Expert Commentary: Mobility Management

By  Philippe Winthrop — January 05, 2010

I know what you must be thinking. Why would there ever be in this publication a case made against purchasing a mobile device management solution? With the continued proliferation of mobile solutions in the enterprise, as well as the onslaught of consumer-friendly devices that support Microsoft's ActiveSync solution -- such as the iPhone, Palm's webOS, and Android devices -- there are a range of solutions being marketed to address Mobile Device Management.

What is sorely lacking in the industry today is a clear definition of what "device management" really means. All too often, technology identified MDM focuses on the ability to lock or wipe a device remotely, to push down policies onto a device, to track the location of a device or the ability to push applications to a device.

The newest trend, of course, is that solution providers tout their ability to perform these functions across multiple mobile platforms from one single console, much as RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server provides control of your company's fleet of BlackBerry devices. This functionality is critical to the success of a mobility management program and process within an organization. This, however, should not be called "device management."

Device management is actually a very narrow component of what encompasses a complete mobility management offering. Device management should be about managing the device once it's been put into service. This includes policy updates, OTA (over the air) software updates (excluding third-party apps) and backup as well as feature/functionality management (e.g., whether the camera on your smartphone is enabled or not). Things that shouldn't be considered device management include initial device configuration (that's part of device provisioning) and remote wipe or lock (that's part of security).

"Mobility management" goes well beyond device management. Mobility management encompasses a life-cycle approach that treats mobile devices the same as any other IT assets. This means that mobility management needs to include:

  • mobile device procurement
  • mobile device provisioning
  • mobile device management
  • mobile application management
  • mobile service management
  • mobile security
  • wireless expense management
  • mobile help desk
  • mobile device retirement and replacement
Next time you consider a device management solution within your organization, or with a solution provider, discuss and address your full mobility management needs. Device management is but one component of what is required for a holistic and successful mobility management strategy.

Philippe Winthrop is Director-Enterprise Mobility Requirements at Strategy Analytics and blogger at


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