If you’re not using managed app configurations, you’re missing out

Mobile app ISVs and EMM administrators should make things easier on users by following AppConfig Community best practices.

True story: I while back, I was hanging out with a friend when a perfect enterprise mobility use case came up. This friend is a product manager (which often seems like a 24/7 job), and in response to an urgent email, he had to rush home to log into his company's bug tracking software from his laptop. As a mobility blogger, I was excited show off my practical knowledge, and suggested checking the Apple App Store for a mobile client. Sure enough, it was there, and my friend installed it immediately. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to log in, since the app setup required some server settings that he couldn’t figure out on the spot. I was embarrassed that his enterprise mobility experience didn’t live up to my enthusiasm.

This is a cheesy anecdote, but it’s a perfect illustration of why managed app configurations exist in iOS and Android. If you're not familiar with this concept, or if you are familiar but you’re not using managed configurations, consider today’s post as a public service announcement.

Managed app configurations are a feature of iOS MDM and Android enterprise. They've been around for a few years, and allow an MDM server to configure settings within individual mobile apps, via the MDM protocol. These settings can be anything that the developer desires, and the AppConfig Community has defined a standard schema that allows MDM servers/EMM consoles to consume these settings and present them in administrator user interfaces.

The first step is for app developers to be aware of and use managed configurations, and implementing them according to the AppConfig Community schema is helpful, too. Sure, this only applies to devices that are enrolled in MDM, but that’s still many devices, so software vendors, if you haven’t exposed managed app configurations for settings that are required to set up your app, consider making it a priority. Next, it’s up to EMM administrators to take advantage of managed configurations.

In my friend’s case, his company used MDM to enforce a passcode policy; configure email, wifi, and VPN settings; and encrypt email attachments—but that was it. My friend is a sharp product manager, but didn’t know that the bug tracking mobile client existed out there in the public store. I know for a fact that their EMM vendor has an enterprise app catalog that can work with public apps, and that the  app in question is a free feature of the bug tracking software. Finding public mobile apps seems simple, but besides configuration, users need help with this, too. (And because of the way managed configurations are applied, the process is simpler if the MDM server is used to install app, anyway.)

In this anecdote, there could have been more going on behind the scenes, but either way there’s a clear lesson: managed app configurations—as well as app catalogs—are key tools to evolve a company’s mobility mindset from just security to enabling productivity.

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