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Mobile Expert Interview Series: Sybase’s Mike Oliver

I first learned about Mike Oliver, European Mobility Marketing Manager for Sybase, because we are both on the agenda for an upcoming conference in Brussels called The Enterprise Mobility Exchange.  Mike was kind enough to schedule some time to share his thoughts on the enterprise mobility market with us.

Note: These are not Mike Oliver’s exact words, rather my notes from our interview.  However, Mike did review these notes for accuracy prior to publishing.

Kevin: What are your current roles and responsibilities?
Mike: I am the European Mobility Marketing Manager for Sybase. Before SAP acquired us, I was responsible for marketing our mobility solutions across all of Europe. Now I cover a subset of our products including Afaria and SQL Anywhere.

Kevin: Where is your office located?
Mike: I am based out of Maidenhead, England.  However, I am rarely in the office as I am traveling most of the time.

Kevin: What mobile device(s) do you carry?
Mike: A company issued iPhone 3Gs, Motorola Android, Motorola ES400 (durable device) – includes barcode scanner that runs on Windows 6.5, new Dell laptop and an iPad (used mainly for demos and email). [Kevin’s comment – Mike uses the ES400 mainly for demos, but he likes it. He appreciates rugged and durable devices that are designed to last many years. He is not a fan of the throw away smartphone culture.]

Kevin: What are some of your favorite mobile applications that you have on your mobile device?
Mike: Lotus Notes Traveler, DropBox, Facebook, Photoshop Express, Maps, TubeDeluxe and Flixster, a movie application that uses your GPS to tell you about movies playing in your vicinity.

Kevin: Do you ever use your mobile device to buy things?
Mike: All the time, especially on Amazon and eBay.

Kevin: How many computing devices do you have in your home?
Mike: I have 15-20 devices – four laps, PCs and many old smartphones.

Kevin: How did you get involved in enterprise mobility?
Mike: It was almost by accident. I was working in a dive shop after a few years in marketing agencies, sometimes working with technology companies. I applied for a marketing job listed at a nearby company, that was Extended Systems (Sybase/iAnywhere acquired Extended Systems). I had to pretend to know corporate marketing until I learned it “on the job”. I have now had nine different jobs here in the past 12 years.

Kevin: What is different today, than when you started working with enterprise mobility?
Mike: When I started there were very few competitors in mobility, and the only companies implementing mobility were the giant companies. Now everyone does mobility. Everyone has a smartphone. Instead of just targeting mobile solutions for the 35 blue collar service engineers in the company, all 3,500 employees want mobility today.

Kevin: What are some of the most surprising trends you saw in mobility in 2010?
Mike: It has to be the iPad. Tablets have been around forever! All of a sudden Apple makes one with the great interface and everyone wants it? I have one but am personally frustrated with some of the limitations of the current iPad, but you can’t deny that it has been a big success and I’ll definitely buy the next version. I also love the new Samsung Galaxy, it fits into my jacket pocket. Overall though, I would rather use my NetBook. It has a keyboard, long battery life, prints and boots up fast without the tablet limitations.

Kevin: What are some of the biggest challenges you see in mobility today?
Mike: Simple connectivity is still a big challenge in the UK. We couldn’t get connectivity in our own office today. Every day when I drive home from the office I lose my connection in three different locations. This is the middle of the UK! There are so many places where signals are just not good enough to support a mobile worker using an always connected mobile application. We have developed all kinds of features into Afaria just to help mobile workers in areas where there is intermittent connectivity.

Kevin: How are enterprise mobility implementations different from other typical IT projects?
Mike: IT folks have a difficult time truly understanding mobility. Many don’t even understand the differences between the mobile operating systems and mobile devices. It is a whole new world for them.

Kevin: What do companies fail to plan for when implementing mobility?
Mike: They fail to plan for the actual voice/data plan communication costs. Even my own employer (Sybase) is unhappy with my latest phone bill. I have been traveling a lot and had a $500 phone bill that I submitted. Management did not like it. Roaming charges when traveling overseas is a huge problem. The cost can jump in one month when traveling.

Kevin: What advice do you have for companies just starting down an enterprise mobility path?
Mike: They should read the top 10 tips for implementing enterprise mobility from Sybase. Also, I think people should be visionary. The company should not just implement the minimum but should be visionary. Companies can change or improve entire business models with mobile solutions.

Kevin: How important is mobile device management and security?
Mike: It is a critical component of every deployment. Even if half of the concerns prove to be unfounded, the other half are real. You need to keep people working in the field. You need to avoid work stoppages. You need to protect your company, and keep it working. This takes mobile device management.

Kevin: Where do you see mobility going in 2011?
Mike: Bigger companies will support mobile devices for all of their staff. Today they pick and choose who gets mobile support. Also SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) are going to embrace mobility. They will see huge benefits. The SME movement will be one of the biggest.

I want to thank Mike for sharing his experiences, insight and predictions!

For those interested in reading a weekly summary of enterprise mobility market numbers and trend data you can read it here on The Mobility News Weekly.

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