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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Taking the Cloud to the Mobile Web

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Listen to my conversation with Adam Caplan, CEO of Model Metrics, one of the new breed of professional services firms that specializes in cloud implementations.

In this podcast, learn how enterprises are mashing up cloud applications to enhance user productivity, and find out why the iPad is helping to ramp up enterprise adoption of cloud.

Listen to or download the 8:04 minute podcast below:

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PW: Adam, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to catch up about Model Metrics. Tell us a little bit more about the company — because I believe your mission is to help enterprises harness the cloud, and especially working with platforms like Google, Amazon Web Services, and Salesforce.com.

AC: Yeah, that's exactly right. We're a consulting firm that focuses on helping enterprise companies leverage these cloud technologies. The bulk of our practice is building solutions around Salesforce.com, and Amazon Web Services, and Google, as you mentioned. And where we really excel is in helping customers really doing — do creative things with the applications. So for example, with Salesforce.com, helping them build really interesting applications that you don't think are maybe even possible with the platform. So, for example, really innovative portals, or building ERP on top of Salesforce. And we also do a lot of work in helping companies understand how to leverage multi-platforms at the same time. So for example, how can you mix Amazon Web Services, mash it up with Google, mash it up with the Salesforce platform, and create really fantastic custom interfaces, portals, mobile applications, etcetera.

And where does that creativity come from? Is it customers coming to you saying, hey, we want to do this, this and this; or is it more a case of them saying, look, we're not sure how to do this, and you come up with a solution for them?

Yeah, oftentimes it's the latter, where — we have a great existing base of clients. And oftentimes, we start with a more simple project. We might start with a sales force automation project, for example, or we might start with one division of a company that decides to embrace the cloud. And then what happens is, they get so excited about the technology and realize what's possible, they ask us what might be possible for them. So that's when we get into a lot of interesting custom interfaces, and portals, and customer-facing applications, whether it's on a mobile device or a website. Usually they don't realize that we can build really beautiful layout-screen, customer-facing use cases. Usually they think it's only for internal use, so it's that customer-facing use case which usually is a second step when they embrace the cloud.

So in a sense, is that a factor of you getting to know their business better and then being able to suggest things? Because you've got a fix on the kinds of things they're trying to do, the kind of customer challenges they have?

Yeah, I'd say it's a combination of, the client realizes what's possible with the technology, and they get excited, and they start to get creative internally. And then we also start to build a trusted relationship with them as we do more projects over time and get to know their business. So we bring creative ideas to them as well. So I think it goes both ways. Certainly, it's not just one direction.

And these days, you're finding that an increasingly important part of what you do is helping these enterprises deliver cloud solutions on mobile platforms, isn't it?

Yeah, it's unbelievable the explosiveness of the mobile area related to cloud technologies. We have been focusing on mobile for about three years now. And for a while, certainly, there was adoption within the enterprise, but it was a little bit slow-going. We had a couple of big customers doing big rollouts of certain applications around productivity, like order entry or things like that on a mobile device — and usually the mobile device was a tablet or a PC.

And then what we've seen recently is this huge demand — and a huge curiosity — from the enterprise about how to leverage these technologies — and part of that, of course, is driven by the iPad, iPhone, Android devices. And now we're seeing a lot of companies coming to us and just asking how can they leverage these devices. We actually have companies that are buying iPads. They've bought hundreds or thousands of them, and they don't even have a specific use case, and they're coming to us and asking, saying, hey, can you help us with our strategy? What can we do with these things?

That's unbelievable — people actually buying the technology before they know what they want to do with it. That's more something you'd expect from the consumer market than the enterprise market, isn't it?

Yeah, absolutely. And one of the really interesting use cases that we've been recommending as sort of a first step — and so of course, there's full mobile applications with signature capture, order entry, field service where you can really go deep. But some companies that are just trying to get their feet wet a little bit, what we've been recommending for them is something as simple as content management on an iPad, for example. So whether it's taking documentation from Salesforce, or from Amazon Web Service, or wherever you're taking the creative from, leveraging that on an iPad, for example — so you can be offline or online, connected or disconnected, and show just beautiful presentations, or videos, or PDFs to a customer, or in a field service situation if you're meeting with whoever. And you can be in a hospital, or you can have a connection or not. So it's a great way to take advantage of the technology and it's a pretty light application.

Does it tend to be people using mobile devices for internal staff productivity, or is it more to be able to reach out to customers and let them do more self-service things?

Yeah, that's a great question. What we've seen historically is, companies have started with productivity from a mobile perspective. So, making it more efficient to take an order, for example. What we've seen more recently is a lot more excitement about going further than that, where actually you're sharing the screen with a client or with a prospect.

Yes, the iPad I think is really good for that, isn't it? Where you're with a customer, for example, you're both able to look at the screen and interact with the screen.

Yeah, that's exactly right. One of the exciting verticals for us now — and we do go to market with a vertical strategy — is within the consumer packaged goods and retail industries. And what we're seeing is actually an interest for the first time in building clienteling applications on the cloud.

So [there are] some really interesting use cases where, with iPad in the store environment, the sales rep or the store associate will actually have an application on their iPad — or, hopefully in the future, Android tablets as well — and it's a beautiful layout, they've no idea it's Salesforce.com or Amazon Web Services in the backend. But from a client perspective, they can share the screen with the client, and move things around the screen, and put together bundles of products — really, really slick interfaces — and we see that being a big part of our future and a great way for enterprise to accelerate the adoption of these technologies.

One of the things that previous guests have said on podcasts when we've talked about cloud development: it tends to be a much more iterative process. I'm just wondering, in the relationships that you have with your customers, do the projects sometimes stretch on and on, and it becomes more of an ongoing relationship rather than, you do one project and then that's the end of the relationship until they come back a couple of years later?

Yeah, sure. I think there's a couple of interesting points in there. So first, from an iterative standpoint, [that's] absolutely the way we approach these projects. The nice thing about the cloud is, we can develop and prototype so rapidly, from a combination of clicks and a combination of code, to show the client as-you-go, in an iterative perspective, what these solutions are looking like — and get constant feedback and user testing so we can go live far more quickly and with far less risk, because the client isn't waiting a long time before they actually see something.

In terms of follow-on projects: so what we typically find is, the client gets so excited about the technology — and whether it's an IT department that gets excited or whether it's the business — generally, we end up working with the client over the long term. So the first project is a success, everyone loves it, everyone gets really excited about what's possible with the technology, and then we quickly identify a follow-on project. It could be something completely different, a mobile solution followed by a call center solution, followed by a portal. But generally, once people put their hands on the technology and start to leverage it, they get very creative about what's possible and we try to build very great long-term relationships.

Right. And obviously, that's keeping you pretty busy.

Yeah, for sure. It's been an exciting couple of years, especially — we've been around since 2003 and enterprises every year would embrace in a greater fashion these technologies. But really what we've seen, probably in the past twenty-four months, is just a huge acceleration in the size of company — and the breadth at which they're deploying, not just divisions but top-down across the company, is really tremendous.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

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