There’s a lot of chatter out there about mobile device management and when the technology makes sense in light of mobile application management…and when MDM or MAM make sense in light of mobile content management. In this alphabet soup of mobile acronyms, where’s a mobile-embracing enterprise to start?

Looking out across our customer base and how they’re employing enterprise mobility in some pretty amazing ways, I’m here to tell you it’s not an “either/or”. More often than not, it’s an “I want it all” or an “MDM for these” and “MAM for those”. Let me tell you what I mean.

We’ve got a customer that’s a large non-profit hospital. They have tens of thousands of employees, many who want mobile access to email, administrative systems, and electronic medical records. The hospital needs to make sure they not only offer secure access to those folks, but that they make sure that they are tracking and reporting on every device on the network for HIPAA/HiTech compliance. On the other hand, they have another crew of people to whom they must provide access: several thousand consulting doctors. Those doctors probably don’t need full-on device management, and the hospital’s IT department doesn’t want to be in the business of managing devices of non-employees. So for them, the ability to deploy MDM and MAM to employees while deploying only secure email and secure access to an EMR (i.e., MAM) to the consulting doctors is the best of all worlds. It’s the right level of access and management for the employee’s role and the risk profile of the situation.

Similarly, we’ve got a customer who’s a large high-tech company. They have operations all over the world, the biggest of which is in the U.S. For its U.S. employee base, the organization wants to deploy full-on MDM. They need to do asset management and want to know what devices and apps are on the network. But they have employees in countries where the user privacy laws are pretty onerous. Even though many MDM features, say tracking device location or reporting on installed apps, can be suppressed for admins, this company wants to avoid even the whiff of stepping on employee privacy. So for them, what’s needed is MDM for the U.S. employees but only secure email for the countries with user privacy laws. For those users, the company can protect not just corporate data, but protect users’ devices from corporate management. Everybody wins.

One thing that’s clear: MDM seems to be foundational to what most enterprises want to do. Even if the big driver is the need to secure and control apps (which frankly is where things get interesting for customers who want to mobilize their business) many organizations want to have device-based policies. As a baseline, they want to deploy a passcode and enforce basic security, such as encryption, on devices. They also want to simplify the mobile experience for their users by provisioning WiFi access and even issuing certs so devices can access enterprise resources without having to enter their credentials every time. They also want to tie device policies to app and network access, such as preventing jailbroken devices from getting to their apps, wiping a device of its corporate apps and data if the device is taken out of a certain geo-perimeter (say, a hospital or a retail store), or limiting access to a chatty app if the device is off of Wi-Fi in order to save cost.

Whether the need is device or app management, nearly all organizations need to make content available to users on any device. So secure content access and management is nearly always a requirement, especially for organizations that are regulated or deal with sensitive corporate or client information.

So whether the primary driver for deploying enterprise mobility management is a need for device, app, or data management, MDM is a foundational capability for many enterprises. Beyond that, which three letter acronym you deploy depends on the situation. And what we’re increasingly finding from our intrepid mobile customer base, it’s a combo.