Not only will 2012 be remembered as the year of the Olympic Summer Games in London, it will also be the year companies reached the tipping point in the adoption of mobility as a critical tool for the enterprise. Yet we're just starting to comprehend the vast extent to which enterprises will use mobility. Early indicators suggest that the scope of enterprise mobility will be widespread and create incremental value, having an unprecedented business impact.
Mobility presents businesses with opportunities to completely rethink their existing processes and create new business models, and SAP and its ecosystem of partners are delivering the tools and solutions that customers need to make the most of these unique opportunities.
Three key trends are converging to drive the adoption of mobility in the business world:
- Widespread availability of broadband networks and mobile devices
- Growth of, and easy access to, rich media content
- Emergence of a new breed of mobile apps that serves business content in an easy-to-use, consumer-app-like experience
These trends already have an impact on how we work. For example, I am writing and submitting this article while riding the train between Boston and New York City. In parallel, I am using my iPad to video conference with colleagues in Israel using the free Skype app and the complimentary Wi-Fi network offered by Amtrak. Seeing my colleagues rather than just hearing their voices makes quite a difference in how we interact. The breadth of mobile solutions from a wide variety of providers working together has enabled me to plug in to my business and social networks from anywhere, and has transformed a mundane afternoon traveling between two cities into a productive and engaging experience. I have virtually traversed halfway around the world to collaborate with colleagues while drafting this article from the comfort of my train seat. This is an unprecedented user experience enabled by mobility. What's most remarkable is that the entire mobile experience is easy to direct regardless of platform or device.
Place First in the Enterprise Mobility Race
The race for mobility in the enterprise is officially on. Mobility as a business channel is not a choice, but an imperative. With billions of mobile devices around the world, the challenge of enabling these devices to access corporate information at the right time and place, enhance productivity, and generate commerce will require a wide swath of solutions working together without major integration concerns.
Here are four key pieces of advice for companies that are looking to develop and deploy mobile business apps.
1. Think Outside of the Box When Conceptualizing New Mobile Apps
Similar to how the Internet changed the way we conduct business, mobility is having far-reaching effects. The ability to access corporate information and processes anytime from anywhere presents a unique opportunity to rethink existing processes and business models. Simply extending the current way of doing business to the on-device experience will not be sufficient to win the hearts and minds of mobile users. Go beyond simply forcing existing business processes onto a mobile device to reengineering and inventing new business opportunities. By envisioning your business through the mobile lens, you will see new ways of engaging with your customers, partners, and employees.
2. Create a Consumer-App-Like User Experience for Business Apps
Consumer mobile apps are fun, easy to use, and accessible anywhere. As you plan to develop new mobile apps for your business, think about incorporating features that will keep your users coming back for more. People will use the app and return to it time and time again if they have an engaging user experience. When developing apps, consider these usability principles:
- Keep in mind the mobile device's screen size.
- Don't emulate the PC experience on the device.
- Design mobile apps that are simple and allow users to perform tasks with ease.
- Provide dynamic, continuously refreshing user experiences by combining the full potential of the mobile device (the native device features) with rich content and social media.
See the "Apps of the Future Are Already Available Within the SAP Ecosystem" sidebar for more details.
3. Select the Right Mobile Platform to Develop Apps
The rate of innovation of mobile apps is far greater, and release cycles more frequent, than traditional on-premise applications. The mobility experience is iterative — the first mobile app often leads you to realize significant benefits and understand the potential of mobility as a business enabler. This in turn leads to thinking about how mobility can be further applied to bring about greater change in subsequent versions of the app.
Companies are increasingly adopting "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies whereby employees can use their personal mobile devices for work. BYOD policies translate into heterogeneous mobile device landscapes, which present challenges associated with developing and frequently upgrading apps across multiple mobile devices and operating systems.
Thus it is important that you select a secure and scalable mobile development environment that enables app deployment across multiple types of mobile devices at once. The SAP mobile platform, for example, enables SAP partners and customers to develop targeted mobile apps that are secure and can be published across multiple types of devices and mobile operating systems.
4. Find an App Store Dedicated to Business Apps Appropriate for Your Company
As the number of apps developed within the SAP ecosystem and beyond grows exponentially, SAP customers need a single location to find everything available to help solve their mobile business challenges. The SAP Store for Mobile Apps is the first app store launched by a vendor that features only business apps (see the "SAP Store for Mobile Apps: The One-Stop Shop" sidebar). The SAP Store is the single destination where users can find all of the apps available within the SAP ecosystem across all the major mobile operating systems.
To get started, visit www.sapstore.com and select "Mobile Solutions."
A Winning Strategy
Mobility is redefining the way we do business. Leading the way are apps that embody consumer-like user experiences, the emergence of specialized app stores that cater to the needs of a community and are relevant to the specific role of end users, and a platform that is secure, scalable, and allows for frequent release cycles. The mobility race is heating up. Let the games begin!
Usman Sheikh (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Vice President and Business Head of the SAP Store for Mobile Apps. He is passionate about driving SAP's ecosystem to develop mobile apps and advising customers to adopt mobility to realize value and redefine their business.