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SAP SCN Podcast Transcripts

Starting in December of 2007, Jon began a multi-year series of podcasts with the SAP SCN Community team. Many of these have their own transcripts, which you can view here. If you want to check out all the SAP SCN podcasts and download them, go to the SAP SCN Podcast Page.
Tracking SAP Mobility Trends with SAP Mentors John Appleby & Kevin Benedict - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
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Tracking SAP Mobility Trends with SAP Mentors John Appleby and Kevin Benedict - Podcast Transcription
An SCN Community Podcast
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: July 2, 2010

Jon Reed: Welcome to this SCN Community podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed of Joining me today is Kevin Benedict of Net Sensing Strategies and John Appleby of Bluefin Solutions. We're here to talk about SAP mobility trends and how these two SAP Mentors are using the mobility resources on SCN in their own work. I also hope to pick up a few blogging tips from a couple of SCN veterans.

Given that SAP set the tone at SAPPHIRENOW and that this is the year of the mobile enterprise, I'm glad to have these guys on the call to help us understand mobile trends in the SAP community. I want to learn a little more about you guys and how you became active in the SAP community in the mobility space. Kevin, let's start with you.

Kevin Benedict: I started in mobility back in 2000 when I was working for an Irish company called IONA Technologies that was developing mobile middleware for enterprises. They're a long-term enterprise middleware company that extended out to laptops back then. Since then, I started being in product evangelism, product marketing, and product development in mobile middleware.

But back in about 2004, I became the CEO of a mobile applications company primarily for field services operations. I did my tenure there and gained a great deal of experience. Back in 2008, I jumped into the world in the SAP Ecosystem, became an active blogger on SDN on enterprise mobility, and last year was top contributor on mobile platforms on the SDN community.

Reed: And what about you, John?

John Appleby: My side comes from the SAP technology side. I run a technology and business unit for SI in the UK; we cover a wide range of topics. It was really clear when SAP set out its co-innovation strategy last year that mobile was really going to come of age for SAP. That was so clear to me that we put in quite a lot of effort to figure out exactly what this meant for the market, what were the products being generated by RIM and Sybase and Syclo. That led to SDN involvement because it was the only place to go for information.

Reed: One thing I have learned about SAP mobility is that there is a big difference between mobile point solutions and an enterprise mobility strategy. Kevin, can you take a shot at that and tell us what the difference is?

Benedict: There's a lot of different kinds of mobile applications people are talking about within the SAP Ecosystem. There are browser-based applications that are mobile. There are what's called micro-apps, which are often seen in the iPhone and BlackBerry environments. These are lightweight apps that you can just download from online app stores. They do some important and very interesting things, but they're lightweight in that they don't carry a lot of content, they don't store data on the devices, they don't do a lot of computation on the devices, but they give you access into SAP.

An example would be alerts. Let's say a supplier sent an invoice that needs to be approved. An alert can be sent out to an iPhone from SAP. A manager can look at that and approve the invoice, that approval gets sent back in, and the accounts payable process can continue from there. It's a very important mobile app, but it's very lightweight, doesn't do a whole lot. The value is that when somebody's on the road, you're not stopping a business process from being executed internally. There are a lot of ROIs; they're lightweight; those are inexpensive applications.

As a matter fact, one of the vendors in SAP Ecosystem I think announced 40 new ones at SAPPHIRE this year. You can build a lot of those little ones.

Mobile browser applications are very interesting in that you can build one application that can fit on many different kinds of mobile operating systems through their browsers. The disadvantage of those kinds of applications? They don't take advantage of the native environment on the iPhone, BlackBerry or Android. They're just a browser base; you're not taking advantage of the operating system or the mobile device itself.

Another category is rich clients or what's called thick clients, which are often very powerful applications. They frequently contain databases on the mobile device, so all your customer data can be on there. You can look up all kinds of information, whether you're connected to the internet or on a train somewhere with a poor connection. You always have access to your information.

Those are the different categories you see out there. And then you see the word MEAP come up a lot: Mobile Enterprise Application Platform. That's a big word for a whole series of components that can make up a MEAP. You'll have mobile middleware, development tools, GUI interface development tools, security, and sometimes different levels of mobile device management. Those are the different categories you're seeing out there.

One way of looking at point solutions specifically is if you're building a field service app as a vendor, maybe you're only providing a mobile application just to your own field service app. So maybe you're a field service back-end applications company; you've now created a mobile version of that. But you're not trying to accomplish everything an enterprise needs. You're not trying to do their asset management, you're not trying to do inspections, or sales force automation. You're just doing field service. So that would be an example of just a point solution, Jon.

Reed: Now John, I want to ask you about your work. Are you seeing companies leaning more toward the specific point solutions or are they starting to grapple with a broader enterprise mobility strategy that makes sense in the bigger picture.

Appleby: I'm coming to this from the opposite end of the spectrum as Kevin has just done. What we've seen a lot of in the last five years is big point solutions. So asset management is a great example, or field service. These scenarios where you might have thousands of workers who go and do field service (repair pumps or electricity stations or gas meters, for example), where there are massive efficiencies to be had by doing combination scheduling, mobile scheduling, and updating these things on the move. That's where the big ROI was for mobile investments.

These are point solutions, and these things exist already typically; a lot of organizations have them already. But there's been a paradigm shift where people have their iPhones and Androids and BlackBerries at home and these micro-apps that Kevin talked about, and they're thinking, "Well, would I have one of these for my timesheets? Why not?"

We're seeing a shift toward people who have implemented one or two point solutions, but in some instances they've implemented 10 or 20 point solutions. They realize they've got a whole mobile road map that they need to do over the next few years, and they're looking to implement a platform to build upon that.

Reed: Both of you have been active on the community network in mobility space. John, what are you taking from the time you're spending there?

Appleby: The first experiences we had were implementing the Sybase platform. We were really the first people in the world to be doing that. But, before us the people doing the RIM CRM clients have been there on the NetWeaver Mobile platform. What I was able to specifically do is draw from the experiences of the RIM guys, in terms of the problems they had, and apply that to the Sybase platform. What's more, there are a couple of key SAP developers who blog and are active on the forums, who wrote the product and are there to help.

Reed: Kevin, from your vantage point, what resources are folks taking advantage of? What are you taking from mobility discussions on SDN?


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