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In Let the work flow! – Part 1 of this blog series I looked at what could make mobile workflow as pervasive in the business world as mobile email is today. In this blog I’d like to re-cap on what products SAP and Sybase have already shipped and what’s soon to come to get us going on that journey.

Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite

This is one of the products that originates from the SAP / Sybase co-innovation partnership from well before Sybase was acquired by SAP. Both server and client initiated workflows are possible and the solution is already pre-integrated end-to-end with the SAP Business Suite. It runs on the Sybase Unwired Platform 1.5.5 and has device specific clients for iOS and Windows Mobile devices. The customizing capabilities, especially how decision relevant data is presented, are quite rudimentary so that in my view it is more suitable for simple approval type scenarios that do not require a lot of context information for the user to make a decision.

In SUP 2.0 the Sybase proprietary workflow form technology used by this solution has been dropped in favour of the more open and extendable “hybrid web container” approach. Although I don’t see a future for the technology used, I’d quite like to see another release that delivers something similar on top of SUP 2.x, i.e. pre-integrated workflow scenarios for the SAP Business Suite that can be customized as required with the SUP toolkit.

Mobile Workflow in the Sybase Unwired Platform 2.x

As just mentioned, with SUP 2.0 Sybase has put mobile workflow onto a completely new foundation, called the “hybrid web container”. The container itself is a generic, native application that replicates data with SUP and executes packages of HTML, CSS and JavaScript to render the user interface. This approach allows for much richer customization and presentation capabilities while maintaining cross-platform compatibility. With the recently released ESD 1 the device support now extends to iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android devices. In comparison to the above mentioned Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite – “mobile workflow” is now a much more generic platform capability and not as tightly integrated into SAP backend systems. It does need additional effort to setup the integration, but has the advantage that any other backend system can be linked in as well.

Employee Productivity Apps

At SAPPHIRE Orlando earlier this year SAP also announced a set of line of business specific productivity apps and a number of them could be classified as “mobile workflow” scenarios. From what I’ve seen to date they will allow users to approve leave requests, shopping carts, travel expenses, payments, etc. via standalone apps that are heavily optimized for each specific scenario. The initially targeted device platforms seem to be iOS and BlackBerry and I see them as a great way to deliver business value very, very quickly with pre-packaged, pre-integrated scenarios as long as there are no or limited requirements to customize the content.

More to come…

Having laid out the options with this blog I plan to go into more detail in future blogs of this series. In the meantime, please feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts. Would you rather implement an out-of-the-box approval app that is highly optimized for a specific scenario or a generic capability that allows you to add further scenarios as required?

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  1. Rohit Khetarpal
    Thanks Steffen for the blog. Could you please tell your thoughts when you say you don’t see a future of Hybrid Web Container technology ahead.
    As you know, there are different approaches for app build – as a developer, what should one concentrate on with all the new experiements being done by Sybase before a final stable fixed approach. There is still DOE component, there is deprecation of DAD support from SUP 2.0.
    What should a developer starting out on mobility bandwagon concentrate on learning with so many things being phased out/new approaches coming/deprecation of previous versions features?

    Thanks,
    Rohit

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    1. Steffen Schwark Post author
      Hi Rohit,

      Thanks for your comment and sorry for the misunderstanding since that’s certainly not what I meant to say. In SUP 1.5.5. mobile workflow is based on a container model with a Sybase proprietary form description language. That technology has been dropped in 2.0 and been replaced by the hybrid web container which certainly has a future. In fact I believe it currently only scratches the surface of possible use cases.

      Regarding the technology change it seems to me that the core of SUP is already pretty stable and that with SUP 2.1 the backend side should be in a good shape as well. The device side will remain interesting for a while, so I guess we’ll just have to keep up with what’s going on.

      What are you focusing your efforts on?

      Regards,
      Steffen

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      1. Rohit Khetarpal
        Thanks Steffen for making things clear. I have SAP CRM background so backend work is not a problem. I have some java/html/jquery/jscript knowledge – so am more inclined towards Android development on front end if need be (android is gonna come big time I believe :D) — SUP I know how to create MBO. For now, pretty basic knowledge – so I am concentrating on the architecture and different ways of connecting SUP to backend and complex MBO development – that is where lies my doubt.
           There are technologies such as Gateway coming up for light weight development – then as you said moving to hybrid container. I had a project created in 1.5 and I tried to import that to 2.0 and the wizard automatically gave an option of converting. I am not sure what does it convert.
        It would be great if you could provide some more insights about different approaches/gud-bad/comparison and best bet to learn 🙂
        (not to mention this whole Netweaver component and DOE – do we learn that or just leave it for now??)

        Thanks in advance 🙂
        Rohit

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        1. Steffen Schwark Post author
          Hi Rohit,

          It’s difficult to get certainty in this area where much depends on which technologies find acceptance in the market. Anyway, it feels like we’ve got a new blog topic evolving here and I can write about what worked for us to date when I come back from vaccation. Would be cool if other partners and customers would share their perspective as well. In addition the upcoming SAP TechEd / Sybase TechWave events will no doubt be a great opportunity to get further direction if you get a chance to go.

          Regards,
          Steffen

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