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Author's profile photo Wilbert Sison

Entry to the Playing Field – The Mobile Platform Investment Decision

For a while now, I’ve been mulling on how to structure a conversation around Mobility. Most people see the wave coming. But getting to action it in the their enterprise context is something else.  This OpenSAP course has been good to galvanize some key points for me.  I took it as an after-thought but it’s got a surprisingly rich content.

Key Thought Driver : Capability Expectations not ROI

The openSAP course on Mobility is fairly interesting .  The first few units were as expected, A few stats. … how big the market is,  this is how will exceed  population by 2014, how big the opportunity is  etc.

But the key takeaway I have from it is that ‘consumer experience in the mobile space is driving expectations in the enterprise’.


Like many of you, I’ve been thinking of use cases as a support mechanism for the business case.

But if we assert that  the technology landscape already expects that the enterprise should have the capability and your users are keen to have it…the discussion changes subtly. Use case and ROI are fairly good measuring sticks for adopting non-disruptive technology. But Mobile presents itself to be the most disruptive technology we have for the past decade. I think, justifications using use case and ROI only,  are fairly poor tools to assess network effects of mobility and growth of the technology landscape in the future.

If it’s no longer just a use-case question ,  the conversation can be posed as a landscape and capability question: ie “You have a budget for the PC in your ecosystem, why don’t you have a budget for mobile?”.

The thought process in coming up with a number for PC infrastructure budget maybe a little similar to a mobile infrastructure budget though. It’s a capability that your enterprise wants to support. You have x many people. You want to support a portfolio of x many apps.  What is it going to take to implement a Mobile device management framework and an Application Management Framework and get the capability started?

Like my wife’s yearly budget for a designer handbag, the mobility budget is no longer a key to become a technology leader. It’s just the cost  of doing business and thanks for playing.

Applications are important but they’re NOT the most important

The next topic then is what we’re going to put in it. But as Craig Haworth points out, while the application is an important piece of the puzzle, it’s by no means the most important one.

We can almost decouple decision as to what to put in it ( Applications) from the decision to have capability for it (infrastructure).  In the same way that we’ve probably make a separate decision in supporting office 2013 from the type of PC’s that we’re going to support next year.  I say ‘almost’ as there’s a basic dependency on infra capability and the kneejerk reaction ‘why build it if we don’t need it’.  But assuming for a while that we do have an application need — then as long as the infrastructure is scalable vertically ( more cpu/memory) or horizontally ( can support more applications ) then the infra investment decisions can be taken in steps.

The course points out –  most developers can roll out a mobile  application fairly easily with a point-to-point solution. But it considers the Gartner rule of thumb. If you have at least three applications or at least three databases or three operating systems…. then It’s probably best that you have a mobile application platform to manage all of it. The practical benefits of managing a platform solution just outweighs a fragmented approach.

The Application is important

The OpenSAP course is not all theoretical ‘powerpoint’ content either. The first week ends with an a very solid exercise on creating an interactive Product/Customer list Javascript application running OData service via Gateway on an Android device.

The course stack will run on a ECC/Gateway backend. So far(week) , the sample app runs on Javascript/HTML/CSS + Android. The HANA Mobile platform ( cloud version ) has been introduced together with the HANA cloud connector.

There is that bit about the application discussion on the argument that ‘native apps’ are more expressive and interactive than Web Container apps.  Previously native apps has more access to on-device capabilities.  But with HTML5 and CSS5 and device libraries like Cordova (used in the course) that gap is quickly disappearing.  Arguably, enterprise apps generally does not require (yet) the interactivity of ‘Angry Birds’ or ‘Clash of the Clans’. The advantage of  Native Apps in the Enterprise context appears negligible and dwindling,

Thoughts on paving a path

So if we take the approach that Mobile is important. The path of least resistance would be to  take on the leap that  mobile platform infrastructure investment is required as a fundamental capability and delivered initially on the basis of a small – but scalable footprint. We can separate the application investment decision from the Infrastructure investment decision. At the same time, we can rapidly reach for quick-win applications . Afaria (Device management) + Gateway( REST Service Exposure) + HANA Mobile(Application Management) + JavaScript/HTML/CSS/SAPUI5 appears to be a very good starting point on the technology stack.

Gateway licensing is currently free for existing SAP Business suite licenses. The HANA Cloud pricing Free for developer accounts and costing 400EU per month for Production grade starter packages . UI Libraries are pretty much freely available. OpenSAP even trains existing developers for free. SAP’s pretty much covered the “completeness  of vision” and “ability to execute” in its product offering.  It’s a pretty compelling low barrier to entry for the Enterprise willing to develop their own solutions. 

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