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Welcome to the ERP Lounge Podcast Series - Inside the SAP Consulting Market

The ERP Lounge: Misadventures and Opportunities in SAP Consulting is Jon Reed's "special edition" podcast series featuring in-depth, uncensored discussions on the realities of the SAP skills marketplace. On this page, you can listen to (or download) any of our past episodes.

Join Jon Reed of JonERP.com and industry guests as they assess the SAP skills that are hot (and not) and demystify SAP market trends. You can comment on any of the podcasts (and join in the discussion) on The ERP Lounge LinkedIn group. You can also subscribe to all of The ERP Lounge podcasts as part of the JonERP Master SAP Blog and Podcast Feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.

Podcast: SAP Enterprise Mobility - Where Do We Go From Here? (Benedict and Appleby) Print E-mail
podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"Three SAP Mentors have a frank and free-wheeling discussion on the future of SAP Enterprise Mobility, with John Appleby and Kevin Benedict" (ERP Lounge #15)
Podcast Interview Date: November 12, 2010
Podcast: Listen Now!

Why did SAP mobility experts leave SAP TechEd (Vegas and Berlin) with more questions than answers? How has the enterprise mobility space evolved since Sapphire 2010? And what does SAP need to accomplish in mobility to win the confidence of customers and partners? To get at these questions and more, I was approached by fellow SAP Mentors John Appleby of Bluefin Solutions and Kevin Benedict of Netcentric Strategies, who asked me to DJ an open discussion on SAP moblity. The result was a forty minute podcast, which I felt was of the caliber and depth I look for in ERP Lounge podcasts, so I've added this to the series.

Editor's note: This podcast references Kevin Benedict's blog post on the new SAP-Sybase leadership structure. Also check out Kevin's Enterprise Mobility Strategies blog and his blog on SCN. John has a blog on SCN and also contributes to the Bluefin Solutions blog. Other links: SAP Mentor Initiative, Virtual SAP TechEd, mobility section on SCN.

Note: to comment on this podcast series, or send in a question for us to answer in the next one, be sure to join our ERP Lounge Group on Linkedin. If you want to subscribe to the series, get the The JonERP Master Blog and Podcast Feed. Or find Jon on his @jonerp Twitter feed. The ERP Lounge podcasts are also included in the JonERP iTunes podcast feed.  

Podcast Highlights

:25 Kevin showered for our podcast.

1:07 John reveals that the only cell phone he carries with him is a Windows phone.

2:05 Jon to the guys: what changes have you seen in SAP mobility from Sapphire Now to TechEd 2010? Kevin: At Sapphire, SAP was unveiling the Sybase relationship. I expected to see more detailed plans at TechEd, but I didn't find a lot of progress. John: To be fair, SAP couldn't release a lot in between the two shows, due to the post-acquisition due diligence. But we were hoping to hear more on strategy. Kevin: I saw demos, but I didn't see senior mobility management. John: TechEd was literally two weeks after SAP's creation of the Mobile Business Unit. It was still a bit unsettled after that change, and maybe there wasn't time to clear things up.

4:45 Kevin to John: What do you think of the Mobile Business Unit? John: SAP is serious about the financial reaction to the acquisition. Creating an MBU was part of a message to the customers and the financial community that "we take mobility very seriously." Kevin: but you didn't see these folks running around TechEd, despite record numbers. Jon Reed: I think it was about 15,000 folks in attendance at TechEd total (including virtual attendees).

6:55 John: We had a number of senior executives there, including Vishal Sikka, but the Sybase mobility leadership was not present at TechEd Berlin or Vegas.

7:15 Kevin: I published a blog on the lineup of the Mobility Business Unit. John Chen will lead up the entire unit.

9:20 John: To be fair, this is a serious bunch of senior executives they have placed in the leadership of this group. Kevin: They're putting the right firepower together, but where were they? Jon Reed: I think some of that was just flat-out merger/growing pains of SAP not engaging Sybase at TechEd, I think they'll fix it by next year. We should see more Sybase presence at the Influencer Summit in December for the reasons we discussed.

11:30 John: It is what it is, so how do we move on from that? Perhaps part of the problem is the difference in mentality and culture between SAP and Sybase, and whether these personalities can work together as a business unit? Kevin: In my opinion, there is a different between SAP's more open communication style and Sybase's traditional inward research and development focus.

13:03 Kevin to John: What kind of answers did you need from Sybase at TechEd? John: a great number of TechEd attendees wanted to get their feet wet with mobility, they wanted to get their hands on the new Gateway platform, they wanted to check out the Sybase Unwired Platform. Kevin: I saw some good high level sessions on the Sybase side, but I didn't see the connections to the SAP platform. Jon Reed: I expect we'll hear more from hands-on with Gateway at Bangalore, if all goes well.

14:55 John: I was speaking to someone in the finance community and they were asking for advice on roadmaps. He didn't understand the divide between lightweight and heavyweight apps, what SAP calls Enterprise Micro-Apps, and a major app like Enterprise Sales. He didn't understand the difference between the two strategies. Kevin: the SAP-Sybase portfolio is enormous. One of the things Sybase people like to say is you can do anything you can imagine with our software, so that's good if you have enough time and money, but the bad part is the indecisiveness - when you want an answer on how you should do something, it's not there. The SAP mobile market needs defined architectures and defined models. It needs to be simplified for people to be able to actually step up and make a decision.

17:10 John: One of the great problems is the market is a little bit in flux because of the acquisition, there has been a seismic shift in mobility, and not just in the enterprise. People are used to downloading apps, the number of iPhones users is enormous, there has been a shift outside the enterprise from making calls to wanting to download apps and connect to the enterprise. People are asking for apps to put their time and expenses in, and the CIO is trying to make sense of it all. Kevin: the pieces are all there, and that's one of the challenges SAP and Sybase will now face. If you want that and have the pieces, how do you educate the market?

19:00 Jon Reed to Kevin: That ties in with a favorite topic of yours - it's just a customer confusion issue, it's an ecosystem of partners and developers that was also thrown for a loop by the SAP-Sybase acquisition. What do they need to know? Kevin: SAP themselves has said they believe there are thousands of mobile apps needed by enterrpises to communicate and integrate with SAP core components. The Sybase mobile applications group is only looking at a handful of apps that they want to mobilize themselves - most of them, including vertical solutions, will come from systems integratos and partners.

I heard from two different systems integrators who called me and said, "Do you know where I can find Sybase-trained consultants?" SAP has designated the Sybase layer will be the primary middleware and development layer, which will create a demand for that type of consultant. We may not have gotten a lot of specific answers, but SIs know this is a big opportunity to go after righ now.

21:45 John to Kevin: The CRM Sales app that SAP and Sybase have produced is not based on the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) SDK, it's a standalone app, so using the SDK that is available to develop these apps, you can generate apps based on data sets for Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. For iPhone, you have to write your own front end. Android is still under development. For Windows Phone 7, there is no news yet. Will compatability be a problem?

Kevin: In my view, yes. Everybody is looking for a standardized approach, developers are holding back waiting for a model for how things can be done. If the mobile CRM isn't a possible model, that's not especially helpful. John: the mobile CRM app pre-dates the SDK. It's the same connectivity as the Sybase Unwired Platform, but the app was not developed using the SDK.

24:30: Kevin to John: So what are the mobile pieces missing today? John: This is not specific to Sybase, it's a broader issue. We've got instant value micro-apps, which will eventually be HTML 5 and multi-device. But the usability is unclear across devices: what will the user experience be like across those devices, accessing apps in a browser? Then on the other side we have user-specific apps, and you'll have to design them for each device. In SAP-Sybase's case, they are producing device-independent code and then rendering it on a device by building a device platform. I don't feel like any of these options are satisfactory.

Kevin: last week I was given a demo that was HTML 5 based, but I was impressed with its ability to integrate with iPhone-specific functionality. I'm sure there's things that a native app would bring that would make it better, but I was impressed with what HTML 5 was capable of. John: HTML 5 is a great discussion, a whole other podcast. It's possible to make that doable - Matt Harding's group did an online/offline app in HTML 5 at TechEd. Kevin: And that brings up the question of the value of Sybase's platform and database for that kind of synchronization. John: I think the answer to that is that it's not going to be SUP in those cases of micro-apps, it's going to be Gateway and HTML 5 and a web kit of some kind.

28:00 Kevin to John: If you could talk to John Chen, what advice would you have for him on what he could do to help the SAP community understand enterprise mobility? John: The Mobile Business Unit hasn't reached out to the community yet. This is a fast moving market, shifts can happen in six to nine months (example: iPhone to Droid). The SAP Mobile Business Unit (MBU) needs to come to the community and talk about how they are going to compete with that. Kevin: But this also drives value back to Sybase - there's no way smaller vendors can keep up with all the platform compability issues for different devices. That's where Sybase can play a key role. If SAP-Sybase are slow to support multiple platforms, then that won't be an advantage for them after all.

30:55 John to Kevin: Turning it back on you again, how do you feel about what needs to happen heading into Sapphire? Do we need a point of inflection prior to Sapphire, or can we continue heading the way we are? Kevin: I hope the announcements they made in August in Boston on the roadmap that they are aligning with Sapphire are timed for release at that show in May - it sure seemed like that's what they were aiming at. What we want to see is a combination of Project Gateway for instant value apps, combined with the Sybase Unwired Platform and BusinessObjects Mobile, all brought together in one cohesive solution. That's ambitious, but that's what the market needs.

The market says, "Yes, I understand you have very powerful tools, but you need to show us when and how to use them - we need a roadmap." Yes, we can customize those roadmaps, but we need those general models. John: I agree. The main point that remains is that customers are in a buying loop now, they are treading water. They are trying to figure out where SAP is going, they don't want to invest too early. Outside of the blue collar market, the value you get from enterprise apps is incremental, it's not exponential. With blue collar markets like field services and asset management, you can get much higher returns. But by implementing a mobile workflow for purchase orders, the gains will be more modest.

33:55 Kevin: at TechEd, I asked Vishal Sikka, "What advice would you give enterprises today that have active mobile projects and active demand for mobile projects, what should they be doing, should they be waiting or taking action?" His advice was, (paraphrase) "Have them support the Sybase Unwired Platform, they can develop their apps on that, become familiar with the architecture, and they will not be out of step with where SAP is going by taking that action today." John: by being so clear about that, what he was also saying, in my view, is that NetWeaver Mobile is dead. This is my speculation, but right now, you need NetWeaver Mobile and SUP to develop mobile apps for SAP, but eventually, the NetWeaver Mobile part of that will likely go away.

Kevin: so does that mean SUP will eventually combine with the best features of NetWeaver Mobile? John: SAP has to be careful here, because the European Union has been clear that Sybase needs to continue to serve non-SAP customers as well. SUP has a good history of integrating with SAP and other enterprise solutions. I think we'll eventually see a SUP-SAP add-in connector. Kevin to John: is Sapphire a reasonable time to wait for that, or should people act sooner? John: well, I don't think we'll see it before Sapphire, and that puts the market in some flux.

36:30 Kevin: I see the ecosystem around SAP mobility changing to support the Sybase architecture. In the past, many of these third party vendors had their own middleware, but I think they will all standardize around Sybase. John: I'm seeing the same standardization around SUP, but I'm seeing cautious investment in SUP and I think that will be the case until SAP is clear on its future roadmap there. SAP's radio silence on this will need to change.

38:00 Lightning Round - John: What I've taken away is the huge positivity that Kevin brings towards the mobile market. We have a range of products in existence, and I hope SAP comes to us to help make this work. Jon: Kevin's drops off the call, so I'll sign off for him. 

 

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