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How SAP Is Leading the Mobile Charge

by Q&A with Dan Mahowald | insiderPROFILES

April 1, 2011

Enterprise mobility is unlike any IT trends of the past, and there are a lot of questions around it. Fortunately, expert Dan Mahowald has a lot of answers. As Vice President of North America Enterprise Mobility, SAP Americas, Mahowald shares his thoughts on a variety of mobility topics in this eye-opening Q&A.

Q&A with Dan Mahowald, Vice President, North America, Enterprise Mobility, SAP Americas

Enterprise mobility differs dramatically from past IT trends. As a consumer technology that is being pulled into the enterprise, mobility is bringing software vendors like SAP into some very interesting new waters. For instance, to help its retail customers, SAP is developing a mobile application that enables consumers using mobile devices to identify product discounts and coupons in real time while shopping.

This is just one of 100 prospective mobile-enabled applications that SAP is developing, which suggests that SAP aims to reach way beyond its current install base with these mobile apps. To get a deeper perspective on SAP’s mobile development strategy, insiderPROFILES recently asked Dan Mahowald, Vice President, North America, Enterprise Mobility, SAP Americas, for his thoughts on a variety of mobility topics.

His responses might hold a few surprises for SAP customers, regardless of where they are on the mobility adoption curve. Also in this issue, two SAP customers — Tellabs and Novus International — offer the customer perspective on building a mobility strategy; see the following two articles for their insights.

Q: What market forces are pulling mobility into the enterprise world?

Employees at both large and small companies are putting tremendous pressure on their CIOs and IT organizations to provide a mobile experience in their professional environments that’s similar to the one they enjoy in their personal and consumer lives. That employee-driven movement is aggressively moving firms’ mobility agendas forward. And I choose to call it a “movement,” not an “initiative,” because it truly is a major shift in how companies are opening up to a consumer-based choice.

Q: But lots of employee-driven requests typically go unanswered. What makes mobility different?

Mobility provides speed and agility, and those are business benefits that companies believe in enough to start taking their employees’ requests seriously. Today’s business happens in real time. So the ROI for mobility is that it brings that element of velocity to every dimension of the business. Employees want access to business data on mobile devices. And IT departments can no longer say, “No.” They are now tasked with delivering this access securely on a variety of mobile devices.

Q: What exactly is driving SAP customers to go mobile?

There are three main use cases for mobility among SAP enterprises. The first is the company that wants to dip its toe in the mobile water and start with something we already have, like our mobile workflow and sales applications on the Sybase Unwired Platform.

Other customers are companies that start by using our Sybase Afaria mobile device management solution — a platform to securely manage, provision, and decommission mobile devices — to help their IT organizations manage the growing multitude of employee devices.

But the third group is the most exciting. These companies have unique business processes they want to mobile-enable, and they are asking SAP to help them create mobile applications that mimic or model those business processes.

Q: What is an example of a company in that third group?

One example is a consumer packaged goods customer that needed an easy way for its field service personnel to report trademark infringements from the field. In the past, these employees would report infringements to their legal department via email or phone. But, as you can imagine, this is a very visual process. So we created a conceptual app that lets field personnel take a picture of the infringement in the store using a mobile device. Then, GPS functionality automatically picks up the location of the store where the infringement occurred. The mobile application then routes all that data, via a pre-designed workflow, directly to the legal department, notifying them of the potential infringement. What took months to act on now happens in seconds — in real time.

Q: Is simplifying the user experience a big part of SAP’s mobility strategy, or is SAP just testing the waters?

We are way beyond testing the waters. Simplifying and enhancing the user experience are both central to SAP’s mobile strategy. We’re not just re-creating an existing ERP application for a mobile device. We’re thinking about what business process components we can tailor-fit to a mobile worker and deploy rapidly into the landscape — but it will take time to build up that application portfolio. Now, with Sybase, we have the foundation for building these apps much more easily, and we can leverage our domain expertise in line-of-business and industry-specific verticals to determine which business processes to mobile-enable.

Right now, we’re compiling a list of 100 applications across lines of business and industries that we believe are critically important to our customers and the market at large and can be mobile-enabled. My team is working with the application development team at SAP/Sybase to create conceptual apps. We’re also taking this inventory into the market to get some ideas from our customers about how they can co-innovate and partner with us. That will also help us validate that we’ve selected the right processes and haven’t missed any key ones.

We want validation and idea sharing with customers, as well as to create a partner ecosystem that inspires partners to develop and deploy applications and anchor them to our platform.

Q: You said “market at large.” Does that mean SAP will be developing mobile apps for non-SAP customers?

Every single company on the planet is a prospect for SAP mobility. Our development environment is extremely open, we use standard tools, and our platform and mobile device management solution will even attach to our competitors’ applications. Virtually, we can attach any enterprise data, structured or unstructured, to our platform to create mobile applications. So, even companies that don’t use any SAP technology can leverage the Sybase Unwired Platform.

Our development environment is extremely open, and our platform and mobile device management solution will even attach to our competitors’ applications.

Read on to learn how SAP customers Tellabs and Novus International are working to unwire their enterprises.

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