SAP.info: What led you to become an early pioneer of mobile computing?
Rich Padula: In the early 90s, I ran a technology consultancy by the name of CAS and visited a number of companies onsite to help improve their processes. At one particular telecoms company, the work involved optimizing complaint management processes and consolidating the call center. Although we achieved this, the communication between the call centers and the technical field team responsible for fixing any faults was problematic.
That’s when I suggested developing a mobile application for service agents – the result of which helped reduce costs per trouble ticket from U.S.$11 to just over $2. It was then that I realized the huge potential of mobile applications. Together with my brother Rob, an old friend, and another work colleague, we set up Syclo as a four-man operation in 1995.
What happened next?
At that time, mobile computing was still in its early days. So we developed a mobile platform and went looking for customers. With the first applications arriving soon after, Syclo was able to show continuous, organic growth from 1997 onward.
We thought mobile would take off much faster. The problem was not so much proving the efficiency gains for companies, but rather how slowly companies were adopting the business process changes required to realize these gains.
Two years later, we successfully gained investors from our circle of friends and family. Our team grew from 5 to 25 employees. With the exception of the difficult years of 2002 and 2008, we have seen constant increases in revenue. When SAP took over Syclo last year, we had around 170 employees.
And Syclo also had prominent advocates…
Well, of course news spreads quickly when you’re successful in a new and innovative environment, and partnerships with IBM and SAP opened even more doors. Partnerships like these enhance reputation and creditability – but you always have to remain focused on your core services. Although a small company, Syclo offers services to over 600 customers in 39 countries. We support almost 140 end devices. Analysts at Gartner regard us as the highest ranking player in terms of our ability to execute our mobile solutions. SAP is the highest ranking player for their vision of the mobile market, and it’s already clear how well we work together.
What did – and does – Syclo stand for?
Customer success is the most important element of all. That means we need the right people – colleagues who understand what they have to do in order to help realize this success. Everyone does their best to support everyone else. As a team, we work incredibly well together.
Mobile computing is seen as cool. Two years ago, we opened an office in the center of Chicago to accompany our headquarters at Hoffman Estates on the outskirts of the city. That helped us to recruit young people with their lives and careers still ahead of them. Overall, we have a good mix of experienced workers and next-generation talent, hungry to learn.
Next page: The reason for selling Syclo
So why did you sell your company?
My partners and I asked ourselves where we saw our future long-term strategy. The option of selling the company at some point had always been a possible strategy. All of our colleagues knew this.
Over a number of years, we cultivated an excellent co‑innovation partnership with SAP. Our product range perfectly suits the industry portfolio of SAP, a company that – more than just about any other company – stands for customer relevance and a strong brand. Not only this, but SAP has also developed into an innovative visionary investing in areas with a future. It was simply the best option: We suit SAP perfectly, and SAP suits us perfectly.
SAP, Sybase, Syclo: All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. None of our competitors can lay claim to such integration. If we combine all of these elements properly, none of our rivals will come close to us.
What lies ahead in the mobile world?
Combining solutions will offer a huge amount of added value for SAP customers. Let’s take asset management as an example: Our customers can run predictive maintenance based on real-time SAP HANA data, leading to even greater cost savings. But this is only possible if field service agents enter and manage “clean” data. Therefore, they need the right tools.
This is the strength of Syclo mobile solutions. Before developing such applications, we took an in-depth look at what end users need, and how they can work most efficiently. Our field applications intelligently combine all of this research and expertise.
What does the future hold?
It’s a great feeling to be part of a company with such a clear vision of how mobility can help companies. The SAP design principle “mobile first” is an expression of this vision. I’m looking forward to taking the next steps.