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Mobile Application Management vs. Mobile Device Management

Another day, another networking event here in rainy dreary Boston.  Yesterday, I attended a networking workshop on enterprise mobility where one of the speakers was talking about mobile device management.  Candidly, these types of events can be a mixed bag….and typically that’s dependent on the quality of the speaker(s).  Unfortunately, this event had a speaker who, in my mind, was missing the most basic understanding of mobility management.  I guess it’s time for a quasi Public Service Announcement.

If you have ever heard me speak, you know I regularly talk about the six different components of enterprise mobility management and that I make a specific distinction between mobility management and mobile device management.  I feel like I am on a soap box every time I do this because there are so many people out there who use the term mobile device management as an umbrella or catch-all phrase.  That does no one any good in my opinion.

The short version of the story is that the speaker was cautioning people that when they were considering their mobile device management choices, they had to also ensure proper application distribution and management.  Ugh.  Talk about confusing two very important, albeit distinctly different topics. 

What is so hard to understand about this?  Mobile device managment is about managing the mobile devices….and mobile application management is….hold on….about managing applications.  I get the impression that the speaker has never looked at the seven layers of the OSI model.

Application management is the strategy and process around developing/procuring, securing, deploying, accessing configuring, updating and removing (business) applications from mobile devices used by the employees…notice how I didn’t say an employee’s devices, because it could be some ruggedized devices that are used by various employees. 

Device management is about configuring the mobile devices and making sure that the IT policies that have been set up remain intact, as well as monitoring the overall status and health of the device.

Here’s another way to look at it.  When you go from one device to another….say an Android device to an iPhone (or whatever)…are you going to want to have access to the business applications you had on your Android device on your new device?  What if you are on the same device and your IT department is pushing out an updated version of the business intelligence tool you have grown so dependent on, because they finally got around to adding the feature you asked for nine months ago.  Both are perfect examples of mobile application management.  There are others of course, but hopefully you get the drift.

So do me a favor.  The next time someone starts talking about “device management,” can you please stop them and ask them what they mean by that…and make sure we’re all talking about the same thing?  Thanks!


  1. Posted May 18, 2011 at 14:21 | Permalink

    Maybe one of the reasons for confusion is driven by the fact that to secure a device that will be on the network (via VPN) one must not only set and enforce device settings and policies (PIN required, etc.), but also ensure that no ‘forbidden’ apps are installed?

    I’m with you that App management can be an entirely different solution, but there is this crossover in the functions that MDM apps need to provide app exclusion (or white list only choices) to truly meet their claims of security.

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    • Posted May 18, 2011 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Jonathan – I’ll argue that application white lists and black lists (a.k.a. forbidden apps) would hence be part of application management. Making sure the VPN settings on the device are correct – and remain so – would be part of MDM IMO (assuming you are using the built in VPN connector).

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      • Posted May 18, 2011 at 15:15 | Permalink

        Totally with you. Not only is MDM used as an umbrella phrase to describe full-lifecycle mobility management (which is woefully incomplete) it is also frequently confused with Data Security as well. Managing a device (pswd, lock, wipe…) is very important, but securing the data on the device (encryption, boot sector protection, device authentication…) is even more important. If a hacker is smart enough to crack the Data Security on a device, then they are certainly smart enough to disable MDM.

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        • Posted May 24, 2011 at 11:28 | Permalink

          So why don’t we see more of that yet?

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          • Posted May 24, 2011 at 14:34 | Permalink

            Time. Most MDM vendors didn’t start selling product until 3rd or 4th quarter of 2010 which means that they are only just now being deployed to production in sizeable numbers. You will see more of it as the MDM deployment wave grows (although as with all security breaches, companies like to keep it as quiet as possible). There will also be more requests for Mobile User Support and Mobile Infrastructure Management as this new wave of devices and applications are deployed to production and people actually expect them to work. The horror…

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  2. Posted May 18, 2011 at 15:28 | Permalink

    Well put Philippe more often I am getting requests for MDM but what they really need is an education on the differences. In truth they don’t know what they need, this if further complicated by the confusion created within the industry. Being on the MEM side we are educating people on the differences and the need for both to provide the full life cycle management. Unfortunately they don’t seem to want to understand. Keep up the good fight.

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  3. Posted May 18, 2011 at 17:42 | Permalink

    Philippe, So I’m clear on your preferred nomenclature…

    1) The client goes into a platform selects the VP of Sales’ mobile line and attempts to move he/she from an iPHONE to an Android device. 2) The person administering the change is notified via the platform that, an application critical to the VP’s daily job function, isn’t available as (an app) on Android devices 3) and in the process is also notified that the VP’s phone is not eligible for a subsidized upgrade and must pay full price for the device. The administrator then stops the change and follows up with the VP to explain the business impact of changing devices. The VP elects to stay put with iPHONE for the time being. All this driven by one platform.

    Is that platform…Device Management, Application Management, Expense Management or simply Mobility Management?

    I agree, everybody on the same page benefits us all!

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    • Posted May 19, 2011 at 08:54 | Permalink

      Moe – I would argue that MAM, WEM, Help Desk and Mobile Operations Management are part of Enterprise Mobility Management and that MDM is part of mobile lifecycle management (along with procurement and retirement/replacement).

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      • Posted May 19, 2011 at 18:18 | Permalink

        Philippe – But, how you procure, retire and replace have a significant impact on costs (WEM).

        Would we be oversimplifying if we just said “Enterprise Mobility Management” is all of the above? Like ERP or CRM, which also have several layers and is implemented differently across organizations depending on needs.


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        • Posted May 22, 2011 at 17:26 | Permalink

          We would (and wouldn’t) be oversimplifying things by saying EMM is all of the above. EMF has a very strong view on what is included in EMM, but there are times where drawing the lines between various parts of MDM vs. MAM vs. WEM vs. MLM can be confusing.

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  4. Posted May 19, 2011 at 06:59 | Permalink

    Mobile Application Management (MAM) focuses on the role-based security, provisioning and control of mobile apps in an organization. Additional capabilities may include what is commonly called “inventory management”, since a MAM SDK (software development kit) can also provides a complete view of devices, and their characteristics such as device type, operating system, memory, and installed applications.

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  5. Posted May 19, 2011 at 07:38 | Permalink

    Great post.

    I have had the similar challenge to get people to understand the different on DM and AM.
    This mixed can also be challenging with regards to finding the ROI for a good DM.
    I have in some of my tailormade project used a DM to do the AM work just to help with Application management, and then the confusion really get them going.
    In some applications/MEAP’s out there you also have some DM possibilities, this can in some scenarios be good enought and help in smaller installations.

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    • Posted May 19, 2011 at 08:56 | Permalink

      Ragnar – I would love to talk to you off line about how you are measuring a ROI for MDM. That’s one that has escaped me….just like measuring the ROI of a security solution.

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  6. Posted May 24, 2011 at 18:17 | Permalink

    Very intersting article, and yes indeed there is a lot of terminology confusion in what is admittedly a fast-growing space.

    We see a lot of interest from app developers, in particular, in more robust MAM solutions. Enterprises and CIOs are looking at mobile apps as great ways to get tools into the hands of users in a manner that is vastly cheaper, quicker, and lower risk than the enterprise app roll-outs of yesteryear (e.g., large scale ERP deployments). Developers are keen to find ways to support this. But currently I focus mostly around the MAM space, so I’m sure there’s more to learn…

    I’m fascinated to learn more about your and the communities views on how these different markets will evolve, which are solving most acute pain points of today.

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    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 16:52 | Permalink

      So the short version IMO is this. The discussion is moving from MDM to MAM and will shortly be all about REAL mobile security (not PIN enforcement or remote wiping).

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6 Trackbacks

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  3. [...] and provide limited or no management and control of the applications running on these devices.  How MDM solutions are currently positioned can be confusing. Since device management and application management are traditionally different activities, I [...]

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  4. [...] mobile enterprise applications.  They have to be managed.  Some people don’t understand the difference between mobile application management and mobile device management, but hopefully they’ll come around over time.  But again, look at the explosion of mobile [...]

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  5. [...] Phillipe Winthrop has given a nice comparison in his blog at [...]

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  6. [...] The first opinion comes from a neighbor of ours here in Massachusetts – Philippe Winthrop from The Enterprise Mobility Forum (and lately with the Dutch MDM firm ViliQ).  Anyone who knows Philippe also knows his opinion is rock solid when it comes to the subject of mobility.  You can read his take here: [...]

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