Monthly Archives: May 2012

MobiDM – Managing Mobility From the Middle

How can a company you probably have never heard of position themselves to be managing mobile devices all over the globe? Only through the power of creating a network of partners, such as T-Mobile, Vodafone, BT, and Capgemini that places you smack in the middle of it all. That is exactly what Alex Bausch, CEO of VeliQ, set out to do and succeeded. I had the pleasure of meeting Alex at SAPPHIRE NOW and recently caught up with him for further details and insights.

VeliQ, the makers of MobiDM, started out in 2006 under the name of VeiligMobiel. Their first product secured Windows mobile smartphones for government agencies. But as the smartphone market evolved, so too did the product and the company. First, Bausch realized that the company’s name was too much of a mouthful for anyone outside of Holland to pronounce, so it was changed to VeliQ. Second, the product evolved into MobiDM, a cloud-based SaaS offering of what Bausch calls a “managed mobility ecosystem.”

MobiDM provides a middleware solution around three main areas; Mobile Device Management, Security, and Application Management. When developing the product, Bausch looked at the existing MDM solutions available and decided to build MobiDM leveraging Afaria.  “MobiDM is the mobile management middleware with the Afaria engine underneath,” Bausch noted. In 2008 they signed an OEM agreement with Afaria and haven’t looked back since.

Bausch believes that the service should be incredibly easy to use and sees that as a distinct advantage. He says comparatively “Afaria is a Boeing 747 with 500 levers, which you need a license and training for. MobiDM is like flying with JetBlue; come along for the ride and we’ll take care of everything.” Bausch believes that there is a time and a place for a more complex solution, but that MobiDM’s approach to simplicity is appealing to a large audience.

Bausch reaches that audience through lots of partnerships. In fact, the product is sold exclusively through partners. Bausch recalled that, “Because we were in Holland, there was lots of fragmentation to deal with. So we decided to sell exclusively through partners.” MobiDM has about 50 partners worldwide, made up of mostly telecom companies. Chances are you have never seen the MobiDM brand. That’s because partners such as Vodafone, T-Mobile, Sybase, and T-Systems all re-brand MobiDM’s service. “Our product is used under their own brand. That is the difference between us and a company like Airwatch; Airwatch sells direct.”

Through leveraging partnerships, MobiDM’s growth ramped up quickly. As Bausch put it, “We never sold MDM as a point solution; we sold the product as part of a mobile subscription. In year one we were up to 22,000 subscribers.” Their success doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing either, as they signed 9 new partnerships in Q1 of this year. “The market is accelerating, that is why we believe in partnering and the ecosystem.”

With this kind of success, there have been other larger organizations that have tried to copy their offering. These solutions have since folded, while MobiDM continues today. “We have a different approach. We are successful because we have focus. We focused on usability, services andscalability.” As far as future competition, Bausch thinks that, “The threat is that there is so much money being thrown at [mobility management]. It creates a distortion field.”

So what does the future hold for Bausch and MobiDM? They recently released MobiDM Mobile Integrated Cloud. This allows subscribers to the service to integrate with Jamcracker, Single Sign On providers for AD integration, and line-of-business apps for SAP.  Bausch wants to only continue this partnering/ecosystem line of thinking. “The trend that we see is, it’s not MDM that is important, but rather it is the whole ecosystem.”  With the strong partnerships in place, and more to come, it is hard to see how they can lose.

 Mobile Device Management by MobiDM provides a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution which makes smartphone and PDA management easy. All your mobile devices can be installed, managed and secured from a single central portal, regardless of the type of device, network or operating system, leaving users free to go about their business with no loss of productivity.


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What’s In Your Ecosystem? – The Mobile Value-Proposition

My good friend, Brian Katz, posted a spirited piece yesterday regarding the redundancy of the idea of a mobile ecosystem. Katz writes that the goal isn’t to build a mobile ecosystem, “The goal is to get your mobile devices to play in the enterprise ecosystem that has been there the whole time.” Katz’s point is that you shouldn’t be bamboozled into spending lots of money on building something new, when perhaps you already have the infrastructure and functionality in place to accomplish your desired task. I think Katz’s reasoning is sound; however, I think it only considers one perspective in the value proposition of mobility.

Mobile enablement holds different value for different organizations. With each organization you have to ask, what value does mobility provide? If mobility represents the opportunity to extend existing services, infrastructure, and functionality then I think, as Katz suggests, there shouldn’t really be a distinction between the traditional enterprise ecosystem and a mobile ecosystem. For those instances, you just simply add to what’s already there. Mobility is taken as an add-on to business as usual; how do I access existing services and functionality through a mobile device. Again, this is a legitimate perspective, but only one of many possibilities.

If, however, the value of mobility for an organization is looking at new ways to conduct business, then the mobile ecosystem will break through the current notions of people, process, and collaboration. In this regard, enterprises are looking at mobility as a chance to diverge from business as usual; to re-envision how work can happen beyond the boundaries of the traditional network. To me, this is where the real power of an ecosystem comes in. This is where you put the pieces to work for you.

A mobile ecosystem represents the collection of services that a business can assemble for a tactical approach to functional gaps. Sometimes this may be simple additions to existing functionality, while other times it may be radical departure. You can’t assume a one-size-fits-all value proposition as you look at mobility from organization to organization. A mobile ecosystem will reflect the value-proposition of mobility for a given enterprise.

I also diverge with Katz’s conclusion that when it comes to decide if you should use a cloud service, such as Box or Dropbox, that “The better way to do this is to create a way to access the already existing Sharepoint systems, shared folders and personal folders that your users are comfortable with.” This may be true for some organizations, but I know of others that are looking to extricate themselves from the weight of this kind of network operation. They see leveraging Box as part of their mobile ecosystem as the path to do this.

The thought process behind this is that, for many enterprises, a data center is not part of their core-competency. Mobility creates the opportunity (excuse almost) to allow enterprise IT to hit the reset button and get out of the data center business. A mobile ecosystem of cloud services enables organizations the ability to ditch the private datacenter altogether and select just the functionality required to suit their needs. They don’t want to have to worry about updates, patches, and hardware. They want to concentrate on what makes money.

For other organizations mobility creates the opportunity to engage with non-traditional staff, such as client, volunteers, enthusiasts, etc. If current functionality can’t provide this then leveraging mobile apps and services is an excellent way to accomplish this. As well, many organizations take a non-functional view towards mobility. They see it as an avenue to being hip and relevant. They are not looking to build a mobile ecosystem that enables the existing but rather the latest and greatest.

In the long run I think Katz, as well as others, are correct in saying that the differentiation between mobile and enterprise ecosystems will disappear and the two will become synonymous. In creating ecosystems, some organizations will want to enable existing services, while other will look to mobility as a chance to pick and choose their way to a different operating paradigm. But on the road to singularity, mobility will hold a different value proposition for every organization. They will each have unique rational as to which pieces they want to leverage for their mobile ecosystem. Hopefully the pieces they assemble will allow them reach their vision.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.


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Best Practices for a Secure Mobile App Ecosystem

If you missed it earlier you can catch the presentation I did today for BrightTALK on Best Practices for a Secure Mobile App Ecosystem

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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SAP Mobile – Winning Developers through the Ecosystem

As more and more enterprises realize the value of creating a mobile ecosystem, those systems which fit into a larger framework, stand to succeed. This ecosystem is driven by the apps that developers create to integrate with the system capabilities. If you have a mobile platform, attracting developers is job one. Nick Brown, SVP of Mobile Solutions Management and Strategy at SAP, is leading the charge to do just that. “We have a strong desire to say that 80% of the mobile app innovation that is happening around our platform is coming from partners.” From my conversation with Brown at SAPPHIRE NOW, he is clearly focused on winning over new development partners by being part of a larger mobile development community.

Brown didn’t hesitate to engage my candid question – Why would I want to be an SAP developer partner?  “From the partners I’ve talked to, they are very excited. With the Jump-Start program, you have a quick way to get going, get licenses for users, and we make it low cost. We’ve also made our mobile infrastructure application capabilities available in the cloud. You can download our tools; you can try them, and start to build apps.”  Brown mentioned that SAP  has been actively working on simplifying the on-boarding process to attract new partners.

Bringing on new partners is just the first step. To hold the attention of developer partners, SAP wants to assure them that they will be compensated for their work.  Historically, SAP has not charged for mobile apps. But that is changing. As Brown stated, “How do you feed an ecosystem with partners if you are not charging for apps?” Brown relayed that SAP is also looking at innovative programs to successfully monetize developers efforts. “What I think is interesting is what happens after you build the app. The top apps will get marketing and we have a services team to help you implement this app on SAP. Our services team will have the ability to implement your application along with a suite of other apps.” For smaller development shops this support will be welcomed news. As Brown put it, “Now I can go to a vendor and say ‘You’ll have access to fifty thousand customers and we’ll help you market your app.’ We want to get that rolling.”

Part of getting things rolling quickly, is being able to leverage existing development environments.  SAP has made their intentions very clear that they are team players in this area. Brown was very excited about this front. “Another thing that is happening with our platform is we made announcements with Sencha, Apppcelerator and PhoneGap that go beyond our SKD to native integration into iOS, eclipse, visual studio, etc.” For Brown, the goal in minds is “to make sure that you can leverage these development environments for beautiful application functionality and UI.”  SAP wants to help developers take advantages of the rich toolsets that are out there. As well, “there are millions of developers that know how to use Sencha, Apppcelerator, etc. There are probably not millions of developers who know how to use some proprietary closed system. We want to open up and leverage these new opportunities. There will probably be more to come.” That should excite developers who are looking for ways to tie systems together to enable enterprise mobility.

One challenge SAP faces in attracting new development partners, is the sheer size of the platform. I asked Brown how they plan to effectively communicate what all the components and capabilities are. “This is a big push for us on the developer experience. When you look at the whole landscape of SAP it looks like a thousand boxes.” However, Brown sees opportunity to drive out confusion. “The focus we have to simplify things is around our NetWeaver Gateway.” This allows developers to produce OData as the content provided by SAP backend systems. “If you generate OData, then you have something that is usable by non-SAP developers. Now they can consume this. It looks like data they expect. It doesn’t have any SAP intrinsics in it.” What we are working on now, is providing those hooks into those design environments so they look like native objects that you can start to manipulate your applications against.”

Brown also discussed how SAP fits into a broader ecosystem. “We are making big strides forward to show that our mobile platform isn’t just for SAP, that it is also for non-SAP systems.” Brown mentioned that an attractive part of the Syclo acquisition is that the platform ties into many other backend systems. When it comes to SAP’s mobile vision, this seems to just be the beginning. Brown emphatically stated, “We keep broadening our integration capabilities.”

On the enterprise mobility front, SAP is embracing the idea of the mobile ecosystem at its finest; realizing that you need to become a piece that frictionlessly fits into a larger whole. This playing nice in the ecosystem at large is what will win new developer converts and position SAP well in the future of enterprise mobility.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Sybase 365 – The Untold Story of the Mobile Global Connector

Have you ever considered what happens when you send a text message from your phone on the AT&T network to a friend of yours whose carrier happens to be Verizon? Did you know there is no direct link between carriers? Unbeknownst to you, your text message to your friend was made possible by passing through Sybase 365 on its journey. And it’s not just your message – working with over 900 carriers globally, Sybase 365 processes over 1.8 billion messages a day.  “We have the hub that everyone connects to,” John Sims, president of Sybase 365, told me when we sat down together at SAPPHIRE NOW. Sybase 365, the unsung hero of mobile communications, has a great story in the mobile revolution that demands to be told.

Cross-carrier text messaging is just one aspect of the capabilities of Sybase 365. Sybase 365 is a secure, highly scalable communication platform. Sybase 365 has globally distributed hubs that enable apps and services to pass data back and forth. The platform’s global footprint and redundancy enable some of the most highly transactional apps and services to function in a reliable fashion. Sybase 365 allows companies to develop their apps and services without having to worry about building and maintaining a globally distributed communication platform. This is having a very positive effect and global impact.

One fantastic example of the positive effect of Sybase 365’s global impact is how it is propelling emerging countries into mobility leaders. Before this present mobile revolution, many countries had little to no communications infrastructure and PC install base. But the relative ease of enabling mobile infrastructure and phone hardware costs, are leveling the computing playing field. Sims noted that, “In the international market, they have been more aggressive in their approach to mobility. Mobile was the only option they had.” This has led to some very positive and advanced benefits. Since there hasn’t been the same proliferation of PCs, other countries have enthusiastically embraced enabling mobility. “In some regards, the ‘underdeveloped’ are more developed than we [the United States] are in terms of capabilities,” Sims mused. And it is Sybase 365 that is right in the middle of it all, making it possible. Enabling not only text communication but advanced functionality in such areas as banking. For the under banked population of the world, the impact is enormous. Sybase 365 is acting as a key component in the democratization of technology.

From its roots as a mobile text messaging service, Sims related how the organization has branched out into enabling communication between mobile commerce and banking. Many companies such as CIBC and Citizens bank leverage Sybase 365 as a back-end partner in their mobile banking solutions.  But Sims has a grander vision for the capabilities of the Sybase 365 platform. “Until recently we focused primarily on mobile operators, mobile banking, and mobile payments. We are starting to look at other industries. For example, we are extending into utilities and consumer packaged goods. We want to provide scenarios for them that make sense. We want to be instrumental in changing the way those companies do business.”

Ease of execution is one way that Sybase 365 enables scenarios outside of their historical capabilities. “Companies are going through major transformation. We are going to provide mobile tools to help customers solve the problems that arise because of this transition.” Sims told me that Sybase 365 is opening the platform for integration with PhoneGap, Appcellerator, etc. “Developers who are familiar with those tools will quickly be productive in those environments. We are exposing all our capabilities as web services.” This will make the platform very easy to integrate with and develop more advanced apps and services.

When it comes to looking at how mobility is affecting the enterprise, Sims believes that Sybase 365 will help make many scenarios a reality.  We discussed many scenarios where Sims believes that Sybase 365 could be instrumental. From enabling self-service support, to loyalty apps, to location based commerce experiences. Sims noted, “Initially we just helped clients provide information, then simple transactions, which led to more complex transactions. Now we are looking at engagement possibilities and cross-selling.” No matter what fantastical possibilities companies dream up in the future, Sybase 365 is well positioned to continue to be the tie that binds mobile communications together.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Mobility Inside SAP – Drinking Their Own Champagne

As one of the global leaders in enterprise apps and platforms, SAP is taking its position in regard to mobility seriously. So seriously in fact, they are leveraging their own enterprise mobility management solution, Afaria, to enable both a corporate provisioned and BYOD policy. I got a chance to sit down with Oliver Bussmann, CIO of SAP, at SAPPHIRE NOW to discuss SAP’s approach to mobility. Bussmann’s breadth and depth on the subject of enterprise mobility was made clear by his very thoughtful and articulate responses.

We began by discussing SAP’s position on corporately provisioned devices. In the past, SAP had standardized on a single device. However, that is no longer the case. As Bussmann pointed out, “We changed completely. We now provide choices; not unlimited choices, but there is a choice.” Presently, SAP allows users to select from Apple, Android, and RIM devices. For each platform there are several options. I asked him how he decided on which devices make the list.  Bussmann replied that “the key motivation for me is that my users are excited. They want to have that device and that they are excited to use it. That is the moment I’ll jump on it. At the end, I am not saying our entire sales- force has to use iPad devices. They can pick and choose.”

There are some categories of employees at SAP who do not qualify for a corporate provisioned device. “We are generous in giving out corporate devices.” Bussmann noted. Those who don’t get them are roles within the company, such as finance and HR, that are typically on-premise. Even so, they see great value in providing the mobile experience for all their users.  This lead to enabling BYOD within SAP. “The motivation is all about this mobile experience. We had a discussion on the board level with Jim and Bill and there’s a strong belief that even those people should have access to those mobile apps. Everyone should have that experience.”  And it isn’t just the experience that is of concern to Bussmann and SAP.  He understands the prominence implementing BYOD brings the enterprise as well.  “I think from a brand value, a brand perception, it is critical. I have to, we must.”

BYOD in a global organization brings on many added challenges. Even with the challenges of the laws in Europe, Bussmann thinks it is worth the hassle of setting up the policy to allow BYOD. “Absolutely. You’d be surprised how many emails I’m getting from German users who want to use personal devices. There’s definitely feedback from the different communities. People are saying they want to bring their devices into work.” Since last September, they have brought on about 1,100 personal devices. “We thought we would do a global deployment but decided to do it country by country because the global laws are so specific. We started in Asia and North America and we are now going to Europe. It’s a big push and we are using the same infrastructure [as the corporate provisioned devices]. He continued on to explain that BYOD is done on a voluntary basis and they sign a consensus form to participate. This also means that their device will be managed by Afaria.

There is nothing like using your own platform to understand how it could better serve your clients. In discussing Afaria, Bussmann gave insight into which functionality he would like to see enabled in their solutions. “We need a third email client integration for devices.  This is a particular issue for Europe to have a separate email client, a separate password.  We have third party vendors who would like to integrate with us. That is something that we want to see. That’s the number one topic. The other topic is that we want to see Afaria integrate with SAP Box. In all my customer meetings it comes up…people love it.”

Mobilty also raises many security concerns, not just with SAP, but all organizations. Bussmann is brokering the interchange between the business need and IT’s concern. Bussmann keenly invited IT staff to a board meeting to discuss their concerns and hear from the top about the business need. “You need, in these cases, executive support to push back and say ‘guys do a risk assessment, find a way to work around and see if it is possible’.”

Bussmann is ushering in fresh perspective into traditional approaches to security at SAP. He pointed out that, “In the end, security has become a case by case risk management topic. I transformed my security guys because they were always thinking ‘kill it or we’ll all bleed.’  I said, understand what’s the benefit, what’s the probability, and what’s the worst case?  If it meets the threshold then we’ll have to bring it up to the board and they will make the final call. But we have to move away from people locking everything, everything has to be 150% secure. That’s the old way. That’s not risk management. I can guarantee you that the appetite on the business side to take on more risk is there. If IT isn’t willing to find a way to balance that, the business will find a way to bypass us, no question about it, no question about it.”

This does not mean abdicating all control to the business side’s desires. He believes IT should drive the security analysis. “The experience and sensitivity to understand what it means to be in the worse-case is not there on their [the business] side. They see the pure business benefits. The risk potential, the security threat, is sometimes underestimated. We are the opposite side, the IT folks. We are too pessimistic, too risk averse.  Finding that balance, finding the workarounds, finding what’s the acceptable risk level, and making that transparent to everybody so they understand that. You need the risk management procedures in place. We have procedures in place on how we qualify and quantify risk probability; depending on the threshold that gets escalated to the next level. The risk of a million or more, then the board has to walk through and understand and document that. In our case having a combined risk and IT security function is absolutely critical.

SAP’s adroit implementation of mobility within their own organization can only further provide to their wealth of enterprise experience. The willingness to leverage their own solutions and address experience and security in fundamentally new ways, speaks volumes of their commitment and understanding of mobility. I think we can continue to look to SAP to be a leader in mobility for the forward thinking enterprises.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.


Filed under Management, Mobile, Strategy

Turn Data into Answers with SAP Visual Intelligence

SAP today announced the release of Visual Intelligence, a tool that allows users to visualize and analyze information and then apply it to individual and group decision-making. Visual Intelligence is powered by the SAP HANA platform and empowers users to perform data discovery. An extension of the BusinessObjects Explorer application, SAP Visual Intelligence help users create sleek interactive visualizations giving organization the ability to ask questions of their data sets without the need for predefined queries, reports or dashboards.

“The category of visual data discovery has become a must-have component of the BI tool portfolio and SAP has upped its capabilities with its latest product, SAP Visual Intelligence,” said Cindi Howson, founder, BI Scorecard. “Ease of use, time to insight and business agility are key reasons for the rapid growth of visual data discovery that provides users with greater self service with minimal IT support. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer provided ease of use, but the release of SAP Visual Intelligence brings greater flexibility and richer analysis.”

SAP Visual Intelligence enables ad-hoc discovery on many different types of data sources from spreadsheets to sales, finance, marketing, customer, social, geo-location, third-party and other business data. Best of all, published reports are immediately consumable on a mobile device, such as an iPad, using BusinessObjects Explorer.

“SAP Visual Intelligence revolutionizes decision-making by offering every person in an organization a fast and extremely easy way of discovering answers from any data,” said John Schweitzer, senior vice president and general manager, Analytics, SAP. “SAP solutions for analytics empower people with precise information anytime and anywhere using beautiful visualizations, enabling rapid response to events as they unfold. SAP delivers a powerful and comprehensive analytics portfolio that helps companies adapt to constant change so they can achieve remarkable results.”

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