Mobile Expert Interview Series: SAP’s Puneet Suppal
I have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in a number of conferences, events and webinars this last year with Puneet Suppal with SAP’s Premier Customer Network Center of Excellence. He is an experienced mobility expert, and I want to thank him for sharing his independent thoughts and insights with us (these do not represent any official statement from his employer, SAP).
Note: These are not Puneet’s exact words, rather my notes from our interview.
Kevin: What mobile device(s) do you carry?
Puneet: My main devices are: BlackBerry, Nokia (my overseas phone), Android. Apple iPod Touch, Lenovo ThinkPad, Dell laptop.
Kevin: How many computing devices do you have in the house?
Kevin: Do you make purchases on mobile devices?
Puneet: Occasional movie tickets on the Android smartphone. I have purchased often using desktop or laptop computers.
Kevin: What are your favorite mobile applications on your mobile device?
Puneet: I am a news junkie, so my favorite mobile apps are news and sports related. I also use Twitter and text messaging apps.
Kevin: How long have you been involved in enterprise mobility?
Puneet: As a user, I got my first BlackBerry in 2004. I have been involved in the enterprise mobility industry since 2008-2009.
Kevin: What is different today, than when you started working in enterprise mobility?
Puneet: Companies have finally begun to understand that enterprise mobility is not just about making ERPs and back office systems available on a smaller smartphone screen.
Kevin: What industries do you see adopting mobility today?
Puneet: The race is on. All seem to be acting now. Each industry seems to worry about different issues though. Many are starting with workflow approvals. This seems common. Utilities, healthcare, supply chain and retail are all jumping in. All groups within SAP are aggressively promoting mobility.
Kevin: What business processes are being prioritized by SAP users?
Puneet: A lot of lightweight and simple mobile applications like time and expenses, as well as workflow approval seem to have general appeal. There is also a great deal of interest in mobile high speed analytics and mobile BI dashboards. The popularity of tablets has really driven interest and growth in mobile BI/analytics.
Kevin: What are some of the most surprising trends you are saw in mobility in 2010?
Puneet: It was surprising to me that many lessons of the past have not been learned. Governance was not as important to many companies as one might have expected. It was surprising that a number of companies were not concerned with standardizing and with governance around their mobile applications. A lesson we ought to have learned from the past in the space of enterprise applications is that “best of breed” as a guiding principle, does not always mean the best solution for a large company. There needs to be some thought given to how all that variety would be managed. There seems to be a tendency to repeat some of those same mistakes in the enterprise mobility space. I was surprised that internationally I see more advanced use of smartphones. For example, mobile banking was more prevalent in overseas markets before it started to catch on in the US. In emerging markets, I have often seen small business operators keen to run their entire business on mobile phones. In those markets there seems to be a greater desire to explore additional ways to use smartphones for monetary transactions.
Kevin: Were you surprised by the success of Android and Apple’s iPad?
Puneet: No, I was not surprised by Android’s success. I could see it starting to happen in 2009. I was not surprised by Apple’s success. They always seem to get it right.
Kevin: What are some of the biggest challenges you see in mobility today?
Puneet: Lack of governance. All the technology is there, but companies need to manage it. I define governance as a comprehensive approach that makes sure the appropriate level of security is implemented, device management, data management, etc. Many companies still must understand the importance of mobile device management. It cannot be over emphasized. The same mobile device (smartphone) often holds both important corporate data and personal data. That means confidential enterprise data is on personal devices. How is that going to be managed? Much of the work people do every day is now on their mobile devices.
Kevin: What advice do you have for companies just starting down an enterprise mobility path?
Puneet: Start by knowing what you are trying to accomplish. Start with the knowledge of your final goal and build from there. It is not a good strategy to simply develop mobile applications to work on your current smartphone.
Kevin: What should people know about SAP Mobility?
Puneet: SAP is very serious about mobility. It is one of our key strategies. SAP’s acquisition of Sybase is evidence that we are serious. Our entire company is focused on enterprise mobility, starting at the top with our co-CEOs evangelizing mobility and promoting it daily, and the rank and file working energetically to bring it to our customers. We have very smart people leading us and leading our mobility efforts.
Kevin: Where do you see mobility going in 2011?
Puneet: I see continued developments in three areas:
1) Real-time analytics – Crunching millions of records and making the results available on mobile devices.
2) Consumer-oriented mobility – Enterprises providing mobile applications for their customers. Companies can interact with their customers in interesting ways.
3) People-centric influences – As an example, look at the situation in India – about 500 million mobile devices. A whole generation of the population in many areas simply by-passed land line phones. Mobile phones, and increasingly smartphones are being used for almost everything. It will be interesting to see how mobile devices change society’s behavior. People can run their lives and businesses on mobile devices. Mobile systems are scaling over tens of millions of users. For example, text messaging is a very simple application with a big impact. Teenagers have embraced it, but still many people in the USA have not used it.
I want to thank Puneet for taking time from his busy schedule to share his thoughts, insights and experiences.