Samsung’s new Android-based Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet won’t be widely available in the U.S. until June 17, but SAP AG CIO Oliver Bussmann can hardly wait.
“I’m putting a lot of pressure on my own folks to have some Samsung devices out [among employees] in the next 4-6 weeks,” Bussmann said in an interview last week.
(Note: this is the first in a planned series of monthly interviews I’ll be doing with Bussmann on SAP’s internal use of mobility and its overall IT transformation. Subscribe to UberMobile’s feed or follow me on Twitter @ericylai in order not to miss any updates.)
My parent company, as many observers including myself have noted, is already a pioneer in arming its employees with tablets for work. As of the end of May, SAP had deployed 5,000 iPads and 200 BlackBerry PlayBooks.
(See my list of other large-scale iPad deployments.)
Originally managed using Microsoft ActiveSync, the iPads are today all managed (plug alert) using Sybase’s Afaria mobile device management (MDM) software.
Though still officially a BlackBerry shop, SAP has also deployed 2,000 iPhones among its 53,000 employees. The company has also taken the lead in deploying mobile enterprise apps such as its own SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Augmented for iPAD and iPhone data visualization dashboard.
With 20+ years of IT management experience, Bussmann grew up in the era of command-and-control IT. Yet, his personal style is more akin to a 20-something hipster. He uses his iPad constantly, especially the Twitterific app to personally update his @sapcio account whenever he has a spare minute between meetings.
Bussmann is eager to give his employees the same tools, though, because of SAP’s move towards true device agnosticism, he isn’t mandating Apple products just because he happens to use them.
“We’re jumping on the Galaxy Tab [because] I want to see [another] alternative to the iPad,” he said.
SAP did test the Xoom. “It was a great experience. I’m very high on the OS,” Bussmann said.
CIO Oliver Bussmann: embracing Android tablets, and pushing forward on ‘Bring Your Own Device’.
But what swung SAP towards the upsized, more powerful Galaxy Tab was the fact that it could be made much more secure and managed than the typical Android device.
That’s courtesy of engineering work performed by Samsung and Sybase’s engineers, resulting in the Sybase Afaria Advanced Enterprise Security for Android software.
That gives Bussmann “end to end control of the device. Because we have executive dashboards out there that maintain offline customer data. So for confidentiality reasons, we have to have full control. It’s a really bad reputational risk in certain countries,” he said.
These are problems that Afaria helps his team solve, which is why Bussmann is such a “big fan of Afaria.” That also happens to align quite neatly with the ‘SAP Runs SAP’ movement that Bussmann champions.
The next step for SAP is a Bring Your Own Device program. Strict data privacy laws in the countries where SAP’s employees reside, especially in SAP’s native Germany, have been the traditional obstacle.
But SAP has started testing this program out. Spurred on by the tsunami disaster, SAP has allowed several hundred Japanese employees to use their personally-owned devices for the past several months.
If the trial continues to go well, SAP plans to expand the Bring Your Own program to employees in Singapore and Australia next, Bussmann said. U.S. SAP employees could follow soon thereafter.
“While the data privacy laws in, for example, Germany, are every strict, I don’t think we face the same challenge in the U.S.,” he said. “And there’s definitely a strong demand for personal devices that we need to explore.”