Mobility management, like almost every other area of business technology, has changed dramatically over the past few years, presenting new challenges – and opportunities – to CIOs.

Worldwide, the number of mobile phone users is currently expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019.

With so many devices, and so many different applications, protecting enterprise data is an increasingly complex priority.

This isn’t an entirely new challenge, of course. Mobile devices didn’t just spring up in the workplace yesterday. In fact, in many ways we’ve been here before.

Mobile Device Management

When people first started using mobile devices in the workplace, the scramble to provide a balance between employee efficiency and enterprise security saw mobile device management initiatives become a major focus of CIOs.

MDM allowed IT to create and control mobile device polices to ensure compliance, secure corporate information, and protect important assets. Essentially, it meant an IT department could have full control over any device.

However, there was one area MDM didn’t address. It was never able to dictate how an enterprise should handle the deployment, management and maintenance of in-house and third-party applications. To this day that remains a huge gap in enterprise mobility.

This is especially true when you consider the growing use of personal devices in the workplace. Many people, understandably, just aren’t comfortable with giving IT the power to remotely wipe their phones and tablets, or handing over complete control of their personal information through MDM. But they’re not likely to stop using their own tech either.

The result is more and more unsecured devices, accessing a greater variety of applications – which means more risk of data loss, security breaches, and compliance violations for your enterprise.

Is it safe?

When we’re talking about these risks there are a few areas of concern.

Malicious code and malware threats, targeted device attacks, and communications interceptions can all provide a threat to your organization when applications are directly connected to your data.

The problem with not having control over applications is that these threats can be brought into your workplace with astounding ease.

The real challenge, though, is controlling these potential attack points without sacrificing the freedom and flexibility that your people gain from being able to work how they want, where they want.

According to one survey, using smartphone applications for work helps employees gain nearly an hour of time every day, with an estimated 34 percent increase in productivity.

If you extrapolate this data across every one of your employees using mobile applications, and over every working day in the year, it’s clear there’s a huge benefit to encouraging mobile work.

Meet MAM

Enter Mobile Application Management (MAM).

MAM gives IT the tools needed to manage and control in-house and third-party mobile applications in a more granular way than with MDM – so your people can have the apps they want to use, without having to hand over control of their devices, and without placing enterprise data on unstable ground.

On a basic level, MAM provides three major capabilities. It gives CIOs and IT departments the power to:

  1. Test and deploy their own enterprise and third-party based apps
  2. Build a customized app store where employees can download and use applications that have been pre-approved
  3. Manage access to apps, based on almost any factor (such as job role)

In essence, by allowing users to provision pre-approved apps and by defining user policies from the start, your people still feel they have the freedom to pick and choose how they work, while you maintain the control needed to protect your data.

Further MAM features can include things like software development kits and application wrapping – which allow code to be added to applications granting IT administrators extra control – and containerization, which isolates applications or application groups, preventing them from sharing data with apps outside of that group.

As of two years ago, 72 percent of organizations were supporting BYOD policies. But only 14 percent had adopted MAM tools – despite the fact they were introduced back in 2010. Now, at a time when hackers cost the American economy $100 billion a year, MAM seems like an increasingly crucial investment.

What next?

If you’d like to know more about mobile application management, we have just the thing to get you started.

Check out our Mini-guide to Mobile Application Management to discover the four capabilities you can’t do without, the benefits of giving your people the applications they need, and the next steps you should take to protect your data.