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Going Mobile in Las Vegas

by Dave Hannon

November 9, 2012

By Dave Hannon

There were a lot of moving parts at the SAPinsider co-located conferences last week and I tried to get a flavor for all them while I was there (let's just say the carpet at the Mandalay Bay is a bit thinner as a result of my coverage).

While I've already provided a taste of what I caught at Reporting and Analytics 2012 and you can catch some of my coverage of Managing Your SAP Projects 2012 here and here. But I haven't yet documented what I saw at the Enterprise Mobility 2012 conference. And this was a great mix of technology roadmaps, thought leadership, and real-world case studies.

For example Robert Osterhaus of Forest Labs described how his company, a longtime SAP user, migrated its travel management application to the Sybase Unwired Platform. The $4.2 billion drugmaker has been running SAP for 18 years. "About a year ago, our leadership called IT and asked us to determine what the future of mobility is beyond the Blackberry," says Osterhaus. After some investigating, the IT team decided an area to get some quick wins in mobility was approvals workflows.
Historically, managers had to use VPN to approve travel requests and expense reports, which can be complicated in the pharma market because reps have to document who they were with closely. This was not an optimal process while travelling. As a longtime SAP user, the Sybase platform made the most sense so a 50-seat proof-of-concept for travel expense approval was launched a year ago.

"We kept the architecture simple, so it was done in days not weeks," says Osterhaus. Now a manager is alerted when a travel expense report is submitted and can view and approve the report on a mobile device. The result is faster, more efficient approvals by managers on the road and a demo on an iPad proved it out.

Alok Shrivastava, Director, Enterprise Solutions at the Principal Consulting Group, helped attendees of Enterprise Mobility 2012 answer the burning question: native, web, or hybrid app? He defined each model clearly and provided the pros and cons associated with the various options.
Shrivastava showed a demo of a native app the Principal Consulting Group built to help track medical records. A hybrid app, he said, runs off a server, not a device, so all updates are automatic and don't have to wait for the app to be reloaded. Shrivastava also pointed out that iOS developers are in high demand and short supply right now. 
"At the end of the day, a native app might be best for performance and device access, but they are more expensive and require updates be pushed out," he said. "In short, no approach is perfect."

Another real-world mobility case study came from Carl Stahl, a German company that makes industrial hooks, ropes and chains. The company's field service personnel are required to use a checklist on site to document their service procedures. But in many cases, the technician might not know exactly what product they will be inspecting until they arrive on-site and therefore isn't sure which checklist is required.

And if the product being inspected is deemed to be no longer useful, the Karl Stahl sales organization must be notified immediately.

So the longtime SAP user worked with the recently acquired Syclo and initiated a project to build a fully integrated SAP-based service process that leveraged mobile technology. Now when a repair is made to a piece of equipment which requires the use of a new service checklist, that checklist is readily available. 

The advantage of working with Syclo is that it was pre-integrated with SAP and it does support the use of photo documentation, which was a big priority for Carl Stahl.

"We've improved our customer service and experience," said Stefan Aubele,

There were other case studies as well, but hey, cut me some slack--I'm only one man.

Mobility is a topic that just about every industry and function within the enterprise is eager to get information on. So if you couldn't make it to Enterprise Mobility 2012 this year,  definitely add it to your calendar for next year.

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