Leading the Way in Mobility

John Chen, Chairman and CEO of Sybase, an SAP company (photo: SAP)
John Chen, Chairman and CEO of Sybase, an SAP company (photo: SAP)

It’s been about a year now since Sybase became part of the SAP family. Why did you decide to join SAP? What was your first impression of the people, culture, and business at SAP?

John Chen: SAP has an enormous amount of resources and customer reach. That was the most important reason for joining SAP. I think one of the top teams in the company is the customer-facing organization because they have such a deep and broad reach in the market.

What feedback did you receive from the Sybase customer base regarding the acquisition?

The majority of our customers reacted very positively. To still be able to run independently sends a very strong message. There was some skepticism at first, though, but customers have seen that we are still the Sybase organization they’ve come to trust – and that there’s even more now that we can offer them. We’re bringing new technology and an extension of the stack to SAP and non-SAP customers alike.

One of the new technologies that everyone is talking about is mobility. Coming from the consumer space, what does this trend mean for business?

I think we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. We are in the very early stages of a big evolution – and a big revolution. It started with consumers, but if you think back to the early client-server days, it is now the same phenomenon with mobility. Mobile is the new desktop, and you carry your workstation in your pocket.

Mobility provides real-time interaction with customers in a very analytical way. These are capabilities and features that have never been affordable or even possible in the past. Mobility empowers people and it empowers businesses. This is really an enormous opportunity.

How would you describe the joint mobility strategy of SAP and Sybase?

We are providing not only a leading but winning platform of mobile middleware, mobile applications, and mobile services.

We are #1 in mobile enterprise. We enable enterprises to manage mobile devices in a secure and seamless way. This is done through our industry leading mobile device management solution Afaria. On top of that, we enable heterogeneous mobile application development as well as deployment through our powerful Sybase Unwired Platform. It lets you build once, and deploy to multiple devices. It empowers developers and users on all major device types and operating systems such as iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian; Palm support will follow next.

We are also the leading provider of mobile applications. This includes feature-rich, complex applications as well as instant value-add applications. We at SAP write applications – and we empower the industry, through the Sybase Unwired Platform, to develop their own applications as well.

On top of these two layers, we are responsible for 1.5 billion SMS and MMS messages processed every single day. We reach 5.2 billion mobile users, 96% of the world’s mobile population.  Why is this important? This messaging platform is a fundamental building block for mobile commerce. Our end-to-end mobile commerce services enable enterprises to communicate, market, and transact with their consumers. We have numerous use cases worldwide where mobile banking, remittance, and commerce are taking off.

Next Page: Other trends and vision for the future

As a second trend, analytics join forces with mobility. Analytics on device are a big topic…

Analytics allow real-time reactions to business conditions. Many think this is just about reporting, but that’s wrong. Reporting may be 10% of it, but I see it more as a decision-making tool. Analytics give you real-time feedback. Analytics identify trends on the spot. Analytics alert people on their mobile devices so they can take action – anywhere, anytime.

How is Sybase’s database business developing in the context of the SAP family?

In 2012, our database business will be a very strong asset for SAP. Sybase’s analytic databases can complement SAP HANA and bring speed and insight to the market. In addition, we are working on bringing Sybase IQ and the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio closer together. This will be more relevant and visible by next year.

How do you see the midmarket evolving? Will small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) embrace mobility the same way or even more so than larger ones?

There are many reasons why SMEs will certainly embrace mobility. Number one: The investment costs for mobility solutions are affordable. Number two: Mobility is the best way to reach customers. Number three: Mobility is not necessarily tied to back-end infrastructures. With our mobility offerings, you can start small and then extend them while you grow. And all the while we are bringing your business closer to people. This is exactly what small companies are looking for.

What is your vision for Sybase going forward?

Many acquisitions of technology companies fail altogether, or at least they fail to deliver on their promises. Not in our case, though. We are on a very good path and my vision is to continue on that path. We need to take advantage of both SAP’s and Sybase’s strengths and bring great products to the market. At the same time, Sybase should not lose its own spirit and speed.