Mobile Device Management, Enterprise Mobility Management Predictions for 2021

By Bernadette Wilson

MSPs and VARs who help businesses plan their mobility strategies can give them an enduring competitive edge — and help their own businesses grow as well. As important as mobile device management (MDM) was before 2020, businesses now have a deeper appreciation for its value. Shash Anand, VP of Product Strategy for SOTI, says, “We are seeing an increased use of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets and smart wearables,

in different industries like retail, healthcare, and transportation and logistics, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.” He adds that organizations now realize they need the ability to manage content that employees access with those devices and have complete visibility into operations when they work remotely. Anand looks back at predictions for 2020 – and whether they materialized, mobile device management solutions that businesses and enterprises are demanding now, and a look into what managed services providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) can expect in 2021.

Looking back at the predictions you made in 2019, did the mobile device management space advance as predicted?

Anand: Many of SOTI’s predictions certainly materialized into a greater need for managing mobility. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as printers and sensors from various manufacturers, have increased significantly. With shipments growing massively due to online shopping, labels on boxes become even more critical, which in turn, is reflected in the importance of label printers. Hence management of printers and their ability to print the correct labels with adequate ink and properly functioning printheads is a mission-critical operation. Otherwise, enterprises run the risk of shipments going to the wrong place or not being shipped at all. Like other mobile devices, printers need to be monitored, updated, tracked and controlled to ensure a smooth operation. Companies are choosing printers from different manufacturers for different purposes within their organization but are demanding a single pane of glass to manage all these printers.

How did the pandemic impact mobile device management adoption?

Anand: Now that companies are aware of how and why mobile devices equip organizations with powerful capabilities, we can expect to see wider adoption of enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. EMM gives organizations the ability to meet the unanticipated requirement of managing and securing these devices, especially as employees are working remotely and adhering to social distancing mandates from the CDC. Without complete visibility into a company’s mobile fleet – including device status, location, software updates, security and more – organizations can miss out on the full range of benefits the deployment was meant to achieve in the first place.

For many organizations that have already implemented an EMM solution, the transition to remote teams was seamless because policies were likely already in place to support bring your own device (BYOD) or corporately issued devices. Enrolling new devices into EMM typically takes a few minutes and can be achieved at a mass scale. EMM solutions have allowed customers to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing business environment that we live in today.

The biggest takeaway from this year is that it is never too late for businesses to adjust. These changes supported by mobile technologies allowed organizations to stay operational – and some of the changes introduced may even remain after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted:

  • Real-time inventory management helps retailers plan stock according to demand: Coca-Cola recently announced that it will be halting its brand marketing efforts to focus more on areas critical to the business like stock management by “…working with retail partners to focus on core SKUs in order to better keep its most in-demand products in stock.” Mobile devices can be used to perform inventory checking, automate orders once high-demand stock is low, receive orders and manage pricing, among other business-critical tasks that can help improve workflows.
  • Track-and-trace technology no longer a “luxury” for logistics providers, is essential: The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that being able to accurately oversee product fulfillment and delivery on a 24/7 basis is vital to managing supply chain performance. Supply chains need to be reimagined in new ways, with a strong focus on mobility for resilient and sustainable operations through disruptions like the novel coronavirus. Companies operating in a mobile-first environment need to have the ability to build apps faster and more cost-effectively, securely manage their mobile devices and IoT endpoints, have mobile tech issues resolved remotely and get actionable data insights to improve their business operations.
  • Mobility helps healthcare providers limit exposure to COVID-19 and deliver personalized care: Wearable technologies like smartwatches aid in the real-time collection of patient data for remote monitoring, which is critical as the public continues to adhere to self-isolation measures.

No matter which industry your clients operate in, uncertainties about the duration and extent of the pandemic understandably make planning for the future a challenge. However, MSPs and VARs who use this time wisely to help their clients plan their mobile strategy will create an invaluable opportunity to give their clients a competitive edge once regular business operations return.

What are your top predictions for the direction MDM and EMM will take in 2021?

Anand: For many companies globally, large-scale remote work policies are only an interim solution and need to be revisited and adapted for every organization’s specific business needs. Organizations that normally depend on mobile technology in their operations will need to continue managing devices with the ability to remotely diagnose, troubleshoot and fix mobile tech issues.

EMM will continue to operate as a business-critical component to any organization that is leveraging mobile devices as part of their operations. As organizations use new mobile devices or upgrade their existing devices, MDM is a requirement because operational efficiencies allow a company scale and adapt quickly.

In addition to EMM, or as an extension, remote work has emphasized the business-critical need for companies to look at other areas of their organization and remove paper and pen processes as they don’t scale and lack real-time visibility. Building mobile applications becomes that much more important to replace manual processes. Many organizations are scrambling to build mobile apps quickly that work on multiple platforms. A rapid app development tool can complement an EMM solution nicely. Organizations can now, without even a developer, build an app from scratch, have it work on iOS and Android devices, and deploy it to their teams in a matter of minutes.

In addition, given that remote work is on the rise, having a modern diagnostic help desk solution designed for mobile devices is critical for businesses to operate and support their employees. There is no doubt that this new normal will cause frustration or challenges with remote workers, and having the right tools to diagnose problems quickly is essential. A help desk solution that is tightly integrated with an EMM solution provides a deeper level of diagnostics that can be performed. A quick example is grabbing Android Debug logs, which can take hours and requires a laptop, but with the right diagnostic help desk solution, can be just a click of a button. This leads to first-call resolutions being the new norm as well.

How should MSPs and VARs prepare for changes in this space?

Anand: With the increase in operations supported through mobile devices, MSPs and VARs may find opportunities to create backup solutions for mobile platforms and desktop operating systems. An EC-Council blog points out that ensuring your clients can restore mobile data after a disaster can add value to the solutions you provide. It may also be beneficial for clients to consider backing up data from IoT systems that they use or plan to deploy in 2021.

MSPs and VARs must embrace and begin getting trained on new tools that strongly complement EMM because this allows them to go deeper into an organization, solve more business-critical problems for that organization, saving them significant costs and meanwhile, the MSP or VAR generates a higher stream of income as a result.

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