In a session at the recent Sapphire in Madrid, Executive Vice President SAP NetWeaver Björn Goerke mentioned a new NetWeaver Cloud “Mobile as a Service” (MaaS) offering that has a considerable impact on other existing SAP offerings.
Note: Björn’s presentation came with the usual disclaimer slide exonerating SAP of any responsibility to actually implement any of this stuff but let’s just pretend that they will actually do it.
A Caveat: There is actually very little additional information available for the new offering so I have absolutely no further details regarding what the service really contains. But this ignorance also provides me with a certain degree of flexibility in my exploration.
Mobile as a Service: Introduction
Fellow mentor John Moy thankfully has provided a useful diagram that demonstrates that SAP already has a rather extensive mobility platform (SAP Mobile Platform: SMP) that encompasses a variety of products.
Into this already complicated picture, the new Mobile as a Service enters. From my understanding, the MaaS is planned for more lightweight mobile apps - more complicated apps (for example, many of those based on Syclo) would remain in the existing platform.
Combining Sam Yen’s UX work and the MaaS offering
Sam Yen has recently been given the task of giving SAP’s UI strategy a facelift and in a recent ASUG article describes the various steps he is taking to achieve these goals. An exploration of possible usage scenarios with MaaS to fulfill certain UX-related goals provides additional insights into this new mobile offering.
One facet of Sam’s strategy in particular is of interest.
Yen and his team are focusing on the 15 to 30 transactions that are most widely used by users in the install base–for instance, approval workflow processes such as leave approval and time-sheeting.
Yen knows focusing here is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, approval workflows, for instance, aren’t processes that differentiate a company. For the most part, how an employee inputs vacation and how a manger approves it isn’t really all that different from one customer to another. This will allow the solutions his team comes up to be more easily productized.
On the other hand, because they aren’t “competitive” processes, the IT team may have a hard time convincing the brass that these are processes worth investing time and money in making more usable.
Note: It is important to note that these applications are distinct from the Personas server.
Although not directly mentioned, ideally these applications would be mobile applications. Despite the possible high frequency of their use, it might be difficult to create a business case for the additional OnPremise infrastructure – either SUP- or Gateway-based – to support these new mobile applications.
Cloud environments are also focused on standardization and the MaaS on NetWeaver Cloud also really achieves its potential by focusing on standardized applications. By bringing both efforts together you have an interesting synergy that would easily permit the applications created by Sam’s team to rapidly reach a mass audience. Back-end integration in the new offering could be performed via the Cloud Connector. As long as the related back-end processes are not heavily customized, then the associated costs would be relatively low.
MaaS could focus on standardized mobile apps - with little or no possibility of customization. MaaS is an ideal platform to mobilize OnPremise assets. My assumption is that many enterprise apps meet these requirements suggesting that the potential of MaaS is high – not only related to Sam’s efforts but other use case as well.
SAP must clarify which use cases are best appropriate for the different mobile offerings. Until this takes place, I expect some friction from other SAP organizations and uncertainty amongst customers
Possible friction points:
Gateway is often portrayed as the perfect platform for enterprises to mobilize their workforce. This appears to be in direct competition with the MaaS. One possible distinction would to use Gateway for customer-created solutions and MaaS for standardized ones.
Sybase Unwired Platform:
SAP’s mobile sales staff may view their sales opportunities as threatened by this new offering. This is especially true for those customers who wish to create an initial mobile PoC or start with just a few mobile applications. In such cases, the initial infrastructure and licensing costs for OnPremise solutions are still relatively high. The MaaS might be more cost-effective for such efforts.
Note: It is possible to use the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) Developer Environments and Afaria on AWS but the entire SMP isn’t currently available there.
Partners offering cloud-based SMPs
I would expect partners such as Cap Gemini who are participating in the Sybase Managed Mobility Platform (which is also described as a Mobility as a Service) to focus on distinguishing their offers from that of SAP.
Many of the existing SMP-related apps are focused on existing business users. MaaS might focus more on consumer-facing apps reducing the traction with other SAP organizations.
- What exactly is the relationship of this new cloud-based service offering to the SAP Mobile Platform? Is it part of it or separate?
- Will existing SAP-created mobile apps (such as SAP Commissions Check and SAP Timesheet) run on the MaaS? What exactly is included in the new MaaS offering? Does it include Afaria?
- Migration paths between the MaaS and the SMP would be useful to know. Can you develop certain types of application on one platform and migrate it to the other platform? For example, if additional customization was necessary.
- Is a subscription-based pricing model for the MaaS planned?
- It is unclear if this offering could be used for the mobile apps for other OnDemand offerings (SuccessFactors, Financials On Demand, etc).