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Café Innovation – Mobility will be mainstream at SAPPHIRE 2010 – what should you be looking at?

We are in the midst of what might be described as a smartphone revolution. It is clear that SAP has also accepted this. In an independent analysis, Bob Evans wrote a piece (Information Week, April 30, 2010) titled: “Inside SAP: 10 Factors Behind Its Dramatic Turnaround.” In this article, he calls out “Making Mobile Matter” as one of these 10 factors. He quotes J. Snabe, co-CEO, SAP AG, as saying that SAP is committed to making sure that “SAP solutions can be accessed from all leading mobile platforms, like RIM, Nokia, Apple, Google Android, etc.” An explicit statement such as this can only mean one thing – mobility is a mainstream topic for any discussion around SAP solutions. This year at SAPPHIRE, I expect SAP and their many partners to showcase solutions around this.

As an attendee of SAP’s main annual event, you will likely be faced with a range of mobile solutions and solution providers. So what should you be looking for?

First, you should make a distinction between those that just offer the ability to custom develop mobile apps and those who have a platform that they use to ground their apps in. The latter are motivated by providing something stable and enduring that becomes the basis for future enhancements and possibly better governance. If you are interested in vendors/partners of the latter kind, find out what the platform in question does that is specific to the matter of mobility. There are some out there who will claim to have a platform, but this does not necessarily mean that it is geared to answer mobility-specific aspects more easily. For example, if a vendor were to say that their platform helps build composites that can run on mobile devices, then while that may be something you can use, it fails to answer what this platform brings to the table that particularly addresses the issue of making it easy for you to develop, deploy and provision mobile apps to a number of users across a range of possible platforms, with all the accompanying questions of security that must also be addressed.

This brings me to the second point you should perhaps focus on – how will you manage the variety in your own landscape? Just like you built good governance models when deploying ERP and related suites from SAP, or when you started to grow your capabilities to manage the NetWeaver platform going beyond the Basis and ABAP needs of your older deployments, you will need a good way to control the number, variety, and pedigree of the mobile applications you deploy. Keeping your own strengths and vulnerabilities in mind, evaluate which partner offers the best bet in managing this aspect of your mobile experience. This is important because if not thought through now, you could end up with a collection of so-called “best-of-breed” mobile apps on a variety of standards and platforms providing an exponentially growing governance headache to your own organization.

Finally, you must consider who, in your organization, will handle the ongoing maintenance and governance needed around your mobility needs. Perhaps, you might consider an outside party to provide this service? Consider embarking on a quick but focused assessment of your context, your landscape, and your long-term needs. This should help you build a roadmap for your mobility deployments in the context of a long-term strategy. You will no doubt leverage your in-house business process experts on this, but you might need to engage a vendor/partner to help you. Look for one at SAPPHIRE.

While it may be difficult to find a single partner/vendor that addresses all these needs, it does help to build an enduring relationship with at least one strong partner within the SAP ecosystem that can help you with these needs while staying very much in tune with where SAP is headed.

If you are headed to SAPPHIRE, safe travels! If you are attending the Orlando event, you may follow me on Twitter and perhaps we can meet in person!!!

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      Author's profile photo Paul Snyman
      Paul Snyman
      Well written. What I think makes your article even more relevant is SAP's recent acquisition of SyBase whose Unwired Platform has demonstrated a solid platform for developing mobile applications across multiple device types such as Droid, Windows Mobile and of course iPhone.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thank you, Paul.

      I agree Sybase does have a good offering. That said, I will ask all those thinking of mobile solutions to define and articulate a comprehensive strategy that includes a complete acknowledgment of their own processes and related requirements. This will better position them for success.