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Mobility Gone Mainstream

How Companies Improve the User Experience and Optimize Business Processes by Focusing First on Mobility

by Scott Geddes and Botond Kiss | SAPinsider, Volume 16, Issue 3

July 20, 2015

Mobility for the sake of mobility is no longer enough. This article explains how a mobile first approach to business can not only improve user experience but also optimize business processes, accelerate workflows, and increase engagement.

 

Enterprise mobility is undergoing a fundamental shift in which companies are now focusing on mobility as a vehicle to drive the simplification of complex business processes. This is the tipping point that has propelled mobility into the mainstream and given it a seat at the table as an integral part of business strategy.

Companies are turning to mobile solutions to accelerate workflows, empower users, increase engagement with internal and external customers, and even transform business models. Yet mobility for mobility’s sake is no longer the end game. Rather, whether it’s for a salesforce to have real-time access to accounts, for field service technicians to receive and log work order updates on the go, or for warehouse managers to quickly pull inventory lists, mobility is the delivery mechanism for bringing a modern, consumer-like user experience (UX) to business process optimization (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1 — Today's mobile leaders are doing more to integrate mobile into the fabric of their business

 

Driving User Adoption with a Modern, Consumer-Like Experience

In conversation after conversation we have with clients, UX is more often than not their number-one priority. It’s a fundamental concern because of its vital importance to enhancing business processes. Delivering a modern, consumer-like UX means companies need to empower users and make a process accessible away from the office while still feeding that process with data from a backend system. And it means speed — users can complete mission-critical tasks in a fraction of the time they used to take.

Because mobility accomplishes this, it is increasingly the go-to solution for enterprise challenges. One oil and gas customer came to IBM with a vexing problem: It was struggling to attract and retain quality employees because of how those employees interacted with technology. From outdated user interfaces (UIs), to processes heavily dependent on interacting with IT, to difficulty accessing real-time data, employees said it seemed like they were going back in time 15 years every time they walked into the office. UX drives user adoption, and quality talent isn’t interested in interfacing with old technology. This is especially true for millennials, who by 2020 are expected to represent 50% of the global workforce.1  
 

With mobility now inseparable from UX, the traditional role-based view of mobility — in that mobility mostly benefited field personnel and sales — now extends to employees involved with manufacturing, management, raw materials, warehousing, and plant maintenance. This shift can be thought of as an intersection between the consumerization of IT and the growing trend of a pervasive business-to-consumer (B2C) culture. A modern UX benefits the user for many reasons, not the least of which is how that user engages with external customers who expect to be sold goods and services in their preferred way.

Transforming the Business Through Better Processes and Quicker Implementation Cycles

Enhanced business value through mobility means more than completing tasks faster than before. In addition to making specific day-to-day functions easier and more efficient, a mobile app should also provide unique information. In the case of a telecommunications service call, for example, there is demand for an app to determine what to do in a given situation: Can it identify the repair history of a component and dictate the next steps accordingly? It is increasingly important that a mobile app drive value from an analytics standpoint in addition to streamlining a business process.

 

Mobility for mobility’s sake is no longer the end game. Rather, mobility is the delivery mechanism for bringing a modern, consumer-like user experience to business process optimization.

This speaks to embracing mobility for its transformational capabilities. Organizations understand that accelerating how they’re changing their business models can put them in a position to disrupt an industry, and in many cases mobility is the vehicle that drives this sea change.

Mobility also contributes to a fundamental culture change. The rules of engagement are changing quickly and new expectations are being cemented among employees, partners, and customers. Mobility provides the required agility to capitalize on meeting those expectations.

Another new paradigm in mobility’s impact on enterprise systems is the dramatically shortened implementation cycle, which affects the lifecycle management of an organization’s stable of mobile apps. The pace of change in mobility far outpaces that of a traditional SAP implementation, where one or two changes a year to maintain and update were the norm. Now, with mobility precluding that formerly herculean effort to make changes, organizations are freer to explore innovations and to roll those out with fewer budgetary or resource restrictions. And as one of the largest SAP integrators on a global scale, helping organizations drive these innovations through mobility is a core IBM strength (see Figure 2).

 

Figure 2 — An overview of IBM's strategic approach

 

A Partnership That Empowers Customers on Their Mobility Journey

As mobile apps begin to saturate the marketplace across the various dimensions, including role-based, offline-capable apps across a multitude of industries, companies intuitively comprehend that true mobile benefits — beyond a simplified and intuitive UX — are achieved by having a strategic platform that links a company’s mobile strategy with overall business objectives, ties a mobile portfolio into backend systems and processes, and connects to a system of record.

For many IBM clients, this system of record is an SAP system, which is why IBM and its breadth of enterprise assets are so well suited to help customers on their mobility journeys, from both a development and a services standpoint, and through IBM’s unique partnership with Apple.

Complementing SAP’s mobile capabilities, the IBM-Apple partnership delivers mobile solutions for the enterprise in four distinct go-to-market offerings. First, IBM is an authorized iPhone and iPad enterprise reseller. Second, in addition to providing an extended hardware salesforce, IBM is also authorized to deliver enterprise support — a Genius Bar for the enterprise, if you will — for Apple devices. An organization that buys 1,000 iPads from IBM receives support from purchase through the complete product life cycle.

From the development side, the third differentiator in the IBM-Apple partnership is the IBM MobileFirst iOS platform, which includes development tools and mobile device management functionality to run and scale mobile apps through integration with backend systems of record. Whether for a fuel management app for a major airline, a telecommunications field service app, or a health service patient care app, backend integration is vital to an app’s usefulness, and this integration work is a key component of the IBM-Apple partnership.2  
 

 

While an end user is concerned mostly with performing a specific business process, if the company does not have proper control over a disparate set of mobile apps, or cannot provide a seamless connection to a system of record, it fails to generate the benefits of a strategic mobile platform.

IBM can help SAP customers leverage the benefits of this partnership. For example, IBM MobileFirst for iOS extends SAP Fiori apps to more tightly integrate with the iOS platform, which adds value for users. Features such as notifications and thumbprint recognition for secure access help with the UX while satisfying the IT team.

This brings us to the fourth and perhaps most important component of the IBM-Apple partnership: the nearly 150 MobileFirst for iOS industry-specific enterprise solutions that complement SAP’s natively built enterprise apps. We have touched on the importance of backend integration; as such these are not standalone apps, but they are developed with the business processes that rest in SAP systems in mind, and are pre-integrated to support those processes in a beautiful, engaging way.

This is a crucial, yet often overlooked component of enterprise mobility. While the end user is concerned mostly with performing a specific business process, if the company does not have proper control over a disparate set of mobile apps, or cannot provide a seamless connection to a system of record, it fails to generate the benefits of a strategic mobile platform.

Mobility Enters the Mainstream for Enterprises

IBM’s partnership with Apple, combined with its deep SAP experience, has become especially important in light of the strides SAP is making in the mobile space. SAP Fiori is a prime example. At launch two years ago, there were roughly two dozen SAP Fiori-based apps, with a license fee attached to their use. Now there are nearly 600 SAP Fiori apps — with no separate license fee — that span the entire solution portfolio.

One IBM client, a large professional services firm,   is rolling out SAP Fiori-based mobile apps along with some other customized SAPUI5 applications — the same framework behind SAP Fiori — to nearly 200,000 users. This is currently the largest global SAP Fiori rollout to date, and it underscores the fact that SAP is a big part of the reason why mobility has gone mainstream, attributed in large part to coalescing around a centralized, modern user experience.

But it’s more than just SAP Fiori. SAP Mobile Platform enables companies to build and deploy apps on premise. And with the release of SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services, SAP has planted its mobility stake in the ground with an open-source mobile development and consumption platform that is tightly woven into SAP’s stated mission of becoming known as the cloud company powered by SAP HANA.

 

SAP is embracing mobility as a key business imperative for itself and its customers. Our observation is that SAP’s mobility strategy has evolved into a central platform and set of enabling technologies for everything that an organization is accomplishing across lines of business and product lines.

This is another clear indication that SAP is embracing mobility as a key business imperative for itself and its customers. Our observation is that SAP’s mobility strategy has evolved in the past year from mobile as more or less a separate portfolio of products into a central platform and set of enabling technologies for everything that an organization is accomplishing across lines of business and product lines.

Where mobility is concerned, organizations are focused on business outcomes. Regardless of the deployment method — on-premise, hosted cloud, SAP HANA Cloud Platform — the bottom line is that there isn’t a distinction to be made as it concerns integration with the backend system. This is why IBM’s core strengths in the mobility space — the SAP system integration capabilities of the IBM MobileFirst platform, our cloud partnership with SAP, and our deep expertise of SAP technology — all contribute to help organizations develop an enterprise mobility strategy.

Moving Forward with an Enterprise Mobility Experience

Now that it is crystal clear that enterprise mobility is no longer a passing trend, but can and should be part of an overall business strategy, we have clients in every industry inquiring how best to optimize their business processes.

We are working closely with organizations across industries such as oil and gas, telecommunications, utilities, and consumer products that intuitively grasp that opportunities for more efficient business processes combined with superior user experience make this an optimal time to start or expand their mobile journey.

The interest in a best-in-class SAP enterprise mobility experience is driving customers to partner with IBM for its deep industry experience, its SAP expertise, and its track record of putting user experience at the forefront of the mobility charge. For more information, visit www.ibm.com/mobilefirst/us/en/mobilefirst-for-ios.

 

 

1 PwC, “PwC’s NextGen: A Global Generational Study” April 2013; www.pwc.com/us/en/people-management/publications/nextgen-global-generational-study.jhtml.[back]

2 For more information, visit www.ibm.com/mobilefirst/us/en/mobilefirst-for-ios. [back]

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Scott Geddes
Scott Geddes

Partner, IBM Global Business Services Mobility Leader
IBM


Botond Kiss
Botond Kiss

Director, Cloud Marketing
IBM



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