Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mobile Expert Interview Series: PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Ahmed El Adl, PhD

I had the privilege of interviewing PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Director of Enterprise Mobility Solutions, Dr. Ahmed El Adl a few days ago. He works out of PWC's Boston office and focuses on developing and expanding PWC's mobility practice. He is a big fan of this blog which instantly increased his credibility with me.

Ahmed worked for SAP in Waldorf from 1998-2002 and focused on SAP's CRM solutions. In fact he was involved in one of the very first mobility projects for SAP CRM. At that time SAP's architecture was simply not suited for mobility and it did not go well.

Ahmed said that a lesson learned from that first mobile SAP CRM experience was not to let sales and marketing completely drive design and engineering. The engineers developed everything that the marketing teams asked for, but the result was a mobile application that was far too big and heavy to work for customers.

Ahmed is a fan of SAP's current mobile strategy of working with many mobility partners. He believes SAP should slow down and focus on defining the mobile connectivity layer and open up their system for more nimble and innovative mobility partners to provide mobile applications. Mobility is evolving very fast and it is hard for a giant like SAP to effectively keep up. By opening up to mobility partners, SAP customers can get what they want now without waiting for SAP.Ahmed is the kind of consultant I would want to hire. He has experienced the good and bad of early mobility adoption and brings great wisdom to the table now.

Although Ahmed agrees with SAP's current strategy and likes what he sees from many of SAP's mobility partners, it doesn't mean he is satisfied. He believes Sybase, an SAP mobility partner, is good but complex, heavy and has too many different components and technology layers. He listed the numbers of technology layers that are involved in a Sybase/SAP integration and it was daunting.

He shared his thoughts on Sky Technologies, another SAP mobility partner. He thought their approach was interesting, but he was concerned that their "mobile SAP innerware" strategy would introduce challenges. He wondered how IT departments would accept a third party mobility solution being so closely embedded with SAP code? Would the benefits out weigh the risks for IT departments? Would they accept it, or avoid it?

He said he likes much of what he sees from SAP's mobility partners, however he is still cautious. In fact, he has recommended to some clients that they should go through a complete RFI process to determine for themselves which vendor has the best fit for them.

Ahmed believes that ultimately SAP customers will want a strong MEAP (mobile enterprise application platform) that they can standardize on, but for today mobile micro-apps can provide real value quickly. I was particularly interested in this statement as it aligns with many of the comments that other industry experts shared on the SAP Enterprise Mobility group on Linkedin.

Ahmed identified several areas of mobility that he finds particularly interesting:

  1. Telemedicine
  2. Medical diagnostics that feed data to iPhone applications (e.g. EKGs, x-rays)
  3. The Apple iTune model for app stores that allows small companies to compete against the big software companies.
  4. He loves the idea of unlimited innovation, on a level playing field, and that one person software companies can help large enterprises increase productivity.

I asked Ahmed what mobile device or smartphone does he carry. He said all of them. He carries a PWC issued Blackberry in his pocket, but he literally travels with a suitcase full of different mobile devices that he can show off and demonstrate to clients. What a nightmare for the TSA agents! Don't get in line behind him.

I want to again thank Dr. Ahmed El Adl for his time and willingness to share his insights.

This article was the third in the series called Mobile Expert Interviews. See related articles:

Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert

***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.