy updates and patches across a range of complex devices all at once. "Solutions that are seamlessly integrated across all existing enterprise systems and platforms will begin to increase in popularity due to their comprehensive visibility and ease of use," says Mitch Berry, vice president of EMM at MOBI.

Machine learning and big data

Silva also predicts that future EMM strategies will employ machine learning to help manage large flows of data and automate data analysis. This will become especially important, as businesses will only increase the amount of data collected as technology becomes more complex, says Silva. Not to mention that, with new data and better automation around data management, it will open doors to "completely new use-cases," for the data, says Silva.

"An example could be an EMM that compiles data on users' movement by seeing what parts of the wireless network they attach to, correlate this with time-of-day and apps being on their device; over time, policies can 'learn' what my behaviors are in a given location and time and serve up the apps or their data proactively," he says.

[ Related story: 7 enterprise mobile management features in Windows 10 ]

A push for compliance and regulation

Hacking and data breaches are now part of a national discussion on privacy -- and businesses are going to feel the impact, if they haven't already. Silva says that 2017 will see an increase in "prescriptive legislation on privacy and securing digital data" that will push CIOs to organize mobile strategies.

Part of an organized approach will involve implementing best practices around security for employees, customers and business data. In order to ensure businesses can scale their mobile approach, CIOs will need to strategize. EMM suites will likely play a large part in that strategy, by helping businesses manage the complex landscape of security and will become important tools in managing mobile security, says Silva.

The push for security won't just fall on the shoulders of the CIO in 2017. Berry predicts that security is going to find its way on to the desk of every C-level executive. "High-profile hacks are becoming increasingly common, which is why we're seeing data security and privacy shoot to the top of the list of C-level concerns. We'll soon see executives outside the CIO demanding more stringent encryption and data loss prevention controls on all endpoint devices," he says.

This story, "6 EMM predictions for 2017" was originally published by CIO.

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