Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Webalo's Peter Price

Webalo Co-Founder Peter Price
I had the privelege this week to interview mobility expert and co-Founder/CEO of Webalo, Peter Price.  You know it is going to be an interesting conversation when four of the six people on the management team have PhDs or are working on PhDs.  Webalo formed in 2000 and has since written over 600,000 lines of code to power their solutions. 

Note:  These are not Peter's exact words, rather my notes from the interview.

Kevin:  What mobile device(s) do you carry?
Peter:  BlackBerry Bold, iPad and MacBook.

Kevin: What are some of your favorite mobile applications?
Peter: I must say our own Webalo application.  I practically run the business from my BlackBerry.  Any kind of travel related applications.  My family really likes the HeyTell mobile application.  It turns your smartphone into a walkie talkie, push to talk kind of device.

Kevin:  Do you use mobile devices to purchase things?
Peter:  Absolutely.  My iPad is my ordering device.  I buy all kinds of things online using mobile devices - tickets, books, reservations of all kinds.  I think the iPad will really drive online purchases because it is so convenient.
Kevin:  How many personal computing devices do you have in your home?
Peter:  Humm...wife, kids, me...13 computing devices.  Remember when it was a big deal to have one computer in the home?

Kevin:  What industries do you see implementing mobility today?
Peter:  Good question.  That is a hard marketing challenge for Webalo, because it seems like all industries are mobilizing now.  We see particular interest in financial services, transportation and retail.

Kevin:  What were some of the most surprising trends that you saw in enterprise mobility in 2010?
Peter: The iPad.  In 2011 it is part of the furniture, but not in 2009 and early 2010.  Another surprise - today there is user driven IT.  In the past IT controlled everything.  Now users tell IT what they want to do and with what device.

Kevin: How important is mobile device management (MDM)?
Peter: CIOs believe it is critical.  The business value is productivity, but the necessary infrastructure piece is MDM.  It is important to recognize that the MDM infrastructure provides NO value on its own.  It is simply an enabler for the business.  People don't always recognize that mobile email is the biggest security problem today.  People can attach anything and email it, so security is not a new problem for mobile applications.  It is the same ongoing issue.

Kevin:  Where does Webalo fit into the enterprise mobility landscape?
Peter: With Webalo you can implement mobile applications in less than one day.  Mobile applications can require a lot of infrastructure to integrate with backend systems.  We provide all of that.  We help companies connect mobile applications (using a Webalo mobile client) to existing back office applications and databases.  A single Webalo mobile client can be used to expose all kinds of different business processes.  One Webalo mobile client can support many different business processes and applications.  We are horizontally focused.  We focus on mid-size and large companies.

Kevin:  Where do you see mobility going in 2011?
Peter:  The mobile devices are here.  The infrastructure is available.  Analysts say mobility is a top three topic with management.  It is time to deliver.  The real value comes when a mobile worker can complete the majority of all of their work on a mobile device.  I do most of mine on a mobile device today.

Kevin:  What do you think about SAP's acquisition of Sybase in 2010?
Peter:  From an industry perspective it was an incredibly important development.  It was a giant credibility statement on the importance and value of enterprise mobility.  Webalo hopes there is room for a variety of different technology and business models to support it.

Kevin:  What developments will we see this year from Webalo?
Peter:  You will see a self service, cloud-based solution that will enable anyone to subscribe and deliver back office data to a mobile device all on their own.  You can set it up yourself.

Kevin:  What advice do you have for companies that are now developing their enterprise mobility strategies?
Peter:  Remember it’s about user productivity, so always stay focused on rapid response to your users and delivering value to them, and you’ll get it right.  Mobility is about the user. Its about making the user more productive, and therefore the business more productive by whatever measure you choose. So, first of all understand:
  1. Who your users are?  Example – Regional Managers
  2. What do they want to do?  Example - Expenses
  3. How do they do it now?  Example – On their laptop through a browser to a custom built corporate intranet application?
  4. Which piece(s) do they need on their mobile device?  Example - Enter expenses or approve expenses
  5. What's the existing data source (database, enterprise app, hosted service etc.) for what they want to do?  Example – HTML web based app with SQL Server db
Also, be aware of the following red flags:

  • Does it look like a major software project? Why?  If you’ve already got the app running in some form in your enterprise it shouldn’t be a big deal to get it to mobile users.
  • More than a month to go live? Think again – you’re approaching this the wrong way.
  • Are specialist programming skills required? Again, your approaching this the wrong way.
  • Custom work for multiple device support? Not today – it shouldn’t be a consideration – anything you do should run on all the devices you want it to – without additional cost.
  • Security concerns? Extend your existing security rules to mobile and if necessary enable the required mobile infrastructure (like BES/Affaria/Good Technology etc.).
  • Menus not tasks?  Unlike consumer apps, in the enterprise you don’t need "An app for that”!.
Thanks Peter for sharing your experiences, insights and predictions!

Read more Mobile Expert Interviews here.

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Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
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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.