Summer is not when CIOs usually start or ramp up major projects. Not so for SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann. Apart from a family trip to Vienna and the Croatian seaside resort of Dubrovnik, Bussmann and his team had a full plate this summer, especially on mobile initiatives.
Here are some of the highlights:
1) Introducing a new model for tech support. Since the beginning of the summer, SAP has opened up a slew of Mobile Solutions Centers. Its spin on the Apple Genius Bar, think of SAP’s MSC as a corporate IT helpdesk revamped for the BYOD/mobile era.
Each MSC is a friendly (not adversarial) place for workers to come and browse mobile devices and apps and get unhurried, unpatronizing technical advice.
“Moving the IT organizations out of the closet has been very well-received” by employees, says Bussmann. “Giving you a place to test drive devices and apps on your way to lunch is the support model of the future.”
SAP has opened about a dozen MSCs worldwide, including in Bangalore, Mumbai, London and the US and German headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and Walldorf. Coming this week: an MSC in Singapore.
While this high-touch model isn’t the most economical way to provide support, Bussmann says it helps drive better employee satisfaction with IT, and other positive outcomes.
“Should workers lower their expectations [for support] when they leave the Apple Store or Microsoft Store and come to the corporate environment?” he asked.
2) Expanding access to BYOD. SAP has made massive deployments of corporate-owned iPhones and iPads. Perhaps partly as a result, its BYOD program was a late starter compared to other firms. Being a 50,000+ employee company governed by EU data privacy regulations didn’t help, either.
SAP is making up for lost time. Beginning with granting full BYOD access to Japanese employees hit by the tsunami of 2011, SAP has opened up BYOD to workers in the rest of Asia-Pacific and the US and Canada. By the end of July, SAP had 1,600 devices in its BYOD program, whichi are all managed by SAP Afaria. Just this month (August), workers in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela became eligible for BYOD.
Only Apple devices are eligible for BYOD today. But by September, SAP workers will be able to bring in Android devices made by Samsung, Bussmann said.
The big exception is in Germany. There, employees today can only access corporate data from iPhone or iPad while using Citrix. Full connectivity is coming, though that is subject to negotiations and EU privacy laws.
3) Embracing Android, Windows 8. Since the beginning of the year, SAP has deployed 1,500 Samsung Android Galaxy devices to employees. That has accelerated this summer.
“I see more and more users internally going for the Galaxy Note,” he said. And the new S III is “a hot device. A lot of executives are asking for that.” (Note: this interview was conducted last week before the Apple-Samsung trial was concluded.)
Bussmann’s IT team has also been testing Windows 8 tablets and laptops from Fujitsu and Samsung. He is enthusiastic about the OS, though he emphasizes that there is no chance that SAP would ever go backwards and standardize completely on Windows 8 for PC and laptop.
“We don’t want to go back to a one-model-fits-all,” he said. “From my perspective, you have to provide choice.”
4) Building and Deploying More Apps. There are more than 35 apps available to SAP employees today, some built by SAP product teams, and some built by SAP IT, such as the SAP Box enterprise cloud storage app, which has been downloaded more than 3,000 times. But IT is working hard to ready and augment many more.
These include HTML5-based apps, imbuing sales apps with more features so that salespeople can instantly generate full sales quotes using just their mobile device, and building a new unified workflow and approval inbox to make things easier for managers and others who confronted with many sales, procurement and HR approvals every day, Bussmann said.
I’ve written before about how Mobile and Big Data are coming together in weird and wonderful ways. Here’s your opportunity to learn more. Leading industry analyst Maribel Lopez (formerly of Forrester Research) will lead an all-day seminar in the Silicon Valley on September 5th on how mobile+analytics can create “right time experiences” for your company. You can register here.