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Business One a viable route to mobile SAP applications for SMBs

Small companies in micro-vertical industries, such as food and beverage, find resellers -- and SAP itself -- eager to exploit Business One as a platform for SAP mobile apps.

Using mobile SAP Business One applications isn't anything new. Implementation partners have been introducing their own specialized versions for years, and SAP itself released an official Business One mobile app three years ago.

But with the introduction of Business One as a cloud application that runs in SAP's data centers, SAP is taking steps to strengthen its cloud offerings, including investing more work in Business One running on  the vendor's HANA in-memory database. Mobile is part of that, although resellers have already developed offerings that may be eclipsed by the vendor's continued development of mobile SAP Business One apps, according to experts.

But while SAP's official Business One app may prove quite useful, resellers will continue to develop highly specialized micro-vertical applications that meet very specific needs, such as retail fashion or brewery operations, according to analysts and the resellers themselves. For other companies that need more generalized access, the mobile SAP Business One application may fit the bill.

Developing SAP mobile software for micro-verticals

Historically, SAP has leaned heavily on its implementation partners to develop add-ons and customize Business One for micro-verticals. The resellers have risen to the occasion, going one step further to build mobile applications that sit on top of Business One and provide needed functionality for specialized industries.

For example, Softengine Inc., which specializes in Business One for the food and fashion industries, has created its own SAP mobile application on Business One that allows sales representatives at apparel companies to view available inventory, manage clients and place orders. This is required because sales representatives don't want to cart around heavy catalogs, and they want the efficiency of taking an order quickly on a mobile device, according to Barry Lederman, senior business analyst at Softengine, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.

In food, the mobility is happening in the warehouse: picking and shipping orders, Lederman said. Mobile devices are replacing paper, allowing these companies to operate in real time.

Orchestra Software, a reseller best known for its OrchestratedBEER application for breweries, recognized early on the need for mobile on the manufacturing floor. "Technology is moving out of the office and onto the manufacturing floor," said Brad Windecker, president of Orchestra Software, based in Beaverton, Ore.

The company's first mobile app was a packaging app that simplified the way employees tracked pallets and kegs shipped. It's a visual interface with a picture of a pallet and a picture of a keg, and each has a plus and minus sign next to it. As pallets and kegs are loaded onto trucks to be shipped, employees tap either the plus sign next to the pallet or the keg to indicate one has been loaded. Approximately 40% of Orchestra Software's customers are using the app for packaging, according to Windecker.

The vendor has taken its SAP mobile app further, with an inventory warehouse app to help track adjustments in real time. It makes sense for Orchestra Software to continue extending its mobile app, because its users are accustomed to the Orchestra interface, according to Windecker. "It's specific to what the individual does," he said.

SAP moves to strengthen its mobile Business One offering

Meanwhile, SAP is making its own moves to make Business One more mobile. Three years ago, it introduced a mobile client to track key performance indicators and create dashboards that was geared toward owners and managers, according to Luis Murguia, senior vice president and general manager for Business One. Initially, the company introduced browser access from Firefox and is moving ahead with a Safari-friendly version for Apple iOS users. Partners are creating pure mobile apps, he said, adding, for developers to create HTML5 apps, the HANA service layer will be critical.

Because SAP's entire small and medium-sized business (SMB) division is under new leadership, and customers like mobile applications, they can expect to see more SAP mobile apps, according to Christopher Chute, vice president of the SMB cloud and mobility practice at research firm IDC. "This is the start of SAP looking at mobility to engage customers," he said.

For simplicity's sake, it might be worthwhile to explore SAP's Business One mobile app, according to Chute. Using a third party adds an extra layer to the implementation process, and SAP customers at the recent Sapphire conference were looking for as little customization -- and hence, as much simplicity -- as possible, he said.

"The goal everyone was driving toward was [making] the time to implementation as short as possible ... and customization something to minimize as much as possible," Chute said.

Next Steps

Read an SAP mobility case study

Get the handbook on developing mobile apps on SAP

Learn about SAP's recent Business One initiatives

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