SAP and Sybase have partnered to make SAP Business Suite software available on an iPhone, BlackBerry and any other mobile device, the two vendors announced today.
Some of the functionality in "Office on the Go," as they're calling the initiative, will be available by the second half of 2009, and full mobile CRM functionality will be available by 2010. Mobile applications for the rest of the SAP Business Suite -- including ERP, SCM, SEM and PLM -- will follow.
SAP's partnership with a leading mobile middleware vendor could be a big step toward creating SAP mobile applications, but only if SAP and Sybase take a process-centric approach to the initiative and don't just extend existing SAP applications to mobile devices, according to Sheryl Kingstone, director at the Boston-based technology research firm Yankee Group. The former seems to be the two vendors' intent.
"We can get SAP on any device today, but not very well," said John Chen, CEO of Dublin, Calif.-based Sybase Inc. "It's not based on the business processes. We need to get with the SAP engineers to make sure that experience is going to be a rewarding one for customers."
Application mobility is a huge strategic initiative for many enterprises right now. According to Kingstone, Mobile CRM tops the list of strategic applications for many of them. They believe that putting improved, easier-to-use business applications in the hands of mobile workers is essential to transforming business processes.
Partnering with a middleware vendor is a smart move on SAP's part, Kingstone said, because mobile applications are very process-oriented. Last year, SAP worked with Research In Motion (RIM), BlackBerry's creator, to run SAP CRM natively on a BlackBerry.
But a middleware vendor like Sybase can instead help SAP recreate lighter-weight, mobile applications that expose the critical elements of all its existing applications, Kingstone said. Sybase is also a RIM partner.
"What [SAP] missed is being able to look at their applications from a different point of view, not just replicating the existing SAP environments to a mobile phone," she said. "They should look at it from a process-centric view across all applications, and create something that really works for all the different devices."
NetWeaver Mobile will still be the backbone of SAP's mobile applications, and the bridge over which business processes that originate in SAP will be integrated into the Sybase platform, according to Vinay Iyer, vice president of solution marketing for CRM.
SAP envisions customers using its mobile applications for doing everything from approving time sheets to approving a product order.
"We are in a new reality in this economy. Customers are looking to extend their core IT investments," SAP executive Bill McDermott said. "[With this partnership] you can literally consume SAP content and applications on any device, anywhere in the world."
McDermott wouldn't discuss pricing of "Office on the Go" except to say that it would be "fairly priced."
While partnering with a middleware vendor is certainly a big step in the right direction, it's not an exclusive partnership, so Sybase is free to work with other vendors.
"My only concern is [Sybase is] just a partner," Kingstone said. "I would have been more excited if they bought it. They'd have much more control to truly embed it into NetWeaver."