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May 25, 2015

Q&A with Kony CTO – mobile ‘tsunami’ and business case for an enterprise app

Why do enterprises need a mobile strategy?


CBR sat down with Sriram Ramanathan, Chief Technology Officer at Kony and Jonathan Best, Vice President of Europe and Africa at Kony UK, to discuss the mobile market for enterprises.


Why should people be adopting mobile?

JB: I don’t think anybody needs to be convinced that they should be adopting mobile. Gartner said that 25 percent of companies today will be eclipsed over the coming years by a smaller more digitally savvy company. Of course Uber is the classic example that always gets quoted; it completely revolutionised a market and that will continue to happen.

18 percent of companies surveyed had a really good articulated strategy for mobile; if you flip that round it means that more than 80 percent of companies don’t. That’s changing really rapidly with the number of organisations developing a chief digital officer or a head of mobility specifically to address these sorts of things.

I’ve never met one that says that mobility isn’t important and we don’t need to develop lots of apps.
The only questions seem to be how urgently, how soon and what sort.

There are a few reasons why it is important. Anybody below the age of thirty expects that they are going to be able to work, not necessarily with apps, but with the logical flow of things that they are used to in their own life. Technology should be easy to use.

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A lot of the traditional systems that companies invested in weren’t designed necessarily with that sort of thing in mind. This is why you see a lot of these vendors rushing to get mobile-centric interfaces.

Secondly there is the power of the device. We’re carrying around supercomputers in a way that we never used to, and it would be mad not to take advantage of this capability.

I think it’s the demand from young people, the power of the devices, and the ability to do things because you have got apps on a local device that you weren’t able to do before. This includes field services and taking care of utilities plants, which have been revolutionised by the fact that you have something to carry to those locations that is going to be able to tell you what to do when you get there.

SR: Ten years ago you could ask the CMO whether his brand was on the web, and the answer would be that he was heading there. Last week, Google put out a formal notification saying that most of their searches are coming from mobile devices. There’s this huge transformation as radical as the web; I think it’s a tsunami.


You’ve recently launched a new European strategy. Tell me what you see in the European market.

JB: Typically technology gets adopted in Europe about one to three years after it becomes prevalent in the US. I think that’s true but the gap is closing; it’s becoming more like one year than three years. Most companies a couple of years ago wanted to get a consumer-facing app because otherwise we’re behind our competition. A few others were thinking about what they could do internally.

Now what we’re seeing is that the leading organisations who are most mature in this area have been through that cycle. They’ve built one or two customer-facing apps, typically with native development. They’ve understood the costs of that and some of the challenges that there are in writing native apps for multiple device types, which is one of the things that Kony solves very well. On the internal side they’ve seen that taking the same approach to develop your employee apps compared to your customer apps doesn’t necessarily scale and give you the right ROI to justify those internal-facing apps.

Everybody now is starting to say that they’ve spent a lot of money on their external apps and are struggling to justify building internally all the apps that they need if they take a native development approach. They’re also beginning to see the cost of supporting that first generation apps that maybe they didn’t factor into the calculations at the beginning.

Everybody is starting to rethink their approach to this and do it on much more of a platform basis, which is great for Kony. That’s exactly what we provide, the ability t o reuse much more of the technology that you’ve invested in across multiple applications, the ability to reduce the cost of supporting the apps you’ve built by effectively outsourcing the support to Kony.

Therefore people have now seen an ability to justify support for many more apps because having been through the first couple of years of iteration around this, they’ve seen that as soon as you release one app into the business, ten people suggest ideas for what they’d like to do in their part of the business.

They’re realising that they can’t afford to do it the way they did it, they need a different return on investment and a different support and they’re going to have to do it on a much bigger scale than when we made the decisions the first time around.


How can organisations measure the ROI from an app?

JB: Everybody is looking for the business case or the return when they make their first investment in mobile. One of the things that is really changing is that there was a supposition until quite recently that you had to do something facing your customers to generate the level of returns you needed to justify the investment in the technology.

A couple of things are changing. Firstly because people are identifying so many more of these app use-cases within the business, it’s much easier to justify the investment in the technology just looking internally, rather than looking externally at what they can do for your customers.

Secondly people are starting to understand that if you invest in a platform, you get a huge amount of reuse. You typically see the cost of supporting applications reduce over time because you can reuse so much more of what you’ve already built

The other thing is that people are getting better at measuring this stuff. It’s actually a standing joke within Kony: whenever we went to a customer to talk to them about the kinds of apps they’d like to build, they said they’d love to have an app that helped them find conference rooms in their offices. That’s the kind of thing that would be really useful to everybody in the business but it’s really hard to justify investing in building it because there’s no ROI.

Actually we were recently at one of our internal meetings in the US and somebody presented a use-case for a big American insurance company. They said that if they saved everybody on the campus five minutes a year by helping them find their meeting rooms then there was a four million dollar return on that investment. What they were saying was that they could justify investing in all of [Kony’s] platform to do all of the stuff they want to do internally as well as customer-facing, just by saving everybody five minutes a year in finding meeting rooms.

This is the thing that we always throw out as being a ridiculous example because nobody would be able to justify it.


What do you think of wearables and their use in the enterprise?

JB: Everyone keeps asking about wearables because they’re sexy, and of course the Apple Watch is out. The thing that everybody forgets is that there isn’t an app that runs on the watch, the app is running on the device. So really wearables are just an extension of what we’re doing with devices.

For us it’s not really too much of a change. There are things that will rapidly come; Apple Pay I think will represent a major change in how payments are handled; when that is globally available it will make a massive difference to what people to do with wearables. Again it’s really just a further extrapolation of the use case. We’d already thought through a lot of things you could do with wearables that would extend specific business scenarios.

Having the[mobile] device with you allows you to do things that you couldn’t do if your device was anchored to your desk. Wearables are just another extension of that.

SR: The success of wearables is going to depend on the quality of apps and use-cases that are surfaced on the wearable. It will need to not just be a nice-to-have but a necessity. There will always be early adopters who will use it. Long-term success is going to depend on ensuring that you have use-cases that you might not even know about. I think there is a whole class of use-cases that we don’t even know about yet, that will be ideally realised by being surfaced on a wearable.

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