IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Getting More from Mobile

While MDM offers a foot in the door, experts say there are greater opportunities with mobile application management and custom app development. By Megan Santosus
Reader ROI: 
Focus on enabling business, not locking down devices.
Application-centric services drive opportunities.

With mobile devices seemingly ubiquitous, many channel partners have hopped on the mobile services bandwagon. Yet if such services begin and end with mobile device management (MDM), channel partners are missing out on significant opportunities.

As SMBs increasingly rely on mobile devices to conduct business both internally among employees and externally with third parties and customers, mobility services now encompass more than just managing the device. “Mobility is about enablement,” says Chris Hazelton, director of product marketing and strategy at Apperian Inc., a provider of mobile application management services in Boston. “There is significant opportunity for channel partners to provide the entire spectrum of mobile solutions—and not just locking down devices.”

The size of the opportunity varies depending on the industry, but it is large nevertheless. According to 451 Research, enterprise mobility management—a broad category that includes mobile application development and mobile application management (MAM)—will reach $11.5 billion in 2019, up from $5.6 billion in 2016. Of the total, Hazelton asserts that MAM will have the fastest growth, expanding from one-third to one-half of the market by 2019. “There will be a significant amount of money up for grabs that would be topline revenue,” he adds. 

As for channel-specific numbers, Alex Zaltsman, CEO of InnoviMobile, a mobility solutions provider in Millburn, N.J., cites experience from his company’s customer base.  Zaltsman says the top-line revenue for smaller channel companies has been between “25,000 to $50,000 while larger deployments could be well into six figures.”

MAM is particularly promising. “The first generation of mobility was enabling employees to work with their mobile devices,” says Greg Raiz, CEO of Raizlabs, an application development company in Boston that specializes in iOS and Android devices. “Now channel partners should be looking at how to enable employees and customers to do business via mobile devices.”

What Does MAM Entail?
MAM is primarily “the internal app distribution, management, configuration, monitoring, and control of mobile apps within the enterprise,” says Chris Shroeder, CEO and co-founder of App47, a MAM provider in Herndon, Va. In practical terms, MAM enables the secure deployment and management of mobile apps whether to employees, third-party partners, service providers, or customers.

While MDM is device-centric, MAM is app-centric and therefore has considerable upside for channel partners. While a single MDM solution is used to lock down one device, MAM technology sits on top of that. And one device can have multiple MAM software products, enabling a doctor who sees patients at multiple locations, for example, to have appropriate and separate MAM technology for different applications. “We’re finding that our customers need to do mobile app deployment out to third parties and customers and that is where we are really seeing traction,” Shroeder says.

One typical use case for MAM: to create curated app stores that allow users to download preapproved mobile applications. As Shroeder sees it, applications reside in a public app store while deployment, test and dev, and procurement are all regimented via policies and security that are transparent to end users. And MAM is fairly quick to deploy, requiring channel partners to do nothing on premises, he says. Hazelton says MAM “is much more of a scalable and sticky product for channel providers because MDM can be ripped out and replaced and has negative connotations, whereas MAM is much more about putting the right apps into the right hands.”

For SMB employees in particular, it’s critical to put the right applications into the right hands. “From a small business perspective, you want everybody to have the right information on their mobile device because everybody is in sales,” Hazelton says. When in front of a customer or prospect, employees should be equipped with all the information needed to quickly close a deal, he adds.

To effectively deploy MAM technologies, Raiz says more IT-centric skills are needed—for example, managing end users, permissions, and security.

One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to delve further into mobility services is to go mobile through existing channels. “Start by adapting a website to be more useful on a mobile device,” Raiz says, “or use an existing Web service to create an API on which can be built mobility functionality.” Such approaches may require a working knowledge of HTML5 or APIs, respectively.

About the Author

Megan Santosus is a Boston-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The ChannelPro Network.