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Road Warriors and Mobile Wannabes: SAP's Mobility Initiative Serves a New Generation of Business Users

by Kevin Nix | SAPinsider

July 1, 2010

A new generation of business users demands immediate access to their business solutions through mobile devices. Yet, few appealing mobile business applications are available. In this Q&A, Kevin Nix, leader of SAP's mobile initiative, answers key questions about why—and how—SAP is rising to meet these enterprise mobility needs.
 

 


Q: SAP has offered mobile applications for years. Why a new mobile initiative now?

A: We have seen a rapid change in the mobile market’s landscape in the last few years. At first, mobile devices had limited computing capabilities, and data services were expensive and not readily available. Accordingly, mobile applications were restricted to niche users such as field service workers and outside sales representatives.

Recently, however, smartphones — or mobile phones offering advanced, PC-like capabilities — have become “smarter,” data services more affordable, and connectivity more prevalent. Consequently, we’ve seen an explosion of consumer mobile applications, creating new end-user expectations. Consumers want valuable applications that are easy to access, download, and use.

Now, a new generation of business users demands immediate access to business solutions through mobile devices. Yet, if you visit any mobile application store, you’ll see only a handful of appealing business applications. This creates a huge opportunity for us to step up to the plate.

Q: These business users who want mobile access to business applications — are they the traditional “road warriors”?

A: In many cases, yes. They are users whose work requires frequent travel. Truly mobile workers, such as outside salespeople, want to use mobile devices to access customer information, prospects, leads, and business processes. When they have downtime on the road, they can use mobile applications to prepare for sales calls, handle administrative tasks, and update pipeline information.

Q: Is there another group of potential users that can benefit from mobile applications?

A: Yes; we call them “mobile wannabes” — individuals who don’t necessarily travel for work, but who desire around-the-clock access to business-oriented applications, such as email or approvals.

Mobile wannabes essentially want the same thing as road warriors: technology that supports their blended work style. Perhaps you would find them checking their email before bed or following up on tasks while waiting for a meeting to begin. Being able to keep things moving allows them to achieve their desired work/life balance. This is especially true for workers who absorbed additional responsibilities in the economic downturn.

Q: There are clearly many benefits for business users — but can businesses themselves benefit from providing mobile access to workers?

A: Absolutely. Mobile solutions can truly transform how work gets done. When employees have the freedom to address information or workflow requests whenever and wherever they want, they gain more control over their time and productivity. For example, a sales rep can look at new leads from marketing while waiting to board a plane, or a manager can approve a workflow step after dinner. You can see how a business would gain value through faster processes, improved operational efficiency, and even increased sales. Mobile access to enterprise applications can accelerate the speed of business.

Q: How will SAP help companies realize the value of mobility?

A: We strive to increase the adoption, reach, and value of SAP mobile solutions by delivering more applications on more devices, with the rich user experience that customers expect. To do this, we’ll focus on our core strengths as a business process company, while partnering with enterprise mobility market leaders to deliver prepackaged mobile applications.

Our first co-innovation partners are Sybase Inc. (which SAP is to acquire, as announced in May1) and Syclo LLC, two leading mobile platform providers. Through this partnering, we can accelerate the delivery of both cloud and connected mobile business solutions — ones that run on a variety of devices and deliver a rich user experience — to the market.

Q: Are you developing applications with these co-innovation partners?

A: Since co-innovation is a critical element of our mobile strategy, we are indeed collaborating with these vendors to create comprehensive solutions through joint development, testing, solution qualification, go-to-market plans, and support.

Sybase is working with us to build mobile solutions that integrate with an organization’s existing SAP Business Suite applications. These applications, such as SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), can be deployed across a heterogeneous mobile landscape. By integrating mobile solutions with their enterprise data and processes, companies can extend their investments in existing enterprise software. We’re also working with Syclo to develop high-ROI mobile solutions for enterprise asset management and field service needs.

In addition to these co-innovation partners, SAP is enabling its partner ecosystem to provide innovative mobile applications to our customers. Interested customers can visit SAP EcoHub (http://ecohub.sdn.sap.com/irj/ecohub/category/mobile), where several partners have listed the mobile applications they offer.

Q: SAP’s mobile strategy breaks down mobile applications into “simple” and “complex” categories. Can you explain what that means?

A: To help businesses, we need to make “complex” mobile scenarios possible — for example, a ruggedized device sending data from an oil rig; communications where connectivity is inconsistent; or applications that require high degrees of computation logic and power. For these scenarios, we are both building and partnering with enterprise mobility market leaders, who will handle issues like the synchronization logic — which is needed to get data to and from your back-end SAP software systems — as well as security and network awareness.

“Simple” mobile solutions — those that will require no synchronization middleware because the business logic runs on the service and connections are assured — can be easily built as features in existing products or as extensions. We plan to do this ourselves, and we encourage our partner ecosystem to do the same.

Q: Are any SAP mobile applications already available?

A: Our co-innovation partners have applications already available and deployed at some large SAP customers. We have many more applications in development — for example, to streamline travel receipts capture and workflow for employee mobile devices. Let’s say an employee needs to visit a customer. As each expense is incurred, this employee can use his or her mobile device to capture trip details using a built-in camera or voice recorder, save the expense details, and then use these details to easily finish off the travel expense report back in the office.

We’re already working with device vendors, such as Research in Motion Ltd., to create the best possible experience for each device type. And we’ll continue to add innovation partners to help us build captivating, employee-facing solutions.

Q: What advice can you offer companies that want to get ready for enterprise mobility?

A: Business users have vast mobility requirements, and no single company can meet them all. Companies need choices and should not have to depend on one hardware vendor or service provider for their mobile needs. That is why partnering should be a priority, as it is with SAP’s mobility strategy. With its co-innovation partners, SAP will provide customers with the privilege to choose platforms and applications that best fit their business needs. Embracing the value of enterprise mobility applications can help companies stay ahead of the competition.

Kevin Nix

Kevin Nix (kevin.nix@sap.com) is Senior Vice President of Business Solutions and Technology at SAP, where he is responsible for the company’s mobility strategy and products. Prior to joining SAP, Kevin was CEO and Co-Founder of SkyData Systems, a company that built innovative business mobile applications for smartphones. He also spent 10 years with the Founder’s Circle of Siebel Systems, where he managed CRM products, mobile handheld solutions, and industry vertical products.

1 For more information, go to www.sap.com/press.epx?pressid=13202. [back]

 

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