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imageThe “real-time” enterprise is here! The wide spread adoption of smart phones is the key game changer enabling the “real-time” enterprise, or the ability for companies to connect with their ecosystems, processes and information in real time, anytime and from anywhere. With 4.6 billion mobile devices worldwide, this unprecedented opportunity to access processes and information at the point of action is reinventing the way companies conduct business. Terms like social commerce, social innovation and social intelligence are examples of how this new business paradigm is being defined. The convergence of social media, smart phones, pervasive access to broadband and a new breed of intuitive micro applications is providing fertile ground for business innovation.

The commercial viability of mobility is also being proven. For example in Feb 2010 when Apple had only 150k applications listed on its App store, only 25% of the apps were free. The average price for all paid apps was $3.62. But when you look for iPhone applications, that extend SAP functionality, or applications that provide basic business functionality employees could use, only a handful qualify.

SAP is leading the way to enabling the mobile “real-time” enterprise. Today users of SAP access about 200k screens within SAP’s Business suite. With mobility becoming pervasive Vishal Sikka, SAP’s Chief Technology Officer and executive board member, envisions several million screens on mobile devices. In a casual but candid conversation with SAP mentors Vishal highlights the colossal size of the mobile business application market opportunity.  

SAP’s acquisition of Sybase the leading provider of Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) and messaging, with its huge set of relationships with telecom carriers and device manufacturers is another testament, to the exploding mobile enterprise application market. Kevin Nix, senior vice president of mobility at SAP, in a series of interviews published on SAP EcoHub, provides the rationale behind the acquisition and what SAP’s ecosystem can expect, he also explains how pervasive mobility will impact the enterprise and recommends how to start to prepare for the real-time enterprise.

The gold rush for introducing mobility in the enterprise is on! Mobility as a business channel is not a choice it is an imperative! With billions of mobile devices all around us the challenge is to connect via these devices to access information at the right time and place, enhance business productivity and generate commerce.

For companies seeking to leverage mobility to improve their business here are nuggets of advice in developing an effective mobile strategy:

Think out of the box when conceiving new mobile use case. Simply extending the current status quo will not be sufficient justify investment in mobile infrastructures. Mobility provides a great opportunity to connect the entire ecosystem. Think about community applications, point of action data inputs and how mobile connectivity changes the entire business model.

Simple is better. Keep in mind the devices’ screen size and form factor. Design your applications to be simple but functional applications that allow one to perform simple tasks while on the move. Examples of such applications include search, approve or reject, alerts, business intelligence, social media, reviewing records and many more.

User experience is king. “Life style choice” has been cited as the number one reason by consumers when selecting a particular mobile device. Apple’s iPhone has taken off because it offers intuitive ways to gain access to information and transact without any formal training. Be sure to focus on delivering an exemplary user experience that not only leverages the full potential of the device but also meets the consumer-centric expectations of the business user.

Cost of the application has to be proportional to the value delivered by the application. Mobile applications will be most effective when consumed as “micro-applications”, specific role and task-based applications. These applications will deliver limited but premier value to the users. However, traditional enterprise licensing models are not applicable and therefore when selecting a platform or vendor, remember that ROI will be measured across a number of smaller applications whose combined impact will result in changing the game.

Rate of change and evolution of mobile applications will be far greater and more frequent than traditional applications. Prepare to constantly upgrade and enhance mobile applications. The app stores have already trained the consumer to expect frequent updates to their applications. This same behavior will prevail in the enterprise as well. To maintain applications as current and to keep astride with the business process changes it is imperative that the vendor provide a frame work that allows you to easily modify and enhance the solution.

Reengineer the business. Similar to how the Internet changed the way business was conducted mobility will have far reaching effects. Plan to review your business processes through the “mobile” lens. The mobility evolution provides a great opportunity to invent new processes and business models. Rethink your ecosystem and how you engage with your customers, partners and employees now that you can access them anytime, anywhere.

If you have questions rely on trusted sources. SAP EcoHub and SAP Developer Network both provide up to date resources and recommendations.  

Have fun! The beauty of mobility is that it is fun, easy and accessible anywhere. The form factors combined with the ability to engage anytime and anywhere offer exciting potential. Have fun rediscovering and enabling your enterprise.

Happy hunting!

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