Greg Tomb is founder and CEO of Vivido Labs, a new company that helps SAP customers extend the value of their SAP investment through its mobile solutions and expert services. Tomb got his doctorate in the software industry and began his career as a software developer in the late 1980s. In 1992, he started working at SAP on the consulting side, and then held roles in support, in sales, and, ultimately, as CEO and President of SAP North America.
After spending more than 15 years at SAP, Tomb decided to start his next venture and found himself not too far away from that same SAP world. “I’ve got SAP DNA — I bleed blue everyday,” he says. “I’m one of those people who really believes in what the applications from SAP can do for an SAP customer, but I’m also a big believer that when people spend the initial investments in SAP software, they only scratch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the value they can get out of their SAP systems.”
In this interview, Tomb shares what he’s learned about SAP customers and explores the key areas where companies can go beyond the “tip of the iceberg” to realize the full potential of their SAP systems.
Q: As former President and CEO of SAP North America, and now head of a new company serving the same customers, it seems you have a unique view into the key issues they face. Would you agree?
For my next venture, I was looking for a place where I could make a major impact, and to me, that involved helping companies unleash the tremendous value that their business can get from one of the most important and largest investments they have made — SAP software.
So I started my business by talking to the most important source — SAP customers. I said to them, “Let’s talk about the areas where you’re struggling or need help. And, from a usability standpoint, if there’s something that could bring you huge value, what is it?” The feedback from those 50 customers, in conjunction with many conversations with SAP executives, led to the focus of Vivido today.
Then, I had to decide if I wanted to join an established company that had set its course or if I wanted to start something from the ground up. I chose to start from the ground up because today’s world is much different from the world we knew even just a year ago, and every company is being forced to think differently. This gave me the flexibility to do something that solved problems of today.
Q: At what point would companies look to you for help with their SAP systems?
When I founded Vivido, I said, “How can we do this in a way that is truly integrated with SAP, so that our offerings become an advantage on top of existing SAP services and offerings?” A majority of our focus is on working with customers after they complete a project; Vivido enables customers to become more self-sufficient in dealing with problems, extending the capabilities of their SAP software, and enabling their employees to dramatically increase productivity through the use of their mobile devices.
Once the consulting company leaves, that’s where Vivido steps in. We’re the on-demand factor that helps customers deal with any additional issues that arise. After a customer goes live, hundreds of little issues can pop up with configuration, design, and interfaces, or perhaps there are architecture issues. We understand that customers can’t typically have consulting partners hanging around to help support the system due to the cost. We’re there to provide the flex factor that offers on-demand assistance in a much more cost-effective manner with some of the best local experience in the SAP market.
Q: So what does Vivido offer customers, exactly? Can you break it down?
There are currently two main offerings. First is our On–Demand Expert Services, where customers looking for problem resolution or advice can log an SAP-related issue with us directly on our web site, and within 24 hours we’ll have somebody on the phone helping remotely. We even send someone onsite if necessary. We have 400 of the best and brightest SAP platinum-level consultants as part of our Expert Services team.
Additionally, we focus on helping SAP customers improve end-user usability and increase their productivity. We have a portfolio of products that are targeted at both the desktop and mobile devices. On the mobile side, we have developed a mobile platform called “mowego,” which is geared specifically to the enterprise, with a major focus on enabling users to manage their business while providing the highest levels of security, management, and flexibility. We consider the mowego platform to be the most advanced platform for enterprise mobile business applications for mobile devices, and we have released more than 40 mobile applications that companies can leverage to extend the value of SAP and other back-end systems to the end user 24x7.
In designing our mobile applications, we put a lot of thought into usability and information flow to make business transactions simple and intuitive. In many cases, our applications combine actions with outside data (such as mapping) or even provide functions that augment current SAP capabilities. We specifically designed an open and agnostic platform and applications so companies have the flexibility to leverage a heterogeneous mobile device environment (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, etc.).
Q: You mentioned a focus on increasing productivity. How do your mobile applications make for more productive business users?
The value proposition for mobile business with our mowego platform is tremendous. Almost every company that has invested heavily in enterprise software has also made a big investment in putting mobile devices in the hands of its business users. These users are already using their mobile devices 24x7 for email and phone purposes — in taxis, working on the weekends, or traveling. With mowego, we give users the ability to leverage that same device to access the company’s investments in enterprise software and their back-end business transaction systems — and allow them to perform real business functions, anytime, anyplace. This offers a dramatic increase in productivity by letting them conduct business when not tied to a desktop or PC.
For example, we have a fairly large customer with a very large services organization (thousands of people in the field). Our mobile applications let employees enter their time, look at work orders, record against the work orders, look up inventory, request inventory for the field, and also enter expenses. Not only do the applications enable employees to be more efficient in everything they do in the field, but they also make employees more productive during the work week by providing access to simple tasks, like expense management, which users can perform at night, during travel, or on weekends, instead of during office hours. Note, just one additional hour per week — that’s four hours more per month and 52 hours more per year — would equate to a productivity increase of $10 million per year across a mobile workforce of 2,000 people.
Q: Do smaller companies also have similar needs?
When you look at the value we have around our main offerings, they are applicable to companies of every size, big and small. The ability to get expert help is extremely valuable for small companies that can’t afford to have full-time consultants employed after go-live, as well as for the big companies who want a fast response. On the mobile side, big and small companies alike already pay $100 or more per month per employee to put these mobile devices in their hands. We’re providing a way, with a very low additional cost, for companies to leverage their current investment in SAP and mobile technology and get a near immediate boost in productivity.
The majority of our mobile applications serve to enable remote business activities in areas such as sales, forecasting, field service, procurement, inventory, time and expense management, and HR activities. From a business intelligence perspective, these applications also allow data retrieval and analysis from warehouses like SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse and SAP BusinessObjects solutions — putting reporting at the mobile user’s fingertips. The mobile applications are applicable to every industry and every customer. While they may not support every unique mobile transaction that certain industries want, we’ll get there over time. Our customers come from almost every industry you can imagine.
Q: We’re also talking about companies with long-standing SAP systems; how does Vivido help them?
Let me give you an example: We have a customer — an environmental product and service provider headquartered in Texas — that put in SAP software as a baseline three years ago. This organization has become very self-sufficient, and now they’re doing all of the add-on projects on their own with limited assistance. Becoming self-sufficient was critical to them, and they use our On-Demand Expert Services as the flex factor to come in and review their work, such as a certain design or configuration decision, before they move to the next milestone. We let them know if they did it right or if they missed something and suggest next steps: “You may want to backtrack and fix X, Y, and Z before you move on; otherwise, you’re going to have problems.”
Q: For you, what’s the most exciting thing about Vivido?
I like to see SAP customers changing the way they do business, as well as witness the dramatic impact that SAP software can have on companies, allowing them to grow and expand. I am now in a position where I am helping customers do that with immediacy.
For example, a customer came to us with an issue that was stopping them from appropriately pricing their products in the marketplace and costing them millions of dollars. They had been struggling to find an individual to help solve the issue for two months. Within 24 hours of contact, we had the problem solved. On the mobile side, literally within less than a month, we can have a thousand-plus people in the field doing transactions and leveraging their back-end SAP systems — making them productive 24x7 and having fun while doing it!
My passion comes from really helping these companies find additional ways to get more value and benefits from their investments. It’s interesting when you think about the name of our company. Vivido is an Italian word that means “to bring life”; that’s why we chose the name Vivido Labs and why our focus has such a major impact on companies’ success with SAP software.