Gartner: Be wary of nascent managed mobility services

By , Network World |  Mobile & Wireless, MDM, Mobile Device Management

Managed mobility services (MMS) are still fairly young and providers vary considerably, with few having the type of global reach to potentially support the enterprise with any worldwide deployments of smartphones or tablets, Gartner warns in a recent "Magic Quadrant" report on the topic.

In fact, Gartner is so cautious on what it's seeing in MMS development, it doesn't elevate any MMS provider to the prized Magic Quandrant status of market "leaders" or "challengers." But Gartner, which notes that MMS providers typically charge a monthly recurring charge per device that is managed, says there is growing demand for MMS for day-to-day management of mobile devices along with handling associated tasks such as expense management, logistics, recycling and other practical concerns.

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"In the market, users will find sufficient skills and expertise related to enterprise mobility," Gartner states. "However, users will be challenged to find organizations that deliver all of the IT and process services they require globally within a single ESP [external service provider], which necessitates vendor management of multiple providers or the use of third-party program management (such as multisourcing service integration)."

While this may make MMS sound complicated, Gartner, in its highly critical report, nevertheless sees bright spots in what is still new territory. Gartner defines MMS vendors as external service providers that can be asked by the enterprise IT manager to take on planning, provisioning, activation and management of corporate-liable mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, including the employee-owned Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

Gartner makes the distinction that there are "pure-play" MMS providers, such as MOBI Wireless Management, Vox Mobile and DMI, as well as Stratix which Gartner says has deep relationships in the mobility industry and expertise in managing field-service devices in particular.

And there are also MMS providers engaged in other types of IT-related businesses, such as IBM, AT&T, Accenture, Unisys, Motorola Solutions, Tangoe and Widepoint Solutions. In addition, MMS providers based outside the U.S. are active in MMS, including Orange Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Vodafone, and Tata Consultancy Services. But no MMS vendor at this point is seen by Gartner as offering comprehensive geographic support for corporate mobile devices on a global basis, although Tata is seen as making considerable progress on that score.

Gartner notes that there are several other MMS providers than what it listed in the Magic Quadrant report on MMS but these firms were deemed to fall outside the Gartner criteria. Gartner states that its criteria for selecting MMS stem from four main factors: the discerned "geographic reach and expertise; "strong knowledge of life-cycle management"; "multisourcing service integration" and "strong knowledge of managed mobility software."

Managed mobility services may be new, says Mitch Black, president of MOBI, but it's rising to assist companies in both the technical and business-focused processes, such as paying for telecom expenses, that corporate mobile devices typically require. An MMS provider might interact with carriers after the enterprise has negotiated to obtain bulk, discounted minutes, for example, and manage them as pools allocated to corporate devices that are provisioned and de-provisioned for the enterprise.

Ford Motor Co., for example,  is among dozens of companies that use MOBI as an MSSP provider, Black says. MOBI's approach is somewhat akin to the software-as-service model of managed services, and MOBI integrates with several of the mobile-device management (MDM) software vendors, including AirWatch, MobileIron and Enterproid. MOBI sometimes has a direct link with the corporate human resources department to be informed when employees begin or end their jobs at the company. "If the employee is terminated, we shut the device off," Black adds.

The MOBI Portal can manage a BYOD device but the employee is typically seen as more "personally-liable" for it, he notes. He notes BYOD raises many kinds of policy questions that the company has to address in its mobile policy.

Gartner says in terms of its analysis of the capabilities of MMS providers, Gartner's approach considers six categories of technical and financial management, including how well a MMS can handle security and content management, especially authentication encryption and containerization that would be based on rules-based policies relating to access and use of corporate resources.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: emessmer@nww.com

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