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Enterprises are adopting UEM technology -- but slowly

The bigger the company, the more challenging it will be to migrate to a UEM system. But, according to Gartner's Chris Silva, the move is a necessary one.

Client management tools were great for managing a swath of PCs, but they aren't great at helping IT manage the influx of smartphones, tablets and the rise of IoT.

One fix is to invest in unified endpoint management technology, but integrating UEM tools into the enterprise is easier said than done, according to Chris Silva, analyst at Gartner. While UEM technology brings the management of different devices to a single console, system complexity and workforce politics can impede an organization's migration to UEM technology -- not to mention the time and the cost such a migration will take.

Chris SilvaChris Silva

Additionally, client management tools (CMTs) and UEM technology vendors can obstruct a UEM migration, putting IT between a rock and a hard place, according to Gartner. Some modern products, such as Google Chrome OS and Windows 10 S, only favor UEM, preventing organizations from migrating to those application systems if they're not ready to invest in the technology. And yet, most CMTs don't have the flexibility to manage the array of enterprises the way that UEM technology does.

In this Q&A, Silva gives his perspective on why adopting UEM technology may be slower than initially anticipated, as well as how device management will continue to evolve as the continued influx of devices becomes standard operating procedure for IT.

Are enterprises still moving toward UEM technology, and are the tools gaining traction?

Chris Silva: It's happening, but it's happening slowly. Two things are important to note: One is that roughly 20% to 30% or so of clients have taken the plunge and are done or near done moving their PCs to UEM. For the remaining 70% to 80%, it's going to take them three to five years.

So, it's happening, but it's happening incrementally. If you look at the average organization, are they doing this? Not yet. The bigger the organization, the more complex the process is. One example of this is banks that have a bunch of homegrown apps dependent on an outdated version of Internet Explorer. It will take them a while to move because they have a lot of dependencies to resolve.

Is a UEM migration harder for small organizations because of the cost and the time it takes?

Silva: It can apply, but I tend to say [UEM technology migration] is not size-dependent. You can have a midsize or small enterprise that has as much complexity as a massive company and hasn't made the move.

Medium and small businesses tend to be more ready to move because either they don't have anything managing their PCs today so it's a blank page or they, by trend, tend to be using things like Office 365 and SaaS applications more often. It's more common to see a midsize business move this way, but it's not a direct correlation between size and readiness.

You mentioned dependencies as a barrier for adopting UEM technology. Are there others?

Silva: The big thing is a politics and culture change. You'll have PC teams using management tools, like Configuration Manager for Microsoft, and it's a 25-year-old piece of software, and it's all they've known. And to move to a unified endpoint management, you're telling them two things: One is that the client management tool they built their careers on is going to go away; and two, things that are part and parcel of desktop management, like pushing images onto PCs and having every PC configured exactly the same, is possible but more challenging in UEM.

There's a lot of resistance to moving this way because people are worried about their jobs and what they'll do when the CMT stuff goes away, while not being sure of what the future looks like when things like image management go away.

What's the downside for organizations that aren't migrating to UEM technology?

Silva: There's not a huge downside right now to having two applications -- other than you're paying for two tools and you're less efficient because you go back and forth between two systems. What we expect will happen over time is more devices will be running modern or modern manageable OSes. You'll see more Macs and more Chromebooks. If you get a fleet of Chromebooks in, you can't manage those with your client management tool, so you have to move.

What hasn't happened yet -- and we don't really know when it will or how, as Microsoft releases the next version of Windows and the version after that and the version after that -- is will you be able to do less with a client management tool? That seems likely, but it's is hard to say when. There will be more direct negatives to not moving to UEM as years go by.

As more types of devices emerge, do they add layers of complexity for organizations migrating to UEM?

Silva: It shouldn't, and largely won't, if they're using one tool to manage them all, which is part of the problem of not moving and holding back on doing this. You'll ultimately get to the point where you have a tool to manage wearables, a tool to manage mobile, an old CMT to manage PCs, and at a certain point, it begins to get unwieldly and costly to keep layering things on.

That's what we saw in the early days of mobile. Everyone had a BlackBerry enterprise server. IPhones came in, and now they need a [mobile device management] tool, and now they have two tools. As Android came in, maybe add a third solution. Having those different tools was diminishing returns.

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