Over the last few years, many different subjects have been actively debated in the enterprise mobility management space. You’ve probably heard many statements like these from marketers, IT administrators, vendors, bloggers like me, analysts, and users:
“No way would you want to use a restrictive container solution.”
“Why would you want to be in the business of managing all those devices?”
“You’re crazy to not manage the device.”
“We don’t want to provide a weird ‘corporate’ replacement for an app.”
“The device can’t be trusted, you need an extra layer of security.”
“Users don’t operate in two separate modes. They need a unified experience.”
You can probably think of a dozen more variations on these arguments, involving mobile device management, mobile app management, “dual persona,” “containerization,” and enterprise email clients. Clearly there’s a lot to talk about, and many ways to frame the discussion. It can certainly be baffling to the uninitiated. However, we can avoid a lot of headaches and confusion if we remember one thing: even today, near the end of 2013, most of these debates come down to one thing—mobile email.
Why email is special
Why is email so interesting? Sure, mobile email has been the killer mobile app for over a decade, but for this discussion, email is interesting because mobile devices have built-in clients that can sync to enterprise email. That means that in order to extend this enterprise resource to our users’ mobile devices, we don’t really have to do anything except make sure the figurative switch is flipped on.
For any other enterprise resource, we have to be much more proactive and make sure that our users have some sort of mobile app that’s specially designed to access the resource. Coinciding with this, providing users with apps to access enterprise resources is a good opportunity to make sure that access is managed and secure.
For example, there’s no way to access a network drive on the iPhone, so in order to provide mobile access, you have to use some sort of mobile file syncing solution. In this case, the choice isn’t whether you use a built-in app or a third party app, instead, the choice is whether you do or don’t provide access at all.
Anyway, for email we have the option to use either the built-in client that comes with every phone, or to deploy a third-party app. The fact that we have this option is totally unique, and on top of that, the stakes are high. Email is still the killer mobile app, and each option has its well-known pros and cons:
Built-in email pros: A good, well-integrated user experience.
Built-in email cons: You have to manage the device, but APIs provided by the device aren't that great at keeping data from being shared between apps, and you’re relying on the device’s encryption and security features.
Third party email pros: Tight control, including control over sharing, without having to rely on the device.
Third-party email cons: Less integration and poorer user experience.
(There are other options out there—you can use iOS 7 or attachment encryption if you just want to protect attachments, or you can use a third-party client along with device-level controls for multiple layers of security. And now with iOS 7 we also happen to be fortunate that the new managed open in and multitasking features will make improve both email options. Finally, we’re also in a good place because many major EMM vendors offer both options.)
(Side note: I’m not really talking about mobile browsers for this discussion here. Yes, you do have the same choice between built-in versus third-party, but the difference in user experience between the two is far less important for browsers than with email.)
Distilling the EMM debates
Putting aside the pros and cons of different approaches, the point here is that when you’re providing users with mobile access to corporate resources, email is a unique and important case. With something so vital, it’s only natural that all sorts of terms, arguments, talking points, and debates would emerge.
However, you can see that they all really just refer to one of the two primary email options—the built-in client or third-party client—with all their pros and cons. If you keep this in mind, it will clear up confusion and speed things along when you’re considering your enterprise mobility management options.