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SAP Mobile – Winning Developers through the Ecosystem

As more and more enterprises realize the value of creating a mobile ecosystem, those systems which fit into a larger framework, stand to succeed. This ecosystem is driven by the apps that developers create to integrate with the system capabilities. If you have a mobile platform, attracting developers is job one. Nick Brown, SVP of Mobile Solutions Management and Strategy at SAP, is leading the charge to do just that. “We have a strong desire to say that 80% of the mobile app innovation that is happening around our platform is coming from partners.” From my conversation with Brown at SAPPHIRE NOW, he is clearly focused on winning over new development partners by being part of a larger mobile development community.

Brown didn’t hesitate to engage my candid question – Why would I want to be an SAP developer partner?  “From the partners I’ve talked to, they are very excited. With the Jump-Start program, you have a quick way to get going, get licenses for users, and we make it low cost. We’ve also made our mobile infrastructure application capabilities available in the cloud. You can download our tools; you can try them, and start to build apps.”  Brown mentioned that SAP  has been actively working on simplifying the on-boarding process to attract new partners.

Bringing on new partners is just the first step. To hold the attention of developer partners, SAP wants to assure them that they will be compensated for their work.  Historically, SAP has not charged for mobile apps. But that is changing. As Brown stated, “How do you feed an ecosystem with partners if you are not charging for apps?” Brown relayed that SAP is also looking at innovative programs to successfully monetize developers efforts. “What I think is interesting is what happens after you build the app. The top apps will get marketing and we have a services team to help you implement this app on SAP. Our services team will have the ability to implement your application along with a suite of other apps.” For smaller development shops this support will be welcomed news. As Brown put it, “Now I can go to a vendor and say ‘You’ll have access to fifty thousand customers and we’ll help you market your app.’ We want to get that rolling.”

Part of getting things rolling quickly, is being able to leverage existing development environments.  SAP has made their intentions very clear that they are team players in this area. Brown was very excited about this front. “Another thing that is happening with our platform is we made announcements with Sencha, Apppcelerator and PhoneGap that go beyond our SKD to native integration into iOS, eclipse, visual studio, etc.” For Brown, the goal in minds is “to make sure that you can leverage these development environments for beautiful application functionality and UI.”  SAP wants to help developers take advantages of the rich toolsets that are out there. As well, “there are millions of developers that know how to use Sencha, Apppcelerator, etc. There are probably not millions of developers who know how to use some proprietary closed system. We want to open up and leverage these new opportunities. There will probably be more to come.” That should excite developers who are looking for ways to tie systems together to enable enterprise mobility.

One challenge SAP faces in attracting new development partners, is the sheer size of the platform. I asked Brown how they plan to effectively communicate what all the components and capabilities are. “This is a big push for us on the developer experience. When you look at the whole landscape of SAP it looks like a thousand boxes.” However, Brown sees opportunity to drive out confusion. “The focus we have to simplify things is around our NetWeaver Gateway.” This allows developers to produce OData as the content provided by SAP backend systems. “If you generate OData, then you have something that is usable by non-SAP developers. Now they can consume this. It looks like data they expect. It doesn’t have any SAP intrinsics in it.” What we are working on now, is providing those hooks into those design environments so they look like native objects that you can start to manipulate your applications against.”

Brown also discussed how SAP fits into a broader ecosystem. “We are making big strides forward to show that our mobile platform isn’t just for SAP, that it is also for non-SAP systems.” Brown mentioned that an attractive part of the Syclo acquisition is that the platform ties into many other backend systems. When it comes to SAP’s mobile vision, this seems to just be the beginning. Brown emphatically stated, “We keep broadening our integration capabilities.”

On the enterprise mobility front, SAP is embracing the idea of the mobile ecosystem at its finest; realizing that you need to become a piece that frictionlessly fits into a larger whole. This playing nice in the ecosystem at large is what will win new developer converts and position SAP well in the future of enterprise mobility.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Sybase 365 – The Untold Story of the Mobile Global Connector

Have you ever considered what happens when you send a text message from your phone on the AT&T network to a friend of yours whose carrier happens to be Verizon? Did you know there is no direct link between carriers? Unbeknownst to you, your text message to your friend was made possible by passing through Sybase 365 on its journey. And it’s not just your message – working with over 900 carriers globally, Sybase 365 processes over 1.8 billion messages a day.  “We have the hub that everyone connects to,” John Sims, president of Sybase 365, told me when we sat down together at SAPPHIRE NOW. Sybase 365, the unsung hero of mobile communications, has a great story in the mobile revolution that demands to be told.

Cross-carrier text messaging is just one aspect of the capabilities of Sybase 365. Sybase 365 is a secure, highly scalable communication platform. Sybase 365 has globally distributed hubs that enable apps and services to pass data back and forth. The platform’s global footprint and redundancy enable some of the most highly transactional apps and services to function in a reliable fashion. Sybase 365 allows companies to develop their apps and services without having to worry about building and maintaining a globally distributed communication platform. This is having a very positive effect and global impact.

One fantastic example of the positive effect of Sybase 365′s global impact is how it is propelling emerging countries into mobility leaders. Before this present mobile revolution, many countries had little to no communications infrastructure and PC install base. But the relative ease of enabling mobile infrastructure and phone hardware costs, are leveling the computing playing field. Sims noted that, “In the international market, they have been more aggressive in their approach to mobility. Mobile was the only option they had.” This has led to some very positive and advanced benefits. Since there hasn’t been the same proliferation of PCs, other countries have enthusiastically embraced enabling mobility. “In some regards, the ‘underdeveloped’ are more developed than we [the United States] are in terms of capabilities,” Sims mused. And it is Sybase 365 that is right in the middle of it all, making it possible. Enabling not only text communication but advanced functionality in such areas as banking. For the under banked population of the world, the impact is enormous. Sybase 365 is acting as a key component in the democratization of technology.

From its roots as a mobile text messaging service, Sims related how the organization has branched out into enabling communication between mobile commerce and banking. Many companies such as CIBC and Citizens bank leverage Sybase 365 as a back-end partner in their mobile banking solutions.  But Sims has a grander vision for the capabilities of the Sybase 365 platform. “Until recently we focused primarily on mobile operators, mobile banking, and mobile payments. We are starting to look at other industries. For example, we are extending into utilities and consumer packaged goods. We want to provide scenarios for them that make sense. We want to be instrumental in changing the way those companies do business.”

Ease of execution is one way that Sybase 365 enables scenarios outside of their historical capabilities. “Companies are going through major transformation. We are going to provide mobile tools to help customers solve the problems that arise because of this transition.” Sims told me that Sybase 365 is opening the platform for integration with PhoneGap, Appcellerator, etc. “Developers who are familiar with those tools will quickly be productive in those environments. We are exposing all our capabilities as web services.” This will make the platform very easy to integrate with and develop more advanced apps and services.

When it comes to looking at how mobility is affecting the enterprise, Sims believes that Sybase 365 will help make many scenarios a reality.  We discussed many scenarios where Sims believes that Sybase 365 could be instrumental. From enabling self-service support, to loyalty apps, to location based commerce experiences. Sims noted, “Initially we just helped clients provide information, then simple transactions, which led to more complex transactions. Now we are looking at engagement possibilities and cross-selling.” No matter what fantastical possibilities companies dream up in the future, Sybase 365 is well positioned to continue to be the tie that binds mobile communications together.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Mobility Inside SAP – Drinking Their Own Champagne

As one of the global leaders in enterprise apps and platforms, SAP is taking its position in regard to mobility seriously. So seriously in fact, they are leveraging their own enterprise mobility management solution, Afaria, to enable both a corporate provisioned and BYOD policy. I got a chance to sit down with Oliver Bussmann, CIO of SAP, at SAPPHIRE NOW to discuss SAP’s approach to mobility. Bussmann’s breadth and depth on the subject of enterprise mobility was made clear by his very thoughtful and articulate responses.

We began by discussing SAP’s position on corporately provisioned devices. In the past, SAP had standardized on a single device. However, that is no longer the case. As Bussmann pointed out, “We changed completely. We now provide choices; not unlimited choices, but there is a choice.” Presently, SAP allows users to select from Apple, Android, and RIM devices. For each platform there are several options. I asked him how he decided on which devices make the list.  Bussmann replied that “the key motivation for me is that my users are excited. They want to have that device and that they are excited to use it. That is the moment I’ll jump on it. At the end, I am not saying our entire sales- force has to use iPad devices. They can pick and choose.”

There are some categories of employees at SAP who do not qualify for a corporate provisioned device. “We are generous in giving out corporate devices.” Bussmann noted. Those who don’t get them are roles within the company, such as finance and HR, that are typically on-premise. Even so, they see great value in providing the mobile experience for all their users.  This lead to enabling BYOD within SAP. “The motivation is all about this mobile experience. We had a discussion on the board level with Jim and Bill and there’s a strong belief that even those people should have access to those mobile apps. Everyone should have that experience.”  And it isn’t just the experience that is of concern to Bussmann and SAP.  He understands the prominence implementing BYOD brings the enterprise as well.  “I think from a brand value, a brand perception, it is critical. I have to, we must.”

BYOD in a global organization brings on many added challenges. Even with the challenges of the laws in Europe, Bussmann thinks it is worth the hassle of setting up the policy to allow BYOD. “Absolutely. You’d be surprised how many emails I’m getting from German users who want to use personal devices. There’s definitely feedback from the different communities. People are saying they want to bring their devices into work.” Since last September, they have brought on about 1,100 personal devices. “We thought we would do a global deployment but decided to do it country by country because the global laws are so specific. We started in Asia and North America and we are now going to Europe. It’s a big push and we are using the same infrastructure [as the corporate provisioned devices]. He continued on to explain that BYOD is done on a voluntary basis and they sign a consensus form to participate. This also means that their device will be managed by Afaria.

There is nothing like using your own platform to understand how it could better serve your clients. In discussing Afaria, Bussmann gave insight into which functionality he would like to see enabled in their solutions. “We need a third email client integration for devices.  This is a particular issue for Europe to have a separate email client, a separate password.  We have third party vendors who would like to integrate with us. That is something that we want to see. That’s the number one topic. The other topic is that we want to see Afaria integrate with SAP Box. In all my customer meetings it comes up…people love it.”

Mobilty also raises many security concerns, not just with SAP, but all organizations. Bussmann is brokering the interchange between the business need and IT’s concern. Bussmann keenly invited IT staff to a board meeting to discuss their concerns and hear from the top about the business need. “You need, in these cases, executive support to push back and say ‘guys do a risk assessment, find a way to work around and see if it is possible’.”

Bussmann is ushering in fresh perspective into traditional approaches to security at SAP. He pointed out that, “In the end, security has become a case by case risk management topic. I transformed my security guys because they were always thinking ‘kill it or we’ll all bleed.’  I said, understand what’s the benefit, what’s the probability, and what’s the worst case?  If it meets the threshold then we’ll have to bring it up to the board and they will make the final call. But we have to move away from people locking everything, everything has to be 150% secure. That’s the old way. That’s not risk management. I can guarantee you that the appetite on the business side to take on more risk is there. If IT isn’t willing to find a way to balance that, the business will find a way to bypass us, no question about it, no question about it.”

This does not mean abdicating all control to the business side’s desires. He believes IT should drive the security analysis. “The experience and sensitivity to understand what it means to be in the worse-case is not there on their [the business] side. They see the pure business benefits. The risk potential, the security threat, is sometimes underestimated. We are the opposite side, the IT folks. We are too pessimistic, too risk averse.  Finding that balance, finding the workarounds, finding what’s the acceptable risk level, and making that transparent to everybody so they understand that. You need the risk management procedures in place. We have procedures in place on how we qualify and quantify risk probability; depending on the threshold that gets escalated to the next level. The risk of a million or more, then the board has to walk through and understand and document that. In our case having a combined risk and IT security function is absolutely critical.

SAP’s adroit implementation of mobility within their own organization can only further provide to their wealth of enterprise experience. The willingness to leverage their own solutions and address experience and security in fundamentally new ways, speaks volumes of their commitment and understanding of mobility. I think we can continue to look to SAP to be a leader in mobility for the forward thinking enterprises.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Turn Data into Answers with SAP Visual Intelligence

SAP today announced the release of Visual Intelligence, a tool that allows users to visualize and analyze information and then apply it to individual and group decision-making. Visual Intelligence is powered by the SAP HANA platform and empowers users to perform data discovery. An extension of the BusinessObjects Explorer application, SAP Visual Intelligence help users create sleek interactive visualizations giving organization the ability to ask questions of their data sets without the need for predefined queries, reports or dashboards.

“The category of visual data discovery has become a must-have component of the BI tool portfolio and SAP has upped its capabilities with its latest product, SAP Visual Intelligence,” said Cindi Howson, founder, BI Scorecard. “Ease of use, time to insight and business agility are key reasons for the rapid growth of visual data discovery that provides users with greater self service with minimal IT support. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer provided ease of use, but the release of SAP Visual Intelligence brings greater flexibility and richer analysis.”

SAP Visual Intelligence enables ad-hoc discovery on many different types of data sources from spreadsheets to sales, finance, marketing, customer, social, geo-location, third-party and other business data. Best of all, published reports are immediately consumable on a mobile device, such as an iPad, using BusinessObjects Explorer.

“SAP Visual Intelligence revolutionizes decision-making by offering every person in an organization a fast and extremely easy way of discovering answers from any data,” said John Schweitzer, senior vice president and general manager, Analytics, SAP. “SAP solutions for analytics empower people with precise information anytime and anywhere using beautiful visualizations, enabling rapid response to events as they unfold. SAP delivers a powerful and comprehensive analytics portfolio that helps companies adapt to constant change so they can achieve remarkable results.”

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remotelyMOBILE – Live from SAPPHIRE NOW

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This week I’ll be here at thr SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando. Stay tuned!

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