During the dot-com era, businesses were forced to march to a new, faster pace called Internet Time. In the post-PC era, Big Data + apps + mobile devices enable businesspeople to make decisions in real-time where ever they are. I propose we call this era, Mobile Time.
As a result of Mobile Time, businesses that once lumbered like sumo wrestlers now pirouette like ballerinas. My employer SAP is a good example. As one of the largest enterprise users of iPads around, we've learned how to deploy them quickly and securely - 3,000 iPads to globally-dispersed employees in just 6 weeks.
(Indeed, SAP's 55,000 employees carry more than 40,000 mobile devices, including 22,000 BlackBerry smartphones, 9,000 iPhones, 1,000 Android smartphones and 18,000 iPads. Learn more about how CIO Oliver Bussmann is managing this fleet of devices by downloading the whitepaper and watching the SAP Runs SAP Mobile video, too.)
SAP is also working with its customers in Mobile Time, too. For the past several years, its SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions teams have helped a bunch of customers deploy applications in a no-risk manner in as little as a month, all at a fixed price (here's a snazzy 2-minute video that gives you a quick overview).
Nikhil Betigeri is rapid deployment solution mobility Lead at SAP. He's worked on more than half-dozen rapid deployments for mobile customers. An 8-year SAP veteran, Betigeri frankly admits that many customers were "very skeptical" when they first hear about our rapid deployment solutions, as it "goes against our traditional reputation."
But then "you get very excited when you can get a customer up and running in just 4-6 weeks," said Betigeri. "We literally started one project in the middle of November. It was done just after Christmas. The customer was completely blown away."
For most customers, SAP can get them up and running within 2 months. Here's a typical schedule (right-click to save):
The Secret Sauce
How SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions are able to achieve such results is a combination of several factors. On the back end, SAP has a Solution Assembly and Packaging (SAaP) team that has created standard packages combining the SAP mobile platform and applications.
In the mobile space, that includes two basic packages: a Rapid Deployment Solution for Mobile Apps and Infrastructure that lays out a foundation of Afaria (for mobile device and application management) and/or Sybase Unwired Platform (middleware that connects data to devices) with a selection of 17 different mobile apps from which to choose.
The other mobile RDS package is focused on mobilizing salespeople as quickly as possible, and is based on the SAP CRM application, SUP and its mobile front-end, SAP CRM Sales mobile app.
These deployments can either be done by SAP consultants or qualified SAP partners. Customers don't need to actively project manage or devote their IT resources the deployments, said Betigeri.
"It's pre-fab, pre-configured, pre-set, and that's what makes it easy for us and our customers to employ these solutions," he said. That keeps the prices manageable.
Another part of the magic is that by choosing rapid deployment solutions, customers are signaling their desire to limit (their initial) scope and cost in order to get results fast.
"We set the expectation that an iPad or an iPhone is not a replacement for a laptop, and that you want to update something in ten seconds or less," Betigeri said. "Once they understand that, they get the need to keep it simple."
Even with that expectation, customers get tangible value quickly. For a leading aerospace manufacturer, SAP rolled out the mobile sales app to 150 salespeople as well service technicians in 12 weeks last year. These salespeople now have access to real-time data on customers, and get leads assigned to them instantly, whereas it used to take hours or days before, said Betigeri.
Still Flexible As a Yoga Master
While "sticking to standard SAP best practices, works better for them and works better for us," said Betigeri, SAP can still customize rapid deployment solution apps for customers as well as deploy them in unusual ways. For instance, it helped one multinational chemicals manufacturer deploy the mobile CRM app along with two other apps (travel and expense mobile apps) to salespeople running both iPads and BlackBerries. And it was able to get this pilot going in just seven weeks.
The use of SAP's mobile middleware (Afaria and SUP) enables customers to scale their rapid deployment solutions later. The chemical manufacturer's pilot went well enough that it plans to make it a full-fledged deployment to multiple divisions, as well as add another app, a mobile BI dashboard.
Betigeri does caution that companies that are deploying SAP back-end software for the first time in parallel with the mobile apps may require more time - about 14 weeks, he said, versus 6-8 weeks for existing SAP users.
But the faster deployment speed lowers risk and helps companies recoup their investment sooner. That should tempt many customers.
"Look, no business wants to wait. They want something yesterday," he said. "SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions are a healthy compromise. It's not yesterday, but it's not two years."