EM @ SAP – Why mobile apps matter
This is another blog post of a series around the enterprise mobility IT team at SAP. We are an internal team focused on managing mobile devices, mobile applications, and developing custom apps for SAP’s 110,000 employees. I believe we have some unique stories, software, tools, and insights to help others in the community considering, or currently undertaking, some of the challenges which surround mobility and its adoption in the enterprise. As an SAP champion, I enjoy sharing and promoting my experiences and knowledge with others through the SAP Community, if you enjoy this post, check out some of my past content.
A few weeks ago I gave a presentation on “Why apps matter …” for an annual internal SAP event called SAP Worx. These presentations highlight some of the important internal tools which IT develops to help our employees in their daily lives. While this was internally focused, I felt it could be beneficial to share some of the details and content behind what, we as a team, are focused on from a mobility perspective.
“By 2022, 70% of all enterprise interactions will be on a mobile device”
Creating the slides for the presentation I went through some of my previous decks and came across this interesting quote, it was published by Gartner in 2017 and I spent some time trying to understand if it came to fruition, coincidentally, SAP seemed to confirm the statement last year in this blog – this was both intriguing and important because I believe while I agree these transactions are being done on a mobile device, I wondered how many were being done efficiently, with an optimized mobile experience, and in the context of our users, did they find it simple to complete?
What is our North Star?
I often refer to this use case and individual scenario, because I find it fascinating and most importantly a “north star” for developing mobile apps: As a banking customer, I want to deposit a physical check into my bank account. Even though I am sitting in front of my unlocked laptop, with my browser open and I have a shortcut ready to open to get the task completed, I still pick up my mobile device to get the job done …. why?
Firstly, the app uses Face ID to log me in, so I don’t need to remember or find my password in my password manager. Secondly, the process I want to complete is clearly defined, simplified, and streamlined, with only a few pieces of key information needing to be selected. I also know that the app can complete this task. And thirdly, I need an image of the check to deposit the funds, which on a desktop would require a scanner or photo of the check, download and save the image, and then subsequently upload it, a time-consuming process, unlike the very straightforward flow on a mobile device.
I have spent considerable time thinking about this use case, and while it might be simple and obvious, developing custom mobile solutions which have this pervasiveness, clarity and simplicity, is the difficult part. This is what we strive for as a team, we want our users to pick up their mobile devices, even if they are in front of the desktop to get a task done. Our dream is for enterprise users to think “we have an app for that”.
Well suited mobile scenarios
I still think companies forget that we have an always-connected, powerful, functional supercomputer in our back pockets and ultimately enterprise mobility is more than just email. For us at SAP, mobility encompasses our mobile devices, Macs, device management, enrollment, the community, consumer apps, and our custom apps. Ultimately native solutions are not a silver bullet for all IT problems, but rather just one potential solution which needs to be evaluated, or these could potentially just become part of the problem. I believe that mobile apps work well in a few of the scenarios listed below:
- Mission-critical processes: It seems technology departments have accepted and adopted native apps in these scenarios, for example, warehouse management.
- High priority workflows: Time recording, expense management, workflow approval, sales-related tasks, and revenue generating roles.
- Simplifying complex scenarios: Processes that require only a few steps to complete, but are part of a complex system. An example might be a vacation request which is in a complex HR system.
- Innovation: Companies are forced to innovate driven by external factors, but require internal solutions. My favorite example would be how the NY Taxi service is planning to integrate with Uber.
- Service-related: Apps work well when the process has a dependency on a service such as a camera for scanning a barcode, a user location for providing contextual information, or being highly portable.
- Consolidation scenario: Like most companies, at SAP we have hundreds of tools, solutions, sites, and apps for our employees, having an app that lets users easily navigate corporate services, processes and solutions can be a valuable asset.
Below are a few of our internal solutions which we think highlight some of these scenarios and benefits of the mobile solutions:
In a response to the scenario surrounding COVID in early 2020, SAP offered employees a flexible approach to working. As a by-product of that policy and the optional return to the office, we collaboratively developed a mobile app that allowed employees to book desks, visit offices, view building floor plans and create social circles around interests, friends, and colleagues to plan their day. This is a nice example of external factors driving us as a company to adapt and innovate, and where mobile devices provide location data, route guidance, portability, and simplicity to augment the app experience. You can read more about the FlexConnect experience here.
This app provides users the ability to approve a variety of workflow requests through a dedicated, well-defined UI that performs a very specific function quickly and easily. This is one of those apps, where I would rather use the app to complete the task, rather than my desktop. All workflows can be approved from a single app, without needing to visit multiple systems, approving or rejecting is as simple as a swipe left or right.
In addition to our continued growth and investment in building native apps at SAP, the company’s reimagined customer-facing mobile strategy has helped us as an internal IT team to solidify our direction, and reiterate the importance of native mobile apps in the enterprise. Tools and frameworks such as the SAP BTP iOS SDK have helped us standardize our app’s UI/UX, and along with mobile services, have provided a solid platform to build our apps predictably and consistently. I hope this post gives you some insight into what we are working on internally at SAP in our enterprise mobility team. I am curious to know what custom apps are you developing to help your employees? Do you believe mobility is a competitive advantage for your company?
Paul, Great blog with hard hitting examples that we can all relate too. Thank you for sharing your experience and observations on mobility. Will tune in the next time that you talk - SAP Worx to learn more.