More companies are exploring ways to improve worker productivity and efficiency by giving employees access to business data via their mobile devices -- and this trend is not lost on SAP. As part of SAP's enterprise mobile strategy, it is making available tools to assist in mobile app development to enable better management and security of mobile apps and to support the Internet of Things.
"The first priority for customers is to mobilize apps and have a front-end set of applications to their ERP systems," said Nicholas McQuire, vice president, enterprise research, CCS Insight in Slough, England. SAP, he said, has many out-of-the box, preconfigured applications that companies can buy and distribute to devices that offer "very nice" user experiences for interacting and accessing data stores within SAP ERP systems.
Specifically, SAP's mobile strategy includes a portfolio of apps that range by sector and function within an organization, as well as by user role and specific task. These are what SAP calls its Fiori applications, McQuire said. Fiori apps offer a "great user experience" to support business processes across devices, according to SAP.
But SAP also has mobile apps acquired when it bought Syclo in 2012. Syclo was a leader in mobile field service, mobilizing ERP systems for the task and blue collar worker, McQuire added. The Syclo applications -- historically, Windows mobile-based applications that have migrated onto iOS -- are thicker client applications than Fiori apps, which are much more cloud-optimized and more HTML 5-based, he said.
Tools for managing and securing enterprise mobile apps
A core element in SAP's enterprise mobile strategy, McQuire said, is its security and management set of products called Mobile Secure. "So if you want to do the management of the applications, you want to distribute the applications and do kind of an app store, and you want to set policy around the application but also if you want to manage the device in a traditional device management-style capability, then SAP has this set of products."
SAP's Mobile Secure tool set also includes content management for companies that want to distribute and manage their files but also secure specific content and files, as well as images and other data stores that are housed in their ERP systems or in their collaboration platforms, McQuire said. "SAP has been in this space since the Sybase acquisition but it has wrapped this up as part of their mobility strategy since 2010."
McQuire said another element in SAP's enterprise mobile strategy is its app development tools for companies that want to do more customizations and build their own applications around specific tasks or processes across a number of different platforms (e.g., iOS and Android), but also integrate into other back-end systems apart from ERP. For that purpose, he said, enterprises can use the SAP Mobile Platform, formerly called the Sybase Unwired Platform, which is designed to simplify the task of creating apps that connect business data to mobile devices for workflow management and back-office integration.
Thinking about mobile as Internet of Things
R. "Ray" Wang, founder and principal analyst at San Francisco-based Constellation Research, said SAP is solving the mobile problem by thinking about mobile as a sensor, and as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) -- which he said is the right way to look at mobile. "On the front end, what you're getting on the mobile piece is all the stuff on Fiori, which is pretty much the UX [user experience] eye candy SAP has been putting up on top of everything," Wang said. But what people really want is to be able to access information anywhere and make a decision, he said. So SAP has been spending a lot of time improving the Sybase platform to support IoT, to support wearables, which is then tied back to the HANA cloud platform.
HANA provides the analytics piece to deploy alongside mobile to allow organizations to get better value from the SAP mobile products by capturing user behaviors and transactional data as well as enabling a much better understanding of how users are engaging with the apps, McQuire said. From a business intelligence point of view HANA helps companies reach better decisions about how users deploy apps and it also allows them to determine the success of those applications, he said.
HANA helps partners build apps quickly
SAP has positioned HANA as the back end for all its software and services, said Chris Chute, IDC vice president, SMB cloud and mobility practice. Specific to mobility is the idea that partners can build apps very quickly using the HANA cloud platform because all the SAP products are going to be running off it at some point.
"Adding that extensibility to traditional ERP is something that is a market requirement, it's not a nice-to-have anymore," Chute said. "Even smaller businesses are using mobile payments if they are in retailing or even wholesaling. If they're field force workers or construction, they're using mobile devices in the field because it makes their lives so much more efficient. Efficiency is really driving a lot of the B2B install base of mobile solutions."
Chute said like other major vendors, SAP has relationships with partners that are either developers building industry-specific applications, or that work through systems integrators to deliver products to customers. What's happening now is that a lot of the development effort that goes into a specific extension starts to become easily monetized into the install base of a given industry, he said.
"So if you're servicing dental offices in the United States and you have development talent on staff, it's very easy for you to spin up a custom application, link it back to ERP if you're using SAP IP, and then leverage that not just for larger dentists in the New England area, but leverage it across the entire industry because they all have [some of the same needs]," Chute said. "That’s a burgeoning trend."
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