SAP mobile strategy starts with a center of excellence

Coming up with an SAP mobile center of excellence can help companies move forward with a more cohesive mobile strategy, Michael Bestvina writes.

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One of the most common unanswered questions in today's businesses is "Why can't I do my work on my phone?" It's being asked at the water cooler and at the pub after work. So, why isn't the IT department listening? How can a "center of excellence" help companies with developing an  SAP mobile strategy?

Nearly a billion smartphones and tablets are expected to be in people's hands worldwide by the end of 2013. Employees are asking to do more and more on these devices, and there's a lot of confusion about what's possible when it comes to mobilizing SAP and related processes, who can deliver it and how.

What's a center of excellence?

If you've ever worked with SAP software, you may have heard the term. It describes a shared team whose primary objective is to help evaluate and facilitate the adoption of company-chosen technologies. It is designed to provide leadership, training, research and support.

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Centers of excellence come in different flavors. For example, many SAP-enabled organizations that rely heavily on analytics have adopted business intelligence centers of excellence. Their primary objective is to help workers use the SAP BusinessObjects reporting, analytics and dashboarding tool set to make better decisions.

True innovation is always a delicate balance of discovering opportunities, assessing them and executing on them. A center of excellence does exactly that -- it seeks, assesses, then executes on an SAP mobile strategy.

The center of excellence is often viewed as a strategic partner of the business customer. To align with the business, the center will have to do a certain amount of outreach to the business. This is important, and not just at the outset, because the business side will need constant reminders that an advisory group is available to meet its needs.

How does mobile fit into a center of excellence?

The real problem with mobile business applications is that we don't always know their potential use cases. It requires a true partnership between IT and the business, and in many organizations the two are disconnected. A mobile device doesn't help solve one specific issue, so a certain amount of investigation must take place to figure out which processes can be enabled or improved with innovative mobile projects.

To help the business adopt mobile applications, a center of excellence requires a mix of mobile developers, user-experience designers and Agile project managers. The Agile development methodology is especially important for mobile development because it's increasingly difficult for product designers to conceptualize mobile apps without physically interacting with them.

One company that has adopted a mobile center of excellence is Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated (CCBCC) in Charlotte, N.C. The company noted that its sales reps had a standard process for identifying improperly functioning equipment during customer visits: writing down an asset number and later logging a description of the defect into a system. Though it was used for years, the process was slow and cumbersome. Now that company sales reps have mobile devices, it no longer has to be that way. It's now just a matter of enabling them with an integrated sales application.

So, what happens if your company doesn't establish a mobile center of excellence? Often, organizations end up spending precious time discussing how mobile should work without producing any actionable answers. A center of excellence not only will provide best practices during those discussions but also will enable you to execute on them.

This was first published in February 2013

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