An early start to the day helped ensure that the facilities were functional and that support was available for this pre-conference day on SAP Mobile. After literally months of preparation, it was time for the speakers and the audience to assemble.
Rather than the usual chronological tour through the day, I'll leave that for the stories in pictures below and focus on some themes that resounded during the day. There were others, and Jon Reed captured one of the themes during his tweets, as well as other crowd reaction.
Repeatedly, customers wanted to know which moving parts are required, which are optional, and what of the existing built-out systems go into maintenance mode. This is especially critical to understand for parts that are new, may require new licenses, and for which little or no institutional knowledge exists. We saw several charts, including full spectrum business models, medium intensity connection diagrams, and something resembling entity relationship models. Based on what we've heard, we'll expect to see refinements of these road maps later in the week.
Early in the day, I asked for what customers were looking for in the sessions today. One specific issue stuck out, that might be beyond the typical developer focus in connecting back end data systems to mobile devices, and that's calendar synchronization. That to me is one of those universal issues that mobile software should solve (get the times of meetings right), but whether that's in SAP's power, I don't know. The question was not addressed later, nor did the pruning of contacts come up. Another related issue was governance - once a data model is built for who gets what data on their mobile device, who enforces or controls this?
That Mobile Guy
When I talked about the diversity of mobile devices, and the dearth of mobile infrastructure support, there was a common agreement in the audience that they recognize the same issue. Everyone wants the mobile devices to work, but few seem capable of bridging the gap between the business development requirements and the software development cycles required. Making Afaria work, managing the procurement, build-out, and demolition of devices seems left to a specialize cadre that is in short supply.
Event / Transportation Management
This trend may not have been universally absorbed by the audience, as the speaker spent a lot of time on general software trends, and not enough time on how mobile devices can track shipments, interface with existing carriers, and streamline logistics. The observation that trucking companies have more Androids than iPhones may be valid, but it wasn't supported by any evidence presented. The example we saw, while a mock up perhaps, added new dimensions to the expansion of applications in this area. Reliance on the existence of an SAP backbone with transportation management seemed to be a prerequisite, and I'd have liked to have heard more specific examples. I'll try to get this topic into an ASUG webcast soon.
It may not be fair to ask a technical presenter what the licensing terms of a specific software suite are, but the question came up multiple times. I would expect SAP to have some kind of standard price sheet, and at least let these people know what comes in a bundle and what doesn't. My sense is that this is immediately directed to account representatives, and discerning all of the moving parts needed for a project (see Infrastructure, above) are going to be left for those closed door discussions.
As this "deal" as not closed, I did not expect to see or hear much about the impact. And while the presenters stayed away from revealing any confidential information, there was good discussion about possible scenarios, timing, and what may happen. And saying "names may change" seems obvious, but a welcome recognition of the rebranding (or spin) that happens post-merger.
Development style, and skill building
Jon Reed asked vital questions about what new skills or changes to current development management might be required as a result of shifting into an SUP landscape. The answers were valuable, but to me the more critical insight was into the data modeling process. Trimming the fat of an ERP system prior to caching and then distributing it to mobile devices seems like an obvious step, but the sense was this didn't happen nearly as often as it should. And the skills of knowing the entire data catalog, understanding what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what needs to be filtered, is not easily acquired, nor, I think, is it as well rewarded as it should be.
Session 1 - John Polus
Session 2 - Cam Patters
Another side of lunch
Session 3 - Boris Magocsi
Transcription of portions of the above tweet stream - thanks Jon Reed for distilling some of the customer angst in the room.
Session 5 - Scott Steadman and Harleen Kaur
Session 6 - Karsten Ruf and Viswanathan Ramakrishnan
Success, of a kind. Got one Mobile demo working on my iPad. Boris said use itunes, not SAP store. Confused.