Careers: Interviews
Brian Vink: Respected Expert; Vice President of Marketing, iAnywhere Solutions

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Brian Vink.

As Vice President of Marketing of iAnywhere Solutions, a subsidiary of Sybase, Inc., Brian Vink is focused on establishing the company as the premier provider of solutions that enable anywhere, anytime access to enterprise information. Mr. Vink’s responsibilities include driving market share, awareness, opportunities for the company’s database solutions, management and security solutions, and mobile solutions. iAnywhere holds the number one market leadership position in the mobile database, mobile middleware, and mobile device management markets.

Prior to this position, Mr. Vink served as vice president of marketing for Sybase’s Mobile and Embedded Computing division and was part of the core team that helped to establish Sybase’s market-leading position. He joined WATCOM International in 1989 as a developer on the mobile database project. He became a product manager for the SQL Anywhere database after WATCOM International merged with Powersoft Corporation in 1994, which merged with Sybase in 1995.

Mr. Vink is an active member of a variety of industry and community associations including a board member of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) Software Division. He speaks at a variety of industry conferences and events including the Wireless Enterprise Track at the 2005 Wireless & Mobile WorldExpo held in Toronto on May 18th and 19th.

Mr. Vink holds both a Bachelor of Mathematics degree in Computer Science and Business from the University of Waterloo and a Masters in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Discussion:

Q: Brian, as an industry leader in the mobile market, we appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Thank you.

A: Thank you Stephen. It’s my pleasure to talk with you.

Q: Can you bring us up-to-date on the solutions you implemented at Harvard Medical School? What proved to be the biggest challenges and how were they resolved? How does this extend into healthcare organizations in general?

A:  A few years ago, Harvard Medical’s IT team, lead by CIO John Halamka, realized that there was just too much paper changing hands at the university — from the medical texts, lecture notes and patient records, to the administration announcements, class schedules and course surveys that needed to be completed each semester. 

So they decided to make this paper-based information available to students on PDAs, because more and more incoming students were arriving with devices. But their three big concerns were first, how could they ensure that the students would be able to use their existing devices; second, how could their IT team leverage its existing development know-how, which was primarily HTML; and third, how could they ensure that the solution would scale effectively as more students and faculty began using it.

After looking at several different approaches, it became clear that a mobile Web-based application made the most sense since it solved their first two problems. And the scalability issue was answered after they looked at iAnywhere’s M-Business Anywhere, which is the same technology that powers our AvantGo mobile Internet service for seven million registered users.

The application, which they call “MyCourses,” was an instant success, and continues to be because 100 percent of incoming students have some sort of device and the campus has been outfitted with Wi-Fi. It gives students the ability to securely access critical information anywhere they are. It also saves the university more than $150,000 a semester on the processing costs associated with the end-of-semester course surveys, which incidentally, have gone from a 20 percent completion rate to over 80.

For healthcare organizations in general, Harvard Medical’s application clearly demonstrates the benefits of outfitting healthcare professionals, (who are truly the quintessential mobile employee), with mobile technology. Many of them go 8 or 10 hours without even sitting down, let alone see a desk. We’ve worked with many other healthcare organizations – the Visiting Nurses Association, Sacred Heart Hospital in Florida, Duke University Medical School – and the feedback we get from all of them is not only about how much better they can do their jobs though paperwork reduction and better access to information, but how much better they can serve their patients.

Q: What are three other case studies, which illustrate interesting business models demonstrating competitive advantage, and the best return on investment when using mobile solutions?

A. Case 1:

Hyundai Department Stores, a 13-store retail empire in South Korea, offers a sophisticated, high-end shopping experience to consumers. The company's wireless point-of-sale (POS) application embeds SQL Anywhere, our leading mobile and embedded database solution, and enables sales clerks to process a purchase from anywhere in the store using a handheld device. As a result, shoppers no longer have to wait in long lines at cash registers and so they tend to shop longer at the stores, often purchasing more products and services.
Transactions are completed in approximately 10 seconds and counter time for a customer is reduced by one to two minutes (compared to the time required for the previous countertop POS system). Furthermore, customers feel far safer about the security of their credit cards when they can see the handheld mobile POS device facilitating the transaction right where they stand, rather than hand their credit cards to sales clerks who walk to a regular POS counter to complete the purchase.

Ultimately, Hyundai has realized a 40 percent reduction in total POS hardware costs and a 30 percent reduction in administrative costs through improved tracking of sales and more efficient deployment of store personnel.

Case 2:

iAnywhere and partner LogicaCMG provided Britannia Airways Ltd. with solutions to mobilize its cabin and flight deck crews. The solution was designed to enable cabin crew and pilots to access a wide variety of information. This includes email, rosters, health and safety information and duty free point of sales applications, as well as flight manuals and take-off performance data via laptops and Casio EG800 PDAs. The mobile solution provides bi-directional synchronization of data from back-office systems to cabin crews’ PDAs and pilots’ laptops, using iAnywhere’s SQL Anywhere product.

This move opened up the communications channels between all Britannia employees, as well as providing cost, time savings and process improvements. By automating the availability of flight manuals, Britannia will save £50,000 annually in fuel costs. The use of laptops will save the company £437,000 on administration. Additionally, automating fifty paper-based workflow processes will save Britannia £500,000 a year. Previously the airline had 600 different forms, of which there could be up to 100,000 copies.

Case 3:

One of our customers, Foremost Insurance Company, has experienced significant ROI and a $2 million return with their deployment of Oncontact Software's CRM solution, which includes SQL Anywhere. 

Before implementing the solution, Foremost’s home office would overnight vital 500 -1000-page reports each month to their mobile sales force. The solution enables the insurer to deploy a local database on a laptop during the day and synchronize information with Foremost's CRM software via a broadband or wireless connection at night. The sales force is connected on the go with the most up-to-date information. In their cars or calling on their accounts, they have access to the local database when they are offsite; i.e. they have all of their accounts, phone numbers, addresses, etc. 

Q: Some analysts feel that there are issues that still need to be addressed such as geographic coverage, bandwidth, evolving standards and so on. What do you see as limitations in wireless; when and how will they be addressed?

A:  The goal of new mobile and wireless technologies is to harness the power of mobile applications for workers for whom access to a desktop computer is not practical, as well as to develop entirely new applications not previously possible. The optimal combination of device, network and application design will make or break your mobile implementation.

While issues such as limited bandwidth and limitations of geographic coverage are often at the top of the list, additional barriers to adoption will remain, even with better bandwidth and improved coverage. Mobile device battery life and memory capabilities, as well as the lack of keyboards or small-windows can hinder adoption and usability. Additionally, easy-to-use applications are lacking.

iAnywhere’s unique Always Available architecture helps mobile users overcome the challenges of today’s mobile and wireless environment.

Always Available computing means that users can access key data, applications and Web content quickly and easily on their mobile and remote devices all the time – whether they have a “live” connection to a network or not. With application data and business logic stored on a mobile computer or device, workers can access information and use their applications offline, then synchronize changes when a network connection is available or when the need for time sensitive data requires it. Since a modem is not in constant use, Always Available applications preserve battery life on the device while minimizing network connection time and costs.

Q: Can you illustrate what mobile computing will look like in 2010?

A:  Just as mobility has significantly changed consumer lifestyles, it also has the ability to transform the enterprise. Over the past few years, with mobile email and deployment of applications, some companies, both large and small, have mobilized critical business information and delivered it to the point of action in real-time. The next step in extending the enterprise will take us beyond e-business to a new world of opportunity and changing business models. 

Enterprises will rethink core business processes — this most advanced phase occurs when wireless data becomes accessible at points of customer interaction. At this point, an enterprise completely transforms its business processes, resulting in great competitive advantages. Due to large data sets and many transactions, this will be complex, but the impact will be worth it with tangible ROI.

Similar to the way that Internet computing has evolved into being part of the IT backbone, I believe that by 2010 mobile computing will become simply one of the considerations IT addresses for every project. That’s the philosophy that iAnywhere and our parent company, Sybase, call the “Unwired Enterprise.” The Unwired Enterprise is where information flows freely within an organization, whether your workers are inside the office or on the road. An Unwired Enterprise breaks down IT barriers — information silos, incompatible technologies, hard-wired connections — and delivers critical information and applications to employees, partners, and customers anytime, anywhere. An Unwired Enterprise is more efficient, more productive, and better able to capitalize on new opportunities and the changing dynamics of the market. This is where I envision mobile computing headed in 2010 – tied intrinsically to enterprise computing as a whole rather than the separate thought process that it is today.

Q: What have been your top three challenges since 1989? Why are they included on your list and how did you resolve them?

A: 1) An initial challenge in the early 1990s was to convince customers that it was not only possible, but also an advantage to have a database on a laptop computer. Prior to that, no one was thinking about taking mobile data on the go. Data was reserved for IT to manage within the four walls of a corporate data center. Now, a decade later, customers want to take data with them on even the smallest PDA and mobile phones. The understanding of the power of mobile data has shifted completely.

2) Helping customers to understand the difference between mobile and wireless. A mobile solution extends enterprise information to workers who do not have access to a desktop computer, while wireless technology is simply one of many methods of data transmission. Customers need to weigh the costs and benefits of real-time access. Depending on their needs for timely data collection and retrieval, continuous wireless connectivity might not be required at all. While a financial trading application likely would require real-time wireless access, most applications such as sales and field force automation don’t require an instant exchange of information. Hourly updates or even nightly updates through either a wireless connection or wireline option (such as a docked PDA) would be sufficient.

3) Helping customers to see through the hype of 3G and the promise of ubiquitous, high-speed wireless coverage everywhere. We encourage customers to architect their applications to address the realities of today’s wireless networks, which include bandwidth constraints, unreliable coverage, high cost and the presence of numerous competing network standards with varying coverage areas, costs and business viability.

iAnywhere helps organizations to be successful today by developing Always Available mobile applications that balance the benefits and limitations of current mobile technology. We help customers to build Always Available smart client applications that leverage local data storage and periodic synchronization, and help to increase application performance and worker productivity. Since a modem is not in constant use, Always Available applications also preserve battery life on the device while minimizing network connection time and costs.

Q: Provide a history of your career milestones and important lessons you learned.

A:  I started my professional career in IT and worked on a variety of projects that were mainframe-based. At that time, personal computers were still relatively new; however, I was really intrigued with the potential of the PC and how people were using PCs for a variety of departmental applications. This led me to begin working with WATCOM, a small company that evolved out of computer research at the University of Waterloo that was developing database software specifically designed for the PC. 

Once the WATCOM product came to market, I found that I was drawn to the customer side of the business. This meant everything from taking technical support calls to talking to customers who were interested in purchasing the software. This transition really affected the rest of my professional career, and allowed me to become a credible advocate for the customer to our development team, since I had gained a unique view of our technology from the perspective of the customer.

Although WATCOM was achieving steady growth, acquisitions by Powersoft and ultimately Sybase gave us significant access to additional sales channels and as a result our revenues increased substantially. I learned how important channels and partners were to an organization’s ability to increase sales and market share.

My interest in enabling channels and developers with our solutions led to my focus on marketing. One of the keys to our success was getting in the design phase of our partners’ product life cycle. This often meant that you needed to have a relationship with that customer for a long period of time – from the initial development to the ultimate deployment of the product. My feeling was that the long-term health of the business depended on ensuring these relationships were forged and cultivated. Having established a strong partner base, I have learned that loyalty goes both ways, and that we were truly able to develop competitive differentiation with our partnerships in a market where differentiators are so often measured by technology features.

Q: Describe your work with the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) Software Division. 

A:  I work with the SIIA Software Division, primarily focused on addressing the business development needs, including addressing evolving business models, providing members with strategic information on trends and business issues, and creating a robust networking system for the software industry. As part of this group, one of the first initiatives that I focused on was the development of a mobile enterprise working group to orchestrate and promote the viability and solutions being developed for enterprise users of mobility solutions. The group was created to be an international constituency and provide advocacy, education and outreach for issues relevant to the industry. This group was one of the first industry groups created specifically for the requirements of the enterprise mobility market and helped raise awareness of the needs and requirements of software providers in this space.

Q: Which has proved to be the most valuable: undergraduate studies, graduate studies, work experience, and why?

A:  I have a unique perspective on this question. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo and was enrolled in the cooperative education program. What this meant was that I was able to couple work experience with my undergraduate education.  In addition to helping to fund my schooling, I continue to believe that I was able to experience the benefits of what I learned in the classroom immediately in the “real world”. I couldn’t imagine I would have had the same educational experience without the work experience that went along with it.

Later, when I decided to pursue a Masters in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University, I had been in the work force for a number of years. I decided to do my graduate studies on a part-time basis over four years, while still working full time. Although this was a very busy time in my life, once again, I cannot imagine having an educational experience independent of work experience. After working in the software industry during the day, I found it refreshing to go into the classroom in the evening and interact with a variety of colleagues from a diverse set of industries and get very different perspectives on business approaches. 

Although I am hard-pressed to say that any individual experience was more valuable, I feel that the combination of experiences I had in parallel gave me a unique perspective.

Q: Are there any other important considerations we haven’t discussed for mobility?

A. Yes. Secure wireless data and device management is something all enterprises must consider as part of their mobility strategy. Devices on the front lines face a vulnerable computing environment, where security exposure is large, the risk of intrusion is high, and security controls are inconsistent at best. Frontline security management meets these challenges with a comprehensive, policy-based, enterprise-level security solution that integrates systems management and security features. It is designed specifically with the frontline environment in mind, protecting data, devices, applications and users where threats of security breaches are at their highest.

Mobile device security solutions provide the ability to keep a mobile user in touch and up-to-date with critical enterprise information without transferring an undue burden of responsibility. A mobile infrastructure should deliver centralized control over critical security functions including: user authentication, data encryption, anti-virus administration, software version control, data syncing, automatic backups and emergency data lock-downs. iAnywhere holds the number one market leadership position in the mobile device management and security market with our Afaria technology.

Q:  If you were doing this interview, what would your number one question be and how would you respond?

A: I would say the question would be: how do you achieve leadership in a fast growing, competitive market like mobility?

In my opinion, the three keys to success are:

1.  Developing great technology – In an emerging market like mobility, there is no substitute for technology innovation. Products need to be continually evolving to address fast-changing needs and emerging standards, networks and devices. This is an area that has been iAnywhere’s strength since the beginning. Our engineers pioneered many technologies that are now core to solving mobile enterprise challenges today. For example, our technology portfolio includes the industry’s first mobile database for laptops, the first mobile management solution, the first database synchronization solution for mobility, the first mobile Web platform and the first handheld database.

2.  Establishing great partnerships – As is common sense in any aspect of life, you can go a lot further with the help of your friends. In the mobility world, with the fast pace of emerging standards, networks and devices, it is crucial to recognize that the company you keep plays an important role in the leader you can become. In the case of iAnywhere, our partner channel is one of our biggest assets. We have established strategic partnerships with the industry’s leading mobile device, wireless network, and platform vendors, and work closely on joint development and marketing efforts. We also have built an amazing channel of more than 1,000 application partners for whom leveraging our technology has become a key element of their success. We have built this loyal channel through many years with the philosophy that empowering our partners to be successful will drive our own growth as well.

3.  Making your customers successful – This may seem like a “no-brainer” but is actually the toughest challenge of them all. Making your customers successful goes well beyond simply closing the sale. Our job doesn’t end there. It also includes providing ongoing resources – such as quality technical support, educational webcasts and seminars, technical newsgroups, and, of course, continued technology innovation. I tell my staff that no matter what their day-to-day role is, ultimately the job of everyone in the company is to ensure customer success. We have created numerous programs, (ranging from customer marketing activities to customer advisory boards), to help take the pulse of our customer community on an ongoing basis. As with partners, success with customers is a two-way street: a happy customer is your best advocate.

Q: Brian, thank you for taking the time to do this interview and sharing your accumulated wisdom with our audience.

A: Thank you, Stephen! It was good to have the opportunity to speak with you today.

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