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At a recent utilities conference in North America, we had many discussions on where SAP is with the mobile strategy, mobile applications and platforms, where we are going. But it is also important to understand where our customers, and most of the users currently are. During a mobile workshop, I asked a number of questions to the participants using a survey. First I asked how people actually use their mobile device today:

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Everyone does e-mail and calendar, but only around 20-25% use their mobile devices for productivity apps, complex or custom enterprise apps. That’s a bit lower than I had expected. Less than 5% use a phone or tablet for reports and analytics, that’s very low. Isn’t a report pushed to you or an analytical app where you drill in and segment data in many ways your best friend in planning and review meetings? And did you know that if you use the SAP analytical tools like BI or the Business Objects Explorer, the mobile apps for that are actually free of charge?

So overall, the majority does not yet use mobile devices for enterprise apps beyond e-mail and calendar (we did not have meter readers or field service employees in the workshop).

Another question was, if you could get 3 mobile applications running within 6 months in your company (forget about projects and costs for now), which ones would you pick?

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The responses show a clear break down of what companies want to do next in mobility. The answers also matched what we got when we asked to prioritize use cases. The highest value for mobile business applications is in maintenance and field service, followed by customer self-service, then employee productivity.

When we look at the current market adoption we can see that mobile work management, field service, meter reading and inspection applications are in productive use by many of our customers, often for over a decade. But customer self-service, employee productivity and other enterprise apps are lagging behind. What is the reason?

I believe there is still some confidence missing in the device and platform technology. While everyone agrees that with mobile applications, we can virtualize, accelerate and transform business processes, many people remember technical pains and high costs from the past. It is a bit like other technical journeys. Look at commercial flying for example, where the evolution went from very specific use cases with technical difficulties and planes spitting out smoke as if they were on fire, to the jet set in the 60s and 70s, offering flights to everybody at a high price to where we are today, a reliable mass transport system at competitive prices. In mobility, we went from low or no bandwidth, heavy devices and a lot of data distribution with docking mechanisms to more standards, better devices, still at high costs to where we are now: reliable mass use cases. Device prices are in the hundreds of $, not thousands. Wireless and mobile technology allows synchronized offline and online data access in a responsive and secure way. Otherwise we wouldn’t use e-mail and calendar either on mobile devices.

So what will happen next, besides replacing older field service and maintenance applications? A much wider adoption of mobile solutions for consumer and employee productivity. Guess what, with our portfolio we are already there. Check out SAP Utilities Customer Engagement, the mobile consumer app and SAP Fiori for employees.

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This will give you an idea how you will communicate with your energy company or how you will enter time, request vacation or approve an item. Sooner or later.

Cheers, Robert

SAP Fiori: https://experience.sap.com/fiori

SAP Utilities Customer Engagement Mobile App on sap.com: https://www54.sap.com/pc/tech/mobile/software/industry-apps/utilities-customer-engagement/index.html

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