Does Inventory Matter with EMM?

One of the core capabilities we’ve had within the management space for years has been inventory. Back when I started my career on SMS 1.2 the improved inventory system was a major selling point of the product and it’s improved in breadth and depth in every release since then. Everything has been a focus area for inventory in the (what I’ll call) “established” space. With 18 years of advancement comes solutions that meet everyone’s needs from the basic ability to understand the BIOS name of the endpoint through to being able to understand how much carbon the endpoint consumed. Mobility has of course had an impact on that space but let’s first consider the reasons behind inventory.

In that “traditional” space we inventory to know where the assets the company purchased were located then what they were being used for. Moving beyond we need to know how much they were being used. The more rich the telemetry the deeper the insight that can be gleaned and it is of course always the insight that we want.

Outcome, Action, Inventory

Gaining insight in and of itself is less than helpful – it’s just extra information to move. Being able to take action and achieve an outcome is the key and so it should always be the driver behind the inventory. Take the case of monitoring the amount of power that’s used by your call center desktops overnight (I have in the past) …

Why that do: to reduce your power bill through the action of switching endpoints off automatically. So when we think about telemetry and inventory in respect of more recently evolved scenarios we need to think about outcomes too.

Outcomes with mobile

The outcomes you’ll need when you think about EMM are similar to the established estate but likely will morph depending upon your deployment style. For example with mobile devices that are company owned you probably want to know very much the same information you want to know of your established endpoint estate and for many of the same reasons.

  • How many, because you have to report them for financial purposes: they’re on the books.
  • How old, because you need to plan when to replace them.

Of course there is extra information you might need to know:

  • Where are they, when were they there, because you’re responsible for the data travelling on them.

Access as an outcome

One of key inventory items (actually literally the key) has always been the unique identity of the endpoint being inventoried. In the established endpoint estate device identity was taken for granted for the past 20 years, that is now not necessarily the case. We now need to be able to establish a contextual identity around a device: who is using it, from where, what is it. This is the space where inventory and access controls start to intertwine. By understanding context we can determine if a user on a device should conditionally be able to access or use data.

Of course we shouldn’t consider inventory and access claims to be the same thing, but they are signals. Signals that help us to manage mobility effectively.

Enablement as an outcome

The world is moving to a continuous deployment mindset, or agile, or whatever term you want to apply. Essentially it’s the idea that change is easy, so change things faster. Being able to understand what someone is doing and then responding to it is a great idea. We have a great tool, Cloud App Discovery, which essentially inventories what cloud apps your users are running and reports back. Within a few clicks of this report is the ability to connect to over 2300 cloud apps to enable them for corporate use – the idea of enablement based on telemetry. The best solutions make this possible. When you look at an EMM solution you should think about the outcomes you want to achieve and if the EMM solution has the tools and the telemetry to get you there.

Inventory evolved

If you take a look at the definition of inventory it suggests that you inventory for the ultimate purpose of resale, in other words because you need to know about assets. IT is beginning to need to move beyond that simple idea into the area of telemetry: Receiving remote signals and acting upon them.

Attribution: The image in this post is called “meter” it’s by haru__q and can be found on Flickr

What do you think?