Last week at the SAP Australia User Group conference I was given the opportunity to deliver a presentation on my organization's adventures into mobility, front-ending SAP as the 'system of record'. I know that HANA is all the rage, but there was certainly no lack of interest in mobility if the size of the audience is anything to go by (hint: place the word 'mobility' in your presentation and you will always fill the room).
I covered several mobility stories, ranging from the heavy duty solutions that have been implemented (involving over 6000 handsets, with as many as 2.5 million transactions per day flowing back into SAP systems) through to the use of SAP interactive forms by Adobe (IFbA) on Windows 7 tablets (why, you ask? ... well, let's leave that discussion for another day).
Attending the event, I was able to gauge where other SAP customers were at with their mobility initiatives. And I was particularly thrilled to meet the legendary R "Ray" Wang from Constellation Research and tap into his thoughts and expertise as an analyst.
That event was followed this week by the SAP World Tour landing in Melbourne, including the presence of SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott with the morning keynote. What I wanted from this event was to get a status check on the progress of SAP's mobile apps. I cast my mind back to an announcement by SAP and Sybase during SAPPHIRE NOW in May this year where a number of planned mobile apps were announced. So this week I wanted to see first hand where these apps were at. After all, to unlock the value in any platform you need to have the apps as well, and the more apps that are available then the more compelling is the platform.
Here are my observations from seeing and (in some cases) road testing these apps during the event:
- I saw a number of real apps (showcased on iPads) in various stages of completeness (some of them aligned with the press announcement in May).
- It was not always clear which apps were concept apps, which ones were created by 3rd parties, and which ones were the actual apps soon to be productized. I wish SAP placed each of them in a specific folder indicating what category they fitted into (eg. 3rd party app, concept app, etc). Regretfully I didn't note-take the title of every app that I saw.
- I was quite surprised to see my own app (myHelp for SAP Professionals - shameless plug) included in the showcase iPad that I road tested (reminds me that I really must create an iPad specific version for that).
Here is what I learned from speaking with various SAP representatives:
- Most of these apps (with the exception of the ones we know existed prior to SAPPHIRE) are not yet released.
- I was informed that the new apps rely on Sybase SUP2.1 (not yet released to customers) and also (interestingly) NetWeaver Gateway coming out of Ramp-up. In my mind this places the release dates for these apps somewhere in the Oct timeframe at the earliest.
What I would like to see SAP provide to customers going forward:
- More clarity on the pipeline of apps and when they will become available
- A clearer strategy on the future roadmap for the mobility architecture and for the apps, and (hopefully) a dedicated app store
- A roadmap to offer a hosted platform for the various mobile infrastructure components (SUP, Afaria etc.). The opportunity is clearly there, because some partners already have such offerings
- SAP to focus its formidable development muscle on placing rock solid, awesome apps into the hands of customers as soon as possible. SAP is relying on the partner ecosystem to deliver a large proportion of apps, but a sizeable core set of apps from SAP itself would provide a great foundation.
At the World Tour event we heard the familiar phrase that 'mobile is the new desktop'. I believe that SAP is at a crucial juncture, whereby the opportunity is here right now to deliver great user interfaces to customers and bring a fresh sense of 'joy of use' to SAP applications. I can't wait to see what is available by the time I arrive at TechEd in Las Vegas.