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Setting a Course for an Effective Enterprise Mobility Strategy

by Howard Beader | SAPinsider

October 1, 2005

by Howard Beader, SAP Global Marketing SAPinsider - 2005 (Volume 6), October (Issue 4)
 




Howard Beader,
SAP Global Marketing

This article is the first in a series dealing with the dynamic area of enterprise mobility. In future issues, this column will discuss changes in the mobile arena, how they will affect you and your business, and how you can best succeed in your efforts with mobile. We have slated a series of authors who will lend their experience and insight from almost a decade of SAP mobile offerings, covering topics such as running SAP solutions on smart phones, best practices for implementing SAP Solutions for Mobile Business, incorporating RFID and SAP solutions, and strategic planning for mobile business solutions, all in line with the future direction of enterprise mobility.

Enterprise mobility is not a new concept — most businesses have been running some sort of mobilized business processes for years now. The most established ones are typically found in warehouses or logistics departments (such as shippers and receivers on the docks quickly scanning materials in and out of inventory). Early innovators proved the value of mobile solutions, yielding benefits in cost savings, customer satisfaction, supply chain flexibility, and even revenue generation. But these early adopters also shared some challenges:

  • Enterprises deploying at the dawn of enterprise mobility had to become experts themselves to get a mobile solution up and running

  • The scenarios deployed were all custom-built and custom-maintained (think of UPS drivers with their custom mobile tablets)

  • The costs to deploy a solution were high

Today, the mobile space has changed considerably. For some functions, market adoption is so great that mobile capabilities are a competitive necessity rather than a competitive edge. This pervasiveness brings opportunities for standard mobility solution offerings, wider reach, and reduced costs of deployment. In other words, it's no longer inevitable that implementing a mobile solution will require in-house expertise or deployment resources that normally accompany a one-off solution. Standard solutions, with minimal customization, can achieve the same goals with lower costs when it comes to deployment and long-term maintenance.

This article offers a framework for evaluating your mobile solution needs, and highlights a practical approach to enterprise mobility for SAP customers that helps avoid introducing custom-built or one-off solutions for every mobile demand. With SAP Solutions for Mobile Business and SAP NetWeaver Mobile, customers can leverage their existing SAP infrastructure, lower integration costs, and still meet very specific mobile technology goals.

Considering the 3 Types of Mobile Solutions

Many companies make the mistake of taking a reactive approach to new mobile requirements as they see a need. For example, the Service Management line of business manager needs to enable all his service engineers with a mobile solution to replace their outdated paper processes and increase the organization's employee utilization, so they choose and deploy one of many mobile enterprise solutions. But if every new mobile scenario requires a custom solution, your enterprise is facing some big infrastructure and maintenance headaches.

Without understanding the complete picture, you could implement a mobile solution that cannot easily extend to meet the enterprise mobility needs of your entire organization. This could be a costly mistake if, for example, you were to have multiple middleware servers each supporting their own custom mobile solution.

A more strategic view of mobile solutions looks for common elements across a mobile solution set, which you could leverage for your industry or for workers in a particular user group. With this approach, you would consider the category of mobile functionality:

  • Functional mobile solutions, for tasks shared by a specific group of users: These include solutions for a particular team of users, such as salespeople or service teams out in the field.

  • Horizontal mobile solutions, for more general uses across a company: These include expense reporting solutions such as Time or Travel Management, or "casual use" scenarios such as key performance indicator reporting, or the ability to approve workflows on the fly.

  • Industry mobile solutions, for a specific industry: Some industries today require mobility for employees to do their jobs. Manufacturers in the consumer package goods (CPG) industry, for example, might require a mobile direct store delivery solution so that they can deliver products on demand directly to retail stores, priced accordingly and based on actual onsite consumption, in real time.

Functional scenarios attend to the needs of a particular group of users across industries but with a common function, and they frequently are among the most mission-critical tasks. Here, a single scenario can cover a lot of ground. For example, the typical mobile service scenario encompasses internal and external customer service and plant maintenance, but could support a variety of users, including:

  • Service representatives who visit customers and need to record complaints about goods or services, and who record service orders at the customer site. These reps can also access master data and maintain records about service activities.

  • Internal field engineers who perform plant maintenance tasks from a mobile device at customer sites or within plants while disconnected from the enterprise systems.

  • External service professionals who must plan and assign service requests to the appropriate service representative based on workers' availability and competency.

From a functional scenario perspective, enterprises must ask: Can we deploy a mobile service solution for the field service organization and a mobile sales solution for the sales teams, all utilizing the same infrastructure and without having to maintain custom interfaces to the backend systems?

Horizontal mobile scenarios usually serve a common business need that is felt across a wide range of roles and that can apply to almost any enterprise. An example is Time and Travel Management, which aims to significantly reduce organizations' travel expenditures through implementation of an electronic travel policy. When this solution is used in an industry such as professional services, it can also ensure faster billing cycles, reduced errors, and quicker turnaround of expense claims.

From a horizontal application perspective, organizations must determine if they can easily deploy these processes to a wide array of employees and still manage them effectively. Is integration into all the required backend systems available? Is there a common means of managing application deployment and user authentication? And can multiple scenarios run on a user's mobile device, all utilizing the same client and backend infrastructure? For example, if service engineers require both a mobile service solution and a time and travel solution, can they use them both on their mobile devices as one integrated solution?

Industry mobile solutions can be considered "killer" mobile applications within their respective industries. For example, the pharmaceutical industry sales force has some unique needs: Sales representatives maintain an electronic inventory of the drug samples they provide to medical practices and institutions. Upon delivery, sales representatives must capture a signature. A mobile solution customized for this industry enables all this to occur electronically. Today, such a "Mobile Pharma" sales solution is a requirement in order to remain competitive in the industry.

A specific industry solution, however, does not prohibit an organization from using either functional or horizontal solutions. In most cases, these solutions can also be easily customized for a respective industry.

So now you may ask, "This is all great information, but how can I apply it to my business?" You can start by evaluating your mobile business requirements based on three key questions:

  1. Do I need mobile functionality that is purely industry-focused?

  2. Do I need a mobile solution that is role-focused, and if so, how many user roles might my organization want to deploy?

  3. Are there common elements across a horizontal or functional solution that would apply to my industry?

Your answers to these questions should assist you in avoiding unnecessary complexity and duplication in your enterprise mobility strategy. SAP offers solutions and technology that allow customers to do just that — by leveraging their existing SAP infrastructure — and lower integration costs between SAP and non-SAP systems.

SAP Solutions for Mobile Business

SAP has been in the mobile space for most of a decade, delivering standard mobile solutions from SAP Console to SAP Mobile Time and Travel. In fact, mobile functionality is available throughout the entire mySAP ERP solution set for users across a variety of areas (see Figure 1). These offerings — all powered by SAP NetWeaver — provide enterprises with a standardized solution that is seamlessly integrated from the mobile device client to the backend systems.

Figure 1
SAP Solutions for Mobile Business Cover the Range of SAP Enterprise Solutions

For SAP customers, this means that you can deploy standard mobile solutions with relative ease. For example, if you're using mySAP CRM, SAP's mobile capabilities are already embedded in the solution, and they also already exist within SAP NetWeaver. Therefore, there is no need to implement a custom mobile solution on top of what you currently have in place — it's already there, so why add additional complexity to your enterprise infrastructure?

SAP NetWeaver Mobile

SAP NetWeaver Mobile provides the technical underpinning for each of the SAP Solutions for Mobile Business, and serves as both a development environment and an administration toolset for your mobile solutions. SAP NetWeaver Mobile consists of three distinct clients:
  • The Mobile .NET client

  • The Mobile Java client

  • The Mobile browser client

These clients provide a standardized approach to address multiple worker categories and device types, as noted in Figure 2. Each of the SAP NetWeaver Mobile clients is targeted at a specific device and role, in order to maximize users' device capabilities and interactions with the overall solution.

Figure 2
Users, Technolgy, and Devices Served by SAP NetWeaver Mobile

The Mobile .NET client is provided so that those field force experts using a Windows-powered tablet or laptop can take advantage of all the platform offers. The client enables a sales or service expert to work in a disconnected mode on their device without connecting to the backend system for significant amounts of time. This client also allows for the broadest range of business processes to be available on the device, supported by additional enterprise information and robust analytic capabilities.

The Mobile Java client is targeted for handheld devices such as a Pocket PC or PDA. This client allows role-based workers, such as plant maintenance technicians, to perform their daily tasks with the information they needs at their fingertips. The Java client enables an occasionally connected working environment, so that role-based workers can synchronize and exchange information as the enterprise requires.

The Mobile browser client enables information workers or executives to retrieve the most up-to-date information immediately from the backend system with a standard browser — from any device. This allows executives to extend the functionality of their current smart phone — from today's personal information manager (PIM) and email system to a vehicle for broader enterprise business-process capabilities. SAP NetWeaver Mobile provides the quickest and lowest cost method of extending SAP business processes to those employees closest to your customers: your field force.

SAP NetWeaver provides inherent integration into the backend system. Since this integration is already there, you most likely already have it; it's just a matter of deploying the mobile solution that best fits your business requirements. SAP is providing a full range of mobile solutions already today that respond to the bulk of customer demands. If for some reason these solutions are not a fit for your industry, SAP is also providing tools for customers and partners to extend the SAP standard mobile solutions, or even enable you to build completely new solutions.

Summary

The mobile marketplace has come a long way, and while it can be a challenging space, it can yield great benefits across a wide range of business areas. Armed with the understanding of your opportunities and pitfalls when it comes to custom-built and customized solutions, you can make an informed decision about how and when standard solutions can suit your enterprise mobility needs.

For more information on SAP Solutions for Mobile Business, please visit www.sap.com/mobile and www.sdn.sap.com. For more details on SAP NetWeaver Mobile technology, please visit www.sap.com/netweaver.


As Director of Product Marketing for SAP Solutions for Mobile Business, Howard Beader is responsible for advising customers on SAP's solutions for mobile business and managing the overall alignment of internal and external resources to ensure a consistent go-to-market strategy. Since joining SAP in 1998, Mr. Beader has contributed to the overall development of SAP's mobile initiative. Prior to assuming his current position, he led the mobile business product management team, which launched SAP's initial mobile applications. Mr. Beader also held the position of solution manager for SAP's Business Intelligence solution, where he worked with a number of early customers to help establish the solution. He has also spoken at a variety of SAP conferences. Prior to joining SAP America, Mr. Beader served as the Director of Operations for Corton, Inc., a high-tech corporation located in Massachusetts that manufactures custom data entry products. Mr. Beader holds a bachelors degree in Finance from Salem State College.

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