When most think of the US Federal government some pretty cliché images come to mind. One in particular is the man or woman standing tall with their BlackBerries sticking out of a pocket holster. While this stereotype is often accurate, one major change has occurred over the past few years that has sent a tidal wave throughout public sector IT.

The BlackBerry that once held so tightly by the hip has now been replaced with an iOS or Android device, and it’s not the change in hardware that has Washington running a muck, it’s the power behind the hardware that most of us all know too well as the “Apps”. With apps, an entire Apple and Android enterprise ecosystem has been born and mobile app management or MAM seems to be taking the center stage of both accolade and criticism and the question remains, why?

Mobile app management has come a long way from the “just an app store” days and while the user component is still a fundamental piece, MAM has grown up and the public sector is starting to take notice.

While mobility in the fed is mostly still in discovery, the question on the forefront of everyone’s mind is security. MAM has brought an extra layer of security tied directly to each individual app including app level encryption, per app vpn and app “geo-fencing”. Some platforms use technology to apply the encryption without ever needing access to the source code and it is functionality like this that is breathing life into some big federal mobility dreams. All of the mobile app security features in MAM solutions will also allow for security in BYOD and while a total BYOD agency seems a little far off, MAM platforms are sending the message that you can secure corporate data on an employee owned device.

Next to security, scalability is the topic to tackle especially when envisioning an agency wide private “app store” future. As many know, there are some large mobility projects in discovery right now and some are calling for the potential user base of over 500,000 users. The users will come from different agencies, offices, and programs so, how are they going to scale? With a MAM solution the agency can have those enterprise app dreams and tier out what groups have access to which apps. This approach also enables the diversity of mobile device management use throughout the entire department because most MAM solutions do not require an MDM profile be installed on the device so branches can pick and chose their own security combination without losing access to the enterprise “app store”.

Another big question on the mobility minds is the question of what enterprise apps should be developed and a MAM platform provides that user collaboration aspect. Agencies can parse data quickly using app level and user level reports on data such as most popular apps, apps that are never touched, and apps the users are looking for.

Most will agree that MAM has come a long way and agencies are seriously considering this ever-growing platform because the users are demanding it. Employees whether in the private or public sector are now expecting the level of productivity they get from their personal iOS, Android and Windows devices. The government is now figuring out how to implement these devices in the enterprise securely without stripping the innovation that made them explode on the scene a few years back. Mobile application management has become the answer because if public sector was just looking for a slicker device to handle calendar, contact and email, than agencies should save the taxpayers dollars and stick to with the old phones.

Caroline Pugliesi is a Federal Account Executive at Apperian.