SAP loves to drink its own champagne.
My parent company is not only one of the leading enterprise mobility vendors with 17.5 million mobile users, but its internal deployment of mobile devices, software and apps is a role model for the rest of the Fortune 500.
I caught up with CIO Oliver Bussmann last week to get a recap of what SAP accomplished in 2011, and what its big plans are for 2012.
By the way, you can catch Bussmann in person at two places this week: CES, where he’ll be part of a panel about the Consumerization of IT this Wednesday 9-10 AM, and at the AppNation Enterprise Summit in San Francisco on Thursday morning, where he’ll be giving the keynote speech.
You can also catch Bussmann online, tweeting away at @sapCIO via one of the three devices he’s bringing on his U.S. tour: a Samsung Galaxy II S smartphone, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, or Amazon Kindle Fire.
iPad Usage Still Growing
I first spoke with Bussmann in September 2010, after SAP had deployed a then-impressive 1,000 iPads. He said that within 12 months, SAP could have 17,000 employees using iPads.
I remember stifling, well, not a giggle, but something. Having experienced first-hand how slowly companies much smaller than SAP moved, 17,000 iPads seemed, frankly, preposterous.
It wasn’t just bureaucracy. There are huge technical challenges for massive device deployments. More than one CIO had told me how it took them several years to plan and then execute upgrades to new versions of Windows.
Well, SAP ended 2011 having deployed 14,000 iPads to 53,000 employees scattered all over the world. That includes all of its salespeople, a high proportion of IT staffers and developers, as well as many managers and senior executives.
SAP’s rollout was different. Every iPad came with a suite of useful enterprise apps. Salespeople and managers got CRM and BI dashboards, along with the standard e-mail and VPN. These made the iPads more than toys, but real tools.
Besides coming impressively close to reaching its pie-in-the-sky target, SAP also did these deployments without hiring any additional IT staff, said Bussmann. This was enabled by SAP’s use of the Sybase Afaria mobile device management (MDM) software, which helps SAP blast through a 3,000 user deployment in just six weeks.
“Because we are so automated here, the amount of effort for an IT administrator to deploy an iPad is really zero, especially compared to a laptop which everyone has to touch,” he said.
SAP is continuing to deploy a thousand devices per month. It is starting to hit SAP’s office-bound knowledge workers, who Bussmann teasingly calls “mobile wanna-bes.”
“I don’t see the trend slowing down. By the end of this year, I would not be surprised if we are talking about 20,000 iPads deployed,” he said.
Android On The Rise
Bussmann is frank that he thinks Android still lags iOS for enterprise use by “about a year”. Take the Kindle Fire, which he and his team are putting through its paces, including creating a test version of the SAP BusinessExplorer app for the Kindle Fire. With limitations like weak support for Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology, VPNs and device encryption, the Amazon tablet is not quite “ready for the corporate environment,” he said.
At the same time, Bussmann knows that staying true to his platform heterogeneity strategy will require supporting the most popular mobile platform around. So next Monday (January 16), SAP will begin to officially deploy Android devices.
For security reasons, however, SAP plans to favor Samsung devices like the Galaxy II S and the Tab over others. That’s because Afaria has been engineered to manage Samsung devices more strongly than other Android devices. By the end of this year, Bussmann hopes that more than 1,000 Samsung Galaxy Tabs will be in use by employees.
SAP will also accelerate its Bring Your Own Device plans. SAP had started BYOD in Asia last spring, and then began allowing U.S. employees to BYOD both Apple and Android devices last September. About 500 U.S. employees are enrolled in BYOD today, their devices all managed by Afaria.
SAP’s backyard, Europe, had been trickier. The hangup is the EU’s strict data privacy laws for individuals, which made creating a BYOD policy that protected both employee and employer tricky and technically-challenging.
To address this, Sybase is enabling Afaria to support separate e-mail clients for corporate and individual e-mail. That corporate e-mail, along with other offline corporate data, will be stored in an encrypted vault to which only the company as access, Bussmann said. These and other moves will allow SAP to allow BYOD for European employees starting sometime this quarter.
Apps Go Horizontal
Many enterprise device deployments only scratch the surface, with e-mail, VPN, and a few productivity apps. SAP, naturally, has put an emphasis on having employees download apps that will deliver as much tangible ROI as possible.
Between March and December 2011, employees downloaded more than 120,000 apps, he said. SAP now has 30 mobile apps available to employees via the Afaria Mobile App Store.
SAP is moving beyond apps aimed at narrow sets of users – CRM and mobile BI for salespeople and executives, for instance – to horizontal apps that make all workers more efficient. They include the SAP NOW app, which provides relevant information customized by industry, and a Shopping Cart app for employees to approve purchase orders.
Such horizontal workflow-type apps, such as leave and vacation requests and other HR and HCM apps, will be useful for those “mobile wannabe” knowledge workers mentioned above, as they can now handle these quick-hit tasks in between meetings and during other bits of spare time, he said.