As the “gig economy” spreads, stand-alone mobile app management will get more important.

Even though MDM and the AppConfig approach is getting more flexible, it won’t work for many contractor and part-time users.

The “gig economy” is growing. (It’s actually a bit difficult to measure, and the long-term economic effects are still unknown, but it’s growing.) If you’ve read the headlines or heard the hype, you know that this means that more people are working for multiple companies, and they’re often doing so as freelance contractors rather than as employees.

Many companies are providing mobile apps and messaging to these workers, who are accessing these resources from their personal devices. In turn, his affects how we do enterprise mobility management and end user computing. There are several issues to look at.

First, mobile device management and OS-based mobile app management frameworks (a.k.a. the AppConfig approach to MAM, which relies on MDM) as they exist today are usually out of the question for non-employee personal devices.

Many companies won’t want the liability and overhead of managing a large number of contractor or part-time employee devices; and users will be worried about privacy and control. The work/personal data separation frameworks built into iOS and Android have come a long way, but they’re just not ready for this use case yet. In iOS, the settings only apply to several specific types of corporate data (though a lot depends on how your MDM server exposes iOS’s remote management rights settings). In Android, Android for Work has fairly strong separation capabilities, but many devices still don’t support it. And neither OS supports connecting one device to multiple MDM servers.

This means that for freelance contractors and part-time employees with personal devices, you’ll have to use mobile app management capabilities that are entirely contained within the app; “stand-alone” MAM is the common term for this these days. Stand-alone MAM is typically integrated via SDKs or app wrapping tools from EMM vendors, or built-in by ISVs.

Your app may be running alongside apps from other companies, or it may even be running on a device that’s managed by another company’s MDM server. You might be able to get some control over the device if the user happens to be have an email account in your environment and is allowed to access it via Exchange ActiveSync, but remember this comes with some limitations (you might not be able to control where data goes once it’s on the device) and some liabilities (you have the power wipe their device).

Another issue can come up with calendars. If you deploy a calendar app that is sealed off to prevent data leakage and doesn’t share event data with the system calendar API, then it can be hard for users to do scheduling because those events won’t be collated and viewable with the other calendars and calendar apps on their device. The same goes for contact data.

Then there’s the issue of jailbreaking, rooting, and minimum hardware and OS version requirements. Your app might do a root or jailbreak detection test or rely on a minimum OS version, but some users might view rooting and jailbreaking as a right. So you have to consider what the terms of the user's contract says about this. Some states are beginning to address issues of compensation and BYOD; in the future I could see rooting, jailbreaking, and device requirements as another potential issue. Other problems could come up with apps that poll the device for a list installed apps, usage of location data, usage of cellular data, data zero-rating, and so on.

Contractors and part-time employees can also force a rethinking of identity. If they don’t have corporate email accounts, they may use personal email addresses, social media accounts, or phone numbers for their identity.

Final thoughts

Regardless of whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, the gig economy will affect EMM and EUC at many companies: They’ll need more flexible identity management, and stand-alone, hardened mobile apps, capable of protecting enterprise data on un-managed or even potentially compromised devices.

For the EMM industry, this means that vendors that rely heavily or exclusively on MDM and the AppConfig approach will also need to examine their approach to stand-alone MAM in order to address the growing gig economy market.

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