How to spot managed configuration issues using the app feedback channel?

Alma Evans

Jun 15, 2021

9 min read

Managed app configuration is a great feature in Android Enterprise to help organizations address a variety of business needs with their managed Android device fleets. It is the simplest way for IT to eliminate app setup problems by pre-configuring everything required before the end user run the app on managed devices. The main drawback to Managed app configuration was that it offered little in the way of insights into how these configurations actually impact the target app or, more specifically, the end user device, but only until App feedback channel was announced at Android Enterprise Summit 2019. Being the most exciting improvement that came to Managed app configurations that year, App feedback channel greatly contributed to IT administrators’ experience with managing Android devices. Let’s find out how.

How exactly do Managed app configurations work?

Before diving deeper into the app feedback channel, let’s first harken back to the real reason why Google introduced such a feature for Managed app configuration.

What is managed app configuration?

For those who are not familiar with the term, Managed app configuration is a feature in Android Enterprise to allow IT admins to pre-configure applications pushed to managed devices. Managed app configuration provides an interface that lets IT remotely supply settings for Managed Google Play apps using a UEM solution. All the settings pre-configured for the managed app or configured at a later time get pushed to the end user device automatically when the app checks for these settings. This means that the end users don’t have to take any actions from their side, and there will be no hurdles for the enterprise IT of manually configuring required settings for apps on each and every managed device to get their workforce up and running.

Where does managed app configuration typically come into use?

Managed Android devices at the workplace
Managed Android devices at the workplace

When enterprises have a whole lot of apps running on their Android Enterprise devices, specifying settings for apps one by one on individual devices would be a huge task for IT. For any solution set, the ability to set up configurations and apply them to devices remotely would be of great use. With Managed app configuration and UEM, IT get the flexibility to set configurations on supporting apps, and as UEM allows pushing these configurations to devices in bulk, the deployment of work apps is made a whole lot easier. Managed app configuration also helps in eliminating the human errors in setting up apps that would possibly happen when either the enterprise IT or the end users were doing these settings. Especially when pushing apps with a tedious setup process to your non-techy employees, managed app configuration makes sure that the app is ready to use right after the installation. This also applies specific restrictions to app settings as all the critical settings are defined by the organization itself before distributing the app, and the end users are not allowed to modify them.
Managed app configurations ensure that apps could be easily customized according to the enterprise requirements without any additional efforts, and consistency could be maintained for all the managed apps across the enterprise. Even custom attributes can be used to define user specific details during the setup. Once the managed configuration is set up for an app, any new feature implemented by the third party developer could be supported in the future, so newly released app features could be easily rolled out. Managed app configuration has such a several compelling lists of benefits, but the most highlighted perk comes in the name OEMConfig.

What is OEMConfig?

OEMConfig is a feature that lets UEMs adopt new management APIs released by OEMs without the need to integrate them through additional development work. The feature leverages Manage app configuration, and new management features rolled out are made available by the UEM using the OEMConfig app developed by the respective OEM. This ensures same day support for all new management features, and the workflow is just the same as managed app configurations.

The workflow:

Managed app configurations would be supported only for some apps, and the available configuration parameters would be decided by the developer of the app. However, the typical flow of these events would be like this:

  • When app developers create a new app, they decide to add built-in support for managed app configuration.
  • The app developer uses an XML file to define the configuration parameters which could be set for the app using managed app configuration.
  • The app will be published in the Managed Google Play by the app developer.
  • The enterprise IT uses a UEM solution supporting the feature to find and add Managed Google Play apps to their inventory.
  • IT team set available managed configurations for the Managed Google Play apps. Each app has unique configuration settings as defined by the app developer.
  • The set configurations would be pushed to Managed Google Play, and the Managed Google Play updates the app with the new configurations.
  • If the end user device already has the configured app, the new configuration will be updated the next time the device checks in. For a newly deployed app, all the settings come pre-configured when the user starts running the device.

Why app feedback channel makes sense with managed app configurations?

Applying a managed configuration to a supported app on end user device via UEM doesn’t mean that everything works fine at the user end, though hopefully, in normal cases, the working is an absolute breeze. Occasionally, managed app configuration can become hard to manage, being rarely consistent across apps and OEMs. In some special cases, the applied configuration may fail to get reflected on the end user device due to any technical issues. So, in order to prevent inconsistent device behavior, it is important to ensure that the applied configurations are successfully implemented and what shows at the user end matches the configured behavior. This is where the app feedback channel comes into play.

Hexnode has adopted the App feedback channel feature as a part of its natural device management evolution process. Check out our What’s new in Hexnode UEM blog to stay informed on all the new features Hexnode has recently added to its feature stack.

What is an app feedback channel?

The app feedback channel with managed app configuration opens a channel of granular control over the apps’ behavior which ultimately improves the end user experience. In occasions where the pushed out configurations fail to update, and the managed configurations appear to be unreliable, app feedbacks can be used to get more insights into the execution status of the applied configurations making the whole process a bit more transparent. App feedback channel also opened the door for enterprises applying managed configurations, a bi-directional communication when everything regarding the process was unidirectional till date.
With the app feedback channel, the enterprise IT can request the status at any point of execution and receive a response to understand, rectify or avoid any probable errors. Both for initial deployments and for later changes, the enterprise IT can get the configuration execution feedback right from the management dashboard. This makes all the configurations utterly guaranteed and the managed devices absolutely secure and functional, everything hands-free, eliminating the need for IT to directly handle the user devices.

What are the benefits of getting application feedbacks?

Perks of app getting feedbacks from managed apps on Android Enterprise devices
Perks of getting feedbacks from Managed Google Apps on Android Enterprise devices

Let’s begin by once again emphasizing the major perk of app feedbacks, yes, the ability to ensure that all the configurations go error free. To make the point of seeking app feedbacks more clear let’s check a use case.
Suppose you’re pushing managed configurations to email apps on your managed devices on behalf of your organization. You may want to check whether the user account you’ve remotely configured via UEM has been successfully installed on the device, without which the device user won’t be able to do his works. To ensure that the account was successfully configured on the end user device, you can retrieve the app feedback data and check the execution for each and every configuration you’ve applied. The response also shows sync errors so that you can make necessary adjustments and reapply the configurations to make sure that your end user device is up and running as soon as the configurations has been received.
In this way, any status updates that appear to be sensible for the developer can be retrieved using the app feedback channel for managed app configuration.

How exactly does the app feedback channel works?

It is in the form of keyed states that the configured apps report data back to the UEMs when requested. The keyed state consists of different components to describe the app’s state and to alert on error conditions that the organization needs to take immediate action to fix. The general flow of events for sending app feedbacks through the app feedback channel will be as follows:

  • IT admins set managed configurations for a supported app through their UEM console.
  • The managed configurations are pulled to the app running on an Android Enterprise enrolled fully managed device or work profile device.
  • When the app attempts to apply the managed configurations you’ve pushed, it sends back a keyed app state for every configuration.
  • The keyed app state sent to the UEM console can be used by the UEM to check the status of execution.
  • The UEM then showcases the execution status on their UEM console for the point of execution at which the IT admin requests the app feedback for the managed app.

To recap here, the app feedback channel is a feature to go one step further with Managed app configurations to get immediate individual feedbacks on app configurations or in the broad sense (as with OEMConfig) device configurations to managed Android Enterprise devices. Although Android Enterprise’s Managed app configurations are fairly beneficial for apps, implementing an app feedback channel to get real time feedbacks of managed app status goes an extra mile in bringing life saving measures to Android Enterprise deployments in pursuit of a well-equipped workforce.

Alma Evans

Product Evangelist @ Hexnode. Already lost up in the whole crazy world of tech... Looking to codify my thoughts for now...

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