At the SAPPHIRE NOW annual conference, (Twitter: #SAPPHIRENOW) the
advantage of the mobile technology SAP gained through its acquisition
of Sybase is becoming evident. In a blog before the conference
I touched on the importance of mobility to the company’s future. From
walking around, assessing keynotes and sessions and talking to
companies using SAP, it seems that the big bet that SAP made on
mobility is paying off.
One year ago at this annual conference SAP announced that it would enlist the people and technology of Sybase in executing its larger application strategy.
Collaboration with the Sybase additions in areas from analytics and
databases to mobility is now proving integral to SAP’s efforts. The
company insists that mobile devices are the new desktop for the
enterprise, and the rapid adoption curve is justifying that statement.
The acquisition of Sybase allows SAP to add sophistication to its
infrastructure and enhance tool and application development for mobile
platforms. Sybase has a heritage of mobilizing information
for access and commerce, which makes for a sound partnership to advance
SAP’s business applications. Sybase has been positioning itself as
platform-neutral in providing support for the range of mobile
technology stacks from Apple, Google and Android, RIM and HP and
Microsoft. As well it has been the major and in many cases sole
provider of the underlying routing software of SMS and data across
SAP itself made its initial bets on Apple, with the iPad as the
primary platform for its applications, and RIM, for smartphones for
internal employees – though the success of Android appears to have SAP
and Sybase busy examining growing its support and diversity of mobile
technologies. Our benchmark research into current mobile technologies
and demand shows a base of legacy Microsoft and RIM customers, but many
organizations are reevaluating their mobile technologies. SAP still has
not employed the Sybase technology to secure iPhones for use
internally, but that could happen. SAP did support its long-time
partner RIM by demonstrating its applications on the new RIM Playbook.
Though the Playbook addresses Apple’s lack of Adobe Flash support and
multitasking and tethering limitation, it is still working through some
I asked SAP and Sybase executives about the absence of HP and
Microsoft mobile technologies at the conference. Their obviously
rehearsed response emphasized the rapid adoption of Apple in business,
the continuing use of RIM within specific industries and SAP’s plans
for supporting the Android ecosystem. My checks among the large and
midsize application and tool software companies finds the same
indifference to HP and Microsoft, due to their lack of penetration into
business and challenges associated with their shifting technology
stack. Microsoft, which has begun to stabilize Windows Mobile after some turbulent years in technology transition, is now busy with its strategic partnership with Nokia.
While that effort is rumored to be leading to an acquisition, it is
clearly a distraction from the focus on the business and enterprise
ecosystem that Microsoft must apply to recover the market share it has
lost in that area.
In new software news, SAP introduced a collection of mobile applications
that supports field service workers with alerts, orders, visit mapping
and post-visit debriefing. For the retail industry the company provides
support for field sales activities from visits, surveys and account
management to product and category reviews. The plant and maintenance
operations team can have mobile access to work orders, location,
inventory and partner and customer information.
While SAP was demonstrating these industry-specific applications, it
was also talking about mobile applications for employee self-service
for leave requests and time capture and for managers or HR staff doing
employee lookups and approvals. Mobile capabilities for procurement
activities are also in the works, along with manager and employee
operations in travel and expenses, and field sales functions for
accessing SAP CRM for product availability, notification, order status
and customer lookup.
All things said, Apple remains the platform SAP has progressed
farthest with. SAP has been steadily providing iPhone access to its
applications, such as SAP Business ByDesign. It has extended its cloud-based platform to support SAP Sales OnDemand on the iPhone and iPad. In the Apple application store you can also find SAP Commissions Check,
a simple way to help sales folks check their progress towards quota and
commission, along with collaborative technology called SAP StreamWork.
The SAP BusinessObjects Mobile tool works with RIM BlackBerry,
Symbian and Windows Mobile. For native support for SAP Business
Intelligence for Apple iPhone or iPad you can use the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and work with SAP on configuring it.
SAP also announced version 2.0 of its Sybase Unwired Platform
(SUP), which is a Java-based application development platform for
building mobile applications that can be deployed to diverse mobile
platforms. The software hooks to SAP connectors and single-sign-on
services and supports encrypted HTML5 Web storage and transport. This
version adds a hybrid Web container that programmers develop to and
operating system specifics in its SDK and user interface framework. The
SDK and native support for Apple iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile
will be released first, with Android support coming later.
Mobile applications will introduce new challenges with application
and information lifecycle management within SUP. Sybase executives did
not reveal much substance on how they are going to support mobility
from within SUP, but support for mobile platforms will become more
important as the volume of development increases. Version 2.1 of SUP is
due later this summer and will be critical for deeper integration
between SUP and the SAP NetWeaver platform, and for the development of
mobile applications across analytics and BI, as well as the broader
portfolio of industry and lines of business. Sybase and SAP are betting
they can simplify mobile application development with a common platform
while leveraging the native experience of the mobile technology
provider. This development strategy is good for simplifying product
development and for IT, but it’s not clear yet how it will come to
Organizations that want to develop mobile applications will have to
use SUP as the preferred platform and will need trained IT resources
who understand Java SDK development. Beyond traditional application
development is the need to provide line-of-business and
industry-specific applications that offer a range of information from
content and data to prebuilt analytics. The current approach with SUP
is very technically focused and not focused on empowering business to
assemble and publish information into applications for mobile devices.
For SAP the current effort seems to be on providing tools that partners
can use to develop mobile applications. This means that potential SAP
customers may need to look elsewhere for assembling information or
deploying analytic applications. Many organizations have been looking
at alternatives from MicroStrategy, which has released a mobile
platform that my colleague David Menninger covered, and provides a BI application assembly environment. Another alternative is the new MeLLmo Roambi Flow technology I just assessed, which can assemble and publish information or analytics in a digital magazine or newspaper format.
Overall, the outlook for the combined company is optimistic. Under
SAP, Sybase gains significant industry and business expertise in
applications, which was one of its largest challenges. SAP has
committed significant resources to work with Sybase to address this new
market demand. Sybase is also helping bring commerce to bear in mobile
applications with its Sybase365 offering, which adds secure and
scalable mobile commerce services into the realm of mobile application
Mobile interfacing to SAP applications was everywhere at the
conference, with dozens of customers and partners demonstrating mobile
applications. Mobility is a smart place for SAP to invest and a way to
differentiate its application portfolio from those of competitors such
as Oracle and Infor.
SAP was clearly looking for assistance from its partner ecosystem to
further its mobile strategy and help organizations adapt to a
potentially complex environment of mobile technologies. Dozens of
partners were at SAPPHIRE NOW. In one major move SAP announced a partnership with Accenture to further its global presence with consultants and support of enterprise deployments.
We at Ventana Research are already working on benchmark research on
the competency of organizations to advance into mobile business and
meet the challenges of transitioning people and processes to change how
they work. SAP has made a significant commitment to mobility and is
ahead of most of its peers as it brings to market a new portfolio of
mobile-based applications. Now it will need to ensure it does not make
mobile application development too complicated for developers or too
complex to leverage the native experience of the mobile technologies.
If the applications are too generic in their experience or take too
long to develop they could fail to appeal to individuals and the
workforce who are adopting Apple and Android-based smart phones and
tablets. SAP has made significant progress over the last year, and I
expect the company to make even more progress over the next year.
Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer