As SAP prepares to launch an exciting suite of employee productivity mobile apps next week, I’m starting to hear allot of water cooler conversations around the value proposition of the apps, their use cases and their business benefits. There is allot of excitement in the air and allot of stories and use case scenarios floating around about how and where these apps can be used to drive bottom and top line value for enterprises. Many of these scenarios are indeed very realistic and practical. The story of an employee that captures a picture of a business dinner receipt with a smartphone and then immediately sends it off for approval through the travel expense mobile app is both pragmatic and entertaining. However, I believe that the business case of these employee productivity mobile apps is pretty intuitive and self explanatory. I cannot envision a CIO or VP of a line of business that doesn’t intuitively see the value and benefit of enabling their workforce to complete mission critical processes anytime and anywhere.
The enterprise mobility conversation today has shifted from the why to the how. Enterprises are more concerned about how to implement these enterprise mobile apps and what that means from a cost and time-to-value stand point. There is a natural worry about the complexity and cost of implementation and support of these apps. TCO and time to value are indeed the right variables that enterprises should be worried about given the extreme volatile economy that we are witnessing today.
This talk about mobility, TCO, and economic volatility brings up an interesting mobile success story to mind. M-Pesa (M is for Mobile and Pesa is Swahili for Money), a mobile banking application, that was launched in 2007 in one of the most economically and politically challenged continents in the world, Africa (which is where I was raised). Today the mobile service has signed up more than 13.5 million subscribers and was doing 2 million transactions a day in Kenya alone. The fast adoption of the service is very impressive given that it runs on feature phones with inherently poor user experience that don’t come anywhere near the smartphone user experience that we have today (thanks to the legendary Steve Jobs, may you rest in peace). The success of the service was primarily driven by the simplicity of the use case and its ease of deployment. All you had to do to start using the service is to go to a point of sale and replace your SIM card with a new one that had the app preinstalled and pre-configured and you were good to go.
This is the kind of experience that SAP is aiming at delivering with its Rapid Deployment Solution for the employee productivity mobile apps that are being released next week. The RDS will deliver a preconfigured, out of the box experience that simplifies and eases the deployment of the mobile apps in a fixed time, fixed scope and at a predetermined fixed price. So while the story of the employee filing expenses immediately after a business dinner makes for a good demo, the story of deploying this app in an M-Pesa like simple manner is what will really capture the imagination of CIOs.