Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Mobile X's Hannes Heckner

In this interview I continue my recent focus on learning from mobile experts and thought leaders in Europe.  Hannes Heckner is the CEO of MobileX AG which is headquartered in Munich, Germany.  They have been in business for over 10 years and have about 30 employees.  They have 30 customers with over 6,000 mobile users in the field.  They are now preparing to move to a new office to accommodate significant growth.  They are an SAP partner and over 80 percent of their customers are SAP users.

Note:  This interview consists of a combination of written responses to questions and my notes from our Skype conversations.  I use a similar set of questions with many of my interviews for the purpose of research and analysis.  It is useful to analyze many answers to the same question in order to gain insight into market trends and behaviors.

Kevin: What mobile device(s) do you carry?
Hannes: Laptop, iPhone.

Kevin: What are some of your favorite mobile applications that you have on your mobile device?
Hannes: E-Mail, Contacts and Social Media apps.

Kevin: Do you ever use your mobile device to buy things?
Hannes: No.

Kevin: How many computing devices do you have in your home?
Hannes: Three.

Kevin: How long have you been involved in enterprise mobility?
Hannes: Over 14 years.

Kevin: How did you get involved in enterprise mobility?
Hannes: My former employer iXOS tried to develop and market an SAP mobility solution for field services. I was one of the developers on that project.

Kevin: What is different today, than when you started with enterprise mobility?
Hannes: Everything!!  In the past the networks were slow.  Service technicians needed to carry a big heavy box that contained a laptop, modems and all kinds of heavy gear to communicate with the office. There were no smartphones, PDAs and Netbooks.  Today, enterprise mobility is not just a hype but a commodity. Everybody wants mobility, and everybody believes in it. It is now about the best price.

Kevin: What industries do you see adopting mobility today?
Hannes:  From my field service centric view - manufacturing, health care (medical devices), Telco, utilities, technical services (like facility management).

Kevin: What business processes do you see companies mobilizing?
Hannes: We focus on field services so I just see that. Although we have mobile sales and mobile times and travel.

Kevin: What are some of the most surprising trends you saw in enterprise mobility in 2010?
Hannes: The rise of Android and the fall of Microsoft Windows Mobile. By the way, Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft today … perhaps this will push Microsoft again. We now have a mobile device market where there are big players with big R&D budgets.

Kevin: What are some of the biggest challenges you see in mobility today?
Hannes: System integration and multi-platform support.

Kevin: How are enterprise mobility implementations different from other typical IT projects?
Hannes: Speaking from a field services viewpoint - field engineers are not used to handling laptops or PDAs. Mobile infrastructure may be difficult to handle for someone without experience.  Mobile projects (field services), the users understand very little of mobile technology. They ask for things on their mobile application that are not really important. They want gimmicks, but often forget the very important capabilities needed. Companies often don’t focus enough on the user and how they interact with the mobile device. They should imagine a mobile worker, standing in the rain, in the dark, trying to connect to SAP in the office. It must work. The people must have sufficient training on how to handle the mobile device. The remote and mobile workforce must feel important and appreciated by the company. Push to talk is a new feature in our solutions that enables field service technicians to easily talk amongst themselves and this helps.

Kevin: What do companies fail to plan for when implementing mobility?
Hannes: They fail to adequately gather their mobile application requirements. Most companies only have two to 30 page requirements document. Many key and important requirements are not included. They fail to plan enough time for an adequate pilot project. They should dedicate more time and have 10 users test for an appropriate length of time.

Kevin: What advice do you have for companies just starting down an enterprise mobility path?
Hannes: Take small steps first. Do not try to implement large enterprise wide solutions all at once. Let your organization learn and adapt over an appropriate amount of time. Don’t mobilize just because of the hype. Focus on the 80/20 rule. Meet 80 percent of the need first. Sometimes the 20 percent is just too expensive to deliver. Focus on the highest value.

Kevin: How important is mobile device management and security?
Hannes: In Germany, field service companies don’t care. Only about 40 percent of companies request it at all in their requirements. MDM (mobile device management) in field services is not a topic companies prioritize.  Most field service technicians still use laptops that are covered by traditional IT security systems. Only 20 percent of our customers use mobile devices and MDM is not a high priority.

Kevin: What should people know about your company and products?
Hannes: We focus on SAP, and we focus on the PM and CMS modules of SAP. We target companies with $100 million in revenue and up, that have 50 service technicians and up.

Kevin: Where do you see mobility going in 2011?
Hannes: I can see problems for me in hiring enough qualified people. I believe there will be many new tablets, and I predict that Microsoft will become a big player in tablets.

I want to thank Hannes for sharing his thoughts, insights and experiences with all of us!

Click here to read more in the Mobile Expert Interview Series.

Whitepapers of Note:
Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.