In recent months, the mobility industry has witnessed several acquisitions of key enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors, and there is reason to believe that more may be on the horizon. These developments are bound to have ramifications. While much has been written about the implications for the acquiring and acquired companies, little focus has been paid to the group impacted the most – the enterprise customers of these offerings. What do enterprises need to know?

We are living through the leading edge of a gravitational shift from an era of desktops and notebooks to one of true mobile computing. The combination of tablets, smartphones and other related technologies are not only changing how we work, but also enabling forward-thinking organizations to create differentiated products and services. EMM allows mobile devices to interact with the back-end systems of the enterprise and enables organizations to manage and secure their mobile operations. Essentially, EMM is becoming the nerve center of the enterprise. 

Why is this important to enterprise customers of EMM vendors that have been acquired? Once an EMM solution is installed into a customer’s organization, the opportunity then exists for the acquiring company to use the acquired EMM solution as the means to steer the organization’s future purchases of mobile devices and even back-end enterprise software. This is why EMM companies are such hot commodities and why the big boys are snapping them up.

It’s interesting to note the pattern that follows many technology acquisitions. Typically, post acquisition there’s a big push by the acquiring CEO to justify the massive investment to anxious shareholders. Integration between the acquired products and their product suites hits the street, in no time flat. The integration will then be marketed and bundled pricing will be offered to try and stymie competitors and win market share. The marketing and salesmanship will be structured to make customers believe that if they own one of the vendor’s products, then to maximize benefits and reduce costs, they should buy other components from the vendor.  This approach can sound enticing on the surface, but there are often problems.

The issue lies in the “recipes” from which products are built. When products are built by separate companies they are usually created using different technologies, code bases, design objectives and philosophies. This is why products from separate companies don’t always work well together. In most cases, proper integration of enterprise solutions requires significant work - if not major surgery. There are, of course, those happy marriage stories, but enterprise products are not small apps.  There are many moving parts and proper integration takes time, money and patience, which usually isn’t palatable to CEOs of public companies, who need to show a quick return on investment to anxious shareholders. Customers should take note of this pattern and understand the limitations.

Additionally, if the vendor that acquired an EMM solution is a device or operating system manufacturer or the producer of back-end enterprise software, the vendor will usually state support for multiple operating systems and devices as well as integration with third party back-end software. But realistically, integration and support for the vendor’s own products and services will always trump their willingness to support competitive offerings. This can be problematic for customers, as the selected EMM solution needs to be able to support the software and devices that best suit the needs of the business both now and in the future.

If, as an example, a device manufacturer were to come out with the next ground-breaking device, a lack of proper support for the device could allow an acquiring vendor of EMM to steer the customer away from the device, or to make the customer feel that the new device is not enterprise ready. Such vendors have the ability to stall customers until they can bring their own, competing product to market.  

As the mobility trend continues to explode, will companies have the flexibility to pick the best mobile devices as well as enterprise software that meets their business needs? Maybe - but maybe not.

Companies that are concerned about limitations associated with being locked into a particular vendor’s products should consider their options.

There are trusted independent EMM vendors in the market that offer compelling solutions with broad integration possibilities and support for all of the core classes of mobile devices and beyond. Customers who select this class of EMM solution have the flexibility to pick the best mobile devices and enterprise hardware and software that meets their current and future business needs.