Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Pyxis Mobile's EVP Christopher Willis

Pyxis Mobile is one of those companies that accomplishes great things, but moves under the radar.  Gartner recently highlighted Pyxis Mobile in their Magic Quadrant report so moving under the radar may be over.  Pyxis Mobile has over 500,000 mobile clients in the field.  Most of their traditional customers are in the financial services industry, but they have been rapidly expanding into higher education, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. I had the opportunity recently to interview Chris Willis, Pyxis Mobile's EVP of Marketing and Strategy.

Chris joined Pyxis in 1998.  In 2001 the company became 100% focused on enterprise mobility. 

Chris what mobile device do you carry?
I carry two mobile devices, the iPhone for personal use, and the BlackBerry Bold for professional use.  I have always used BlackBerrys professionally and am just used to it.  I know how to get what I need from it.  I use the iPhone as a large iPod.

What is your favorite mobile application?
A CRM application built by Pyxis Mobile.  It is connected to our expense management system and enables me to complete my expense reports while on the road.  On the personal side I love MLB at Bat.  When you see MLB at Bat on an iPad it is amazing.  It is better than the programs you get at the game.

What industries do you see adopting mobility?
Financial services is big for us.  Seventy percent of our business is still in financial services.  We have developed complete trading systems on mobile devices for some customers.  Higher education is big for us.  We have developed all kinds of mobile applications for universities that show class schedules, grades, etc.  Emerging markets for us are in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

What business processes do you see companies mobilizing first?
Sales and field services to start, however, nowadays we are seeing a lot of B2C (business to consumer) application demand.  Companies want to give mobile applications to their customers for product sales, branding, marketing and customer support.

What are some of the most surprising trends that you saw in mobility over the past 12 months?
B2C is the biggest trend - "There's an App for that!"  Companies wanting to provide their customers with mobile applications.

What do you see happening in the near future, say 2010-2011?
Mobility vendors delivering on their promises and filling the missing "app gaps."  Companies are now educated on mobility.  They are now looking for complete solutions and mobility platforms to execute a full enterprise mobility strategy.

Tell me about some of the most interesting mobile applications you have seen in the market.
We have developed a mobile laundry application.  It is a M2M (machine-to-machine) application.  Laundry machines text students in the dorms when there is a machine available and when it is finished.  Another application I love is from Concur Mobile.  It helps you book travel, manage travel expenses, call taxis and have it all paid for by the credit card they have on file.  No cash needed.  You can also use it to photograph receipts and turn them in as well.  Nice!

What are some of the most unusual mobile applications you have seen?
There is an application that consists of a website and a mobile application. The website shows a 2D barcode on the screen, and your iPhone captures the barcode and activates various games that use the accelerometer on the iPhone to control various objects in races.  Very interesting!

When is a consumer oriented mobile device sufficient, and when do you need a ruggedized industrial grade device?
Consumer devices (smartphones) are capturing market share from industrial grade mobile handhelds.  There is less interest in expensive rugged devices, because the service technician is carrying a smartphone anyway.  If you buy expensive rugged devices, they will now have two devices to break.  Many companies are simply buying rugged cases for smartphones.

What is the most complex mobile application that you have seen?
We developed entire mobile trading systems for use by companies in the financial services industry.  Very complex!  We developed a very sophisticated mobile application for Thomas Reuters that pulled data from dozens of different sources.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in the mobile industry today?
Rapid changes to mobile operating systems and new mobile devices.  Today Samsung announced a new mobile OS.  Today enterprises use the same mobile OS as consumer devices so we need to stay on top of all of them.

What do you see from ERP vendors in mobility?
All ERPs have to mobilize their solutions.  Pyxis Mobile is supporting all the majors, and we believe this is a competitive advantage.

What is still missing from MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms)?
I think MEAP vendors are simply taking different approaches.  Some try to be ERP agnostic.  Others focused on specific markets.  I think the differences will be how effective you are with partners.  Are you systems integrator friendly?  Pyxis Mobile provides tools for SIs to develop and support new mobile applications.  This is important!

How important is mobile device management to your customers?
It isn't.  Our customers don't ask for it.  Smartphones and online app stores seem to have resolved many of the earlier issues.  Perhaps in the future our customers will ask for it.

How is Pyxis Mobile positioned?
We are the one mobility platform that enables all of a company's mobility needs including B2B and B2C.  We cover mobile enterprise and consumer applications.

What are your thoughts on when thick/rich mobile clients are needed and when micro-apps or browser apps are needed?
We like rich native apps that optimize what you can do on each OS and mobile device.

Do your customers want to develop their own mobile applications using your Application Studio, or do they want you to develop it?
About 80% of our customers want us, or one of our systems integrator partners to develop the mobile application for them.  They are not experienced, but we are.

Thanks for your time Chris!!!

To read more interviews in the Mobile Expert Interview series, visit:

To watch videos of mobile expert interviews, visit:
- http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/p/mobile-expert-video-series.html

For a weekly recap of mobility news, analysis and market numbers read:
- http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/p/kevins-mobility-news-weekly.html

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
CEO/Principal Consultant, Netcentric Strategies LLC
***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.