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Random thoughts on Mobility and my wishes for TechEd Las Vegas 2011

Last week at the SAP Australia User Group conference I was given the opportunity to deliver a presentation on my organization’s adventures into mobility, front-ending SAP as the ‘system of record’.  I know that HANA is all the rage, but there was certainly no lack of interest in mobility if the size of the audience is anything to go by (hint: place the word ‘mobility’ in your presentation and you will always fill the room).


I covered several mobility stories, ranging from the heavy duty solutions that have been implemented (involving over 6000 handsets, with as many as 2.5 million transactions per day flowing back into SAP systems) through to the use of SAP interactive forms by Adobe (IFbA) on Windows 7 tablets (why, you ask? … well, let’s leave that discussion for another day).

Attending the event, I was able to gauge where other SAP customers were at with their mobility initiatives.  And I was particularly thrilled to meet the legendary R “Ray” Wang from Constellation Research and tap into his thoughts and expertise as an analyst.

That event was followed this week by the SAP World Tour landing in Melbourne, including the presence of SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott with the morning keynote. What I wanted from this event was to get a status check on the progress of SAP’s mobile apps.  I cast my mind back to an announcement by SAP and Sybase during SAPPHIRE NOW in May this year where a number of planned mobile apps were announced.  So this week I wanted to see first hand where these apps were at.  After all, to unlock the value in any platform you need to have the apps as well, and the more apps that are available then the more compelling is the platform.

Here are my observations from seeing and (in some cases) road testing these apps during the event:

  • I saw a number of real apps (showcased on iPads) in various stages of completeness (some of them aligned with the press announcement in May).
  • It was not always clear which apps were concept apps, which ones were created by 3rd parties, and which ones were the actual apps soon to be productized.  I wish SAP placed each of them in a specific folder indicating what category they fitted into (eg. 3rd party app, concept app, etc).  Regretfully I didn’t note-take the title of every app that I saw. 
  • I was quite surprised to see my own app (myHelp for SAP Professionals – shameless plug) included in the showcase iPad that I road tested (reminds me that I really must create an iPad specific version for that).

Here is what I learned from speaking with various SAP representatives:

  • Most of these apps (with the exception of the ones we know existed prior to SAPPHIRE) are not yet released. 
  • I was informed that the new apps rely on Sybase SUP2.1 (not yet released to customers) and also (interestingly) NetWeaver Gateway coming out of Ramp-up.  In my mind this places the release dates for these apps somewhere in the Oct timeframe at the earliest.

What I would like to see SAP provide to customers going forward:

  • More clarity on the pipeline of apps and when they will become available
  • A clearer strategy on the future roadmap for the mobility architecture and for the apps, and (hopefully) a dedicated app store
  • A roadmap to offer a hosted platform for the various mobile infrastructure components (SUP, Afaria etc.).  The opportunity is clearly there, because some partners already have such offerings
  • SAP to focus its formidable development muscle on placing rock solid, awesome apps into the hands of customers as soon as possible.  SAP is relying on the partner ecosystem to deliver a large proportion of apps, but a sizeable core set of apps from SAP itself would provide a great foundation.

At the World Tour event we heard the familiar phrase that ‘mobile is the new desktop’.  I believe that SAP is at a crucial juncture, whereby the opportunity is here right now to deliver great user interfaces to customers and bring a fresh sense of ‘joy of use’ to SAP applications.  I can’t wait to see what is available by the time I arrive at TechEd in Las Vegas.

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  • Hi John,

    as previously discussed I would love to know what sort of pricing model SAP is going to adopt for mobile apps.

    Companies are crying out for simple mobile enablement and have budget available for it. But if SAP's solution is going to require Gateway, SUP and Afaria - well perhaps that budget isn't going to be big enough to justify just a couple of apps.

    Here is a business opportunity for nimble/small SAP SIs - build apps that are fitted exactly to customer need, and build them simple. Not every app needs offline capability, nor remote management. Sure these are nice, but when you are talking 2 or 3 apps, perhaps overkill?
    It is always nice to have global enterprise scale architecture, but sometimes we just have local enterprise type budgets.

    Surely SAP must have some idea what the model is going to be if they are encouraging SIs to build so many of these SUP based apps - they must be selling the idea to the builders? No?

    Currently I am very much in the dark about how much a simple mobile app (say leave approval) would cost if it came from SAP.

    I hope this is one of the things addressed at TechEd.

    • Hi Chris,

      All excellent points to add to the list. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts.

      The pricing question you raise is a really interesting one.  Especially as SAP is relying on partners to deliver a large proportion of apps, adding further complexity to the pricing equation.  When I asked SAP about pricing the SAP rep indicated there is no visibility of pricing for our region yet.  Hopefully customers will have better visibility of this soon.

      By the way, in terms of solutions you need to possibly also add NetWeaver Mobile (because that is still required, at least for some existing SAP solutions).  So when you are talking about a heavy duty platform (to cater for all possible requirements) incorporating NetWeaver Gateway + NetWeaver Mobile + SUP + Afaria, even without thinking about a pricing model, the infrastructure itself to purchase, install and maintain might be non-trivial.  Hence my wish for hosted solutions for the infrastructure.



      • Hi,

        I agree with your comment about the hosted solutions, I'll go even further and say that it MUST be a given - if this is to have the desired traction, user adoption... and sought revenue for SAP. The sheer investment in infrastructure (+support, +maintenance,etc...) required to roll-out 2-5 apps is going to be prohibitive and difficult to justify for SME CIO's (SME's, I was reminded during the SAP world tour make up the majority of SAP's revenue). Not having this hosted offering will be counter productive to SAP as it will (further) open the door to other competitors that do have such offerings - is a classic example. The added risk here for SAP, is that once an SAP customer starts talking to vendors of competing products, there is no telling how many other SAP applications will be replaced, or not selected in favour of competing products.

        So in short, I think that hosted offerings will have to be an option.

        Cheers, Pascal.

  • Thanks John,

    It is great to have you at these events and asking the important questions and then of course sharing with the community. I totally agree with both yourself and chris. I was a bit shocked last week when I realized I would need net weaver mobile as well in some scenarios.

    I would also like to add that as we all know few customers use SAP as-is out of the box... So if you buy one of these apps off the shelf I wonder how easy or costly it will be to customize and support.

    Keep up the god work, I look forward to your teched reports!


    • Hi Simon,

      Great point about the customization and maintenance question.  Funny, a colleague raised the very same question in a meeting with SAP reps today.  They didn't have the answer available but they will follow it up.  I sure hope we don't go down a heavy NWDI style path with this.  Let's wait and see. 
      One thing I did learn today was there is a target date of 30 Sep for many of these apps.  Also, it seems the apps that have offline support still have NW Mobile DOE alongside SUP in the picture, whereas those that have no sync capability utilise NW Gateway with SUP providing a lightweight service to provide connection and authentication services.
      And thanks for your kind words, but seriously I'm simply sharing my thoughts just as you do in your many contributions to the community.