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WBT Interviews…XcelleNet's CEO, Joan Herbig

WBT Interviews…XcelleNet's CEO, Joan Herbig

WBT's editor-in-chief Robert Diamond recently asked Joan Herbig about her role in a company that has seen explosive growth in the past year thanks to Afaria, the popular solution for enterprises faced with managing a large number of mobile devices from a central location.

WBT: When was XcelleNet founded, and how did you get involved?
JH: I've held this position since February 2000 when Francisco Partners, a San Francisco-based equity fund, purchased the company from Sterling Commerce, a B2B e-commerce company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. XcelleNet was originally founded in 1986 and went public on the NASDAQ in 1994. It was later acquired by Sterling Commerce in 1998 and operated for two years as the company's managed systems division. I was president of that division, after having been XcelleNet's VP of marketing.

Since its inception, XcelleNet has been a pioneer in securely delivering and maintaining mission-critical applications and content to remote locations with its flagship product, RemoteWare. Using our expertise in a challenging operating environment, we introduced Afaria in May 2000. Afaria is our device management solution designed to address the management problems enterprises face as their employees use mobile devices for business applications. With the explosive growth of the mobile and wireless economy, enterprises and IT managers are turning to Afaria for their mobile management needs. Afaria provides the most comprehensive management functionality available for organizations deploying large numbers of mobile devices, including laptops, PocketPCs, Palm computers, Symbian devices, smartphones, and RIM BlackBerry pagers.

WBT: What about current trends in the mobile management market as well as in the wireless space?
JH: Mobile devices, especially PDAs, are invading the corporate enterprise. The majority of these devices are being brought in through "the back door" as employees purchase their own mobile devices to use as personal management tools. It's now becoming apparent to IT managers and CIOs that they are faced with a proliferation of handheld and wireless devices that they will be forced to support all too soon. Organizations are starting to wake up to the fact that valuable and sensitive corporate data is being loaded on these devices. Tracking their location and use, as well as assuring the security of the data, is becoming a major issue for IT organizations. Corporate information now exists beyond the confines of traditional networks.

WBT: What's a typical day in the life of a wireless executive? How do you benefit from using wireless?
JH: I have a RIM BlackBerry pager that I keep with me at all times. At night, it lays on my bedside table and if I wake up at 3 a.m., I sometimes check to see if I have received important correspondence from our European operation that needs my immediate attention. I use my BlackBerry to catch up on morning e-mails as I dress and make my way to the office. I check voice mail and respond to those messages on my cell phone. Once at the office, I attend meetings in various conference rooms throughout our facilities.

I also carry a small laptop PC linked to the corporation's wireless LAN so I can always have whatever information I need from my files or from the Web at my fingertips. After work my wireless device is especially important, since it enables me to attend events with my family - such as my young daughter's softball games - and remain confident that I can be reached if a critical situation develops. Many times, I make decisions that require only a few words via e-mail for my employees to continue working on a project back at the office. Using this technology, I never worry about being a bottleneck.

In general, I don't have to be constantly chained to my office to run the company and I get to participate in certain activities with family and friends that wouldn't be possible if I wasn't so "well connected."

WBT: Do you have any frustrations with wireless devices?
JH: Spotty network coverage in the U.S.

WBT: Can you give us an example of a business situation you resolved using a wireless device?
JH: We had a large time-sensitive deal on the table that ran into a snag. My folks did not have the authority to agree on a final demand by the customer. I was changing planes on a long trip when I got the e-mail that I was needed. I made a phone call before I boarded the plane, and finalized the sale. Had I not been available, we could not have resolved the problem without losing precious time and momentum.

WBT: Where do you see the wireless market in five years?
JH: I expect the wireless market to continue to grow rapidly, at least 40-50% per year, over the next five years. I believe we will see convergence of devices, but that organizations will continue to have to support a number of operating platforms as employees demand devices that best fit their job tasks and work environment.

WBT: What companies are doing the most for wireless technology? Why are Europe and Asia ahead of the U.S.?
JH: The carriers have been evangelizing the use of wireless technologies for a number of years. Even though much of this has been focused on the individual consumer, it has helped build awareness and create ideas for the business world.

Because Europe and Asia have had a less-developed landline infrastructure, wireless has been more cost-effective to implement. Again, however, consumers have been the initial beneficiaries. For wireless to truly become integrated into critical business processes, we believe that applications must lead the way. The U.S. has always been a leader in developing software that addresses business requirements. I believe we will make significant progress over the next couple of years in the area of wireless business solutions as we see the maturation of the devices, the networks, and the applications. This bodes well for management tools that help organizations - no matter where they are located - control the device, the data, and the business process.

XcelleNet Introduces Afaria 4.5
Last month, XcelleNet released the next generation of its management system for mobile devices, Afaria 4.5. Using a single server and management console, Afaria 4.5 provides IT managers with expanded options to meet all their mobile device management needs for handheld devices, interactive pagers, and smartphones. New features of Afaria 4.5 will enable administrators to:

  • Automatically configure new devices added to the network
  • Customize installation configurations, connection schedules, and client execution options
  • Minimize connect time with file differencing and segmented file delivery
  • Support unattended client management
  • Utilize handheld inventory change detection

    Atlanta-based XcelleNet's Afaria solutions manage mobile devices not continuously connected to the corporate information infrastructure - from laptop computers to Palms, BlackBerry pagers, and smartphones - in a single product. A complete suite of capabilities includes software deployment, hardware and software asset tracking, information exchange, and system backup. Afaria also offers IT managers the ability to remotely manage antivirus software and provide the organization with a single solution to use across all mobile device types.

  • More Stories By Robert Diamond

    Robert Diamond is the founder and editor-in-chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the premiere theater site on the net now receiving over 100,000 unique visitors a day. He is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media - a leading designer of entertainment and technology web sites. He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com's consistently sold-out Joe's Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts. Diamond was also named one of the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by Folio magazine. Robert holds a BS degree in information management and technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Visit his blog at www.robertdiamond.com.

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