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.