Welcome to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out. This past week, I spoke with John Traynor of Palm- you know, the guys who launched that nifty new device a few months back. As vice-president, business products, John is responsible for product management and marketing of Palm’s offerings targeting the business and enterprise markets, including the Treo brand of Windows phones and the business features of webOS.
I originally met John when he first joined Palm. Prior to joining Palm, John spent 16 years at Microsoft. Most recently, John was senior director, product marketing, in the Mobile Communications Group with responsibility for product solutions, including (among other things) System Center Mobile Device Manager.
Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi John. It’s great speaking with you again. I know you have been traveling a fair bit these days, so thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. So let’s get to it…
Enterprise Mobility has changed a lot in the last few years. Beyond the Pre and webOS (ha ha!), what would you say is the greatest recent advancement?
John Traynor: First, let me thank you Philippe for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers. To me, the big change has been the rise of software standards as the key enabler of widespread mobile adoption. Take email. A few years ago mobile email required expensive, proprietary middleware servers. Not anymore. Virtually all the meaningful mobile software platforms now support Exchange ActiveSync, and that protocol is available for use in other email systems too. That’s pushed us past a tipping point, as happened in the late 1980s when desktop PCs went from a luxury for the few to a necessity for every information worker. Software standards are enabling mass mobile deployments, and not just for email anymore.
EMF: Are companies looking at mobility differently today as compared to a few years ago?
JT: For IT, the biggest shift is the realization that what worked for desktops and laptops may not always work for smarthphones. Few people bring their own PCs to work, but many people bring their own smartphones! There is tension between employees’ desire to pick and choose their own phones and personalize them and IT’s duty to protect information assets. No one has completely solved that yet, but we’re making progress. And from a business perspective, there is recognition that mobility isn’t just mobile email. It’s about anything and everything needed to truly support doing business on the go.
EMF: How do you see the economy impacting mobility in the enterprise? When are we going to see an upturn in the (our) market?
JT: Investments in mobility are being more carefully scrutinized. Mobility projects that align with cost-cutting initiatives are the most likely to move forward in many enterprises. But measuring cost is tricky. Thoughtful CIOs and business leaders are taking a more holistic approach. Rather than looking at mobility in isolation, many are looking at the whole of telecommunications, or the whole of an end-to-end business process, and seeing how dramatic the savings can be when mobility plays a bigger role.
EMF: What do you think is the greatest current opportunity for enterprise mobility?
JT: Without question, it’s making mobility a normal, almost transparent, part of business processes. Whenever an employee (or customer!) can’t do something because they lack the ability to retrieve, generate, or transform information, but they have a smartphone with them, we should ask ourselves why the process doesn’t embrace that smartphone!
I know a company that mobilized an existing application by re-examining the entire process. Not only did that approach make life easier for sales people and customers, it increased sales and reduced customer acquisition costs while also eliminating over one million pieces of paper and all the associated transcription, storage, and destruction costs.
EMF: What do you think is the greatest risk for organizations right now?
JT: Historically, the biggest risk is taking a “wait and see” attitude. It’s daunting to invest now, but the rewards could be significant. One company I know continued their investment in a mobile sales force app during an industry downturn. Customers were better served, orders were filled faster, and cash flow improved. While industry revenue declined during the downturn, this company’s market share increased. When the industry recovered, the company enjoyed growth far in excess of the competitors who had been “waiting it out.”
Another example: one airline I fly with now allows me to check in with my phone. Another still requires me to use a PC and print a boarding pass on paper. Guess which airline I’ll be flying on more often as the economy recovers?
EMF: What steps should executives take to ensure the success of their mobility implementations?
JT: I’d suggest starting small, but moving rapidly. Begin with a few key apps, perhaps just one, and keep at it until the benefits are obvious and measurable. Don’t expect immediate perfection; learn from mistakes and recognize that an iterative process ultimately yields better results than trying to do everything at once. Don’t mobilize an existing bad process! Fix the process, and include mobility in the improved process. Manage the implementation as you would manage any change; identify the need for change, create the desire for change, clearly communicate roles people will play in the mobility implementation, and communicate (and measure!) the expected benefits.
EMF: OK, One last question that I just HAVE to ask. If you can take a step back from it – what do you think it will take for Palm and webOS to have a beachhead within the enterprise (e.g.: 10-15% market share)?
JT: Given the market growth, Palm need only capture a fair share of the growth. Millions of people will get their first smartphone in the next 24 months. Our job is to help potential customers discover what a smartphone can do for them and demonstrate the benefits of Palm’s approach to the market. Of course, we need to expand the availability of the Palm Pre internationally, as evidenced by our recent announcements with international carriers; continue enhancing webOS to support enterprise features, as we did with the recent release of webOS 1.1; continue to expand the number of applications available for webOS, now that the SDK is publicly available; and bring new and exciting device designs to market at a regular pace.
It’s easy to see why the smartphone market is growing rapidly. I was reminded of this as I was vacationing recently, cycling through the Rockies in Glacier National Park. Unfortunately a family member became ill and we had to make new travel arrangements. I did everything from my phone. Several of the cyclists in our group said, “wow, I didn’t know you could book a flight on a phone.” I’m pretty sure I made a few sales that day for Palm!
Thank you John for taking the time to chat with me about your views on Enterprise Mobility. It’s always a pleasure speaking with you and I am sure the readers of this blog appreciate hearing your thoughts.
So there you go. Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop me a line.