Mobile Software, Part I: Service and Maintenance

June 17, 2010 by Christiane Stagge

Smart Metering with the iPhone (photo: Frank Völkel)

Smart Metering with the iPhone (photo: Frank Völkel)

Whether it’s sales employees working with customers on-site, service technicians reading water meters, or managers on business trips, many would agree that using smartphones and custom mobile devices to access business software is now in vogue in many industries. But which mobile software is right for your company?

Part one of our “Mobile Software” special puts customer service and maintenance under the microscope. The special software SAP offers for utility service providers, facility managers, and logistics companies supports the integration of mobile devices. A public utilities employee reading meters, for example, can enter all of the resulting data into a special mobile device and then sync it into an SAP system.

Mobile software: online, offline, hybrid

No matter in which industry you want to implement mobile software, you first need to decide on the form of application you plan to use. In this case, there are three categories: online, offline, and hybrid. For online use, constant Internet connectivity is required to facilitate data synchronization while working. An example of such an application is the mobile version of SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) 7.0, which we will focus on in the second installment of this special.

In customer service and maintenance, however, offline and hybrid solutions are of more interest. Let’s take a look at the following products:

Next Page: Hybrid: NEO Mobile Suite

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Hybrid: NEO Mobile Suite

NEO Mobile Suite is a hybrid mobile solution consisting of mobile applications that run on the SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 platform. The solution functions both online and offline; when connected to the Internet, it automatically begins synchronizing data with the corresponding SAP ERP or SAP CRM system. The public utilities authority of Bielefeld, Germany, and the energy group RWE are just two of the organizations that are already using NEO Mobile Suite.

Functions of NEO Mobile Suite

NEO Mobile Suite offers all the functions of SAP Mobile Asset Management (SAP MAM 3.0) and SAP Mobile Asset Management for Utilities (SAP MAU 3.0). SAP MAU aids in organizing collaboration between office-based personnel and employees in the field while supporting those who work on mobile devices. NEO has also added functions to the suite to enable synchronization of images and documents, dashboard functionality, document exchange, PDF form generation, digital signatures, a GIS interface, Google Maps integration, and the ability to access SAP ERP online. In addition, NEO Mobile Suite will begin supporting alternative process links to SAP CRM early next year.

NEO Mobile Suite includes:

  • NEO Mobile Maintenance (oriented toward SAP MAM, SAP ERP CS/PM)
  • NEO Mobile Smart Meter
  • NEO Mobile Customer Service
  • NEO Mobile Sales for Utility Companies

These components support the following functions:

  • Order and notification management
  • Confirmation entry based on the status of orders and/or process users
  • Management of technical objects
  • Business partner management
  • Inspection data entry (checklists, code groups, codes)
  • Material confirmation entry, goods movement, inventory management
  • Meter reading
  • Meter management (installation, expansion, replacement, disconnection)
  • Collections
  • RFID support

With NEO Mobile Suite, a company’s headquarters and technical field-service employees can communicate with each other directly without having to worry about potential incompatibilities in file formats. Plus, since customer master data can also be updated by employees on the move, the software can save both time and paper. From invoice generation to installation histories and authorization concepts, NEO Mobile Suite offers a full range of CRM functions.

In addition, NEO can enhance and customize the software’s task cockpit and user interface to meet each of its customers’ exact needs.

Next Page: Price model

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Prices from €700 to €300,000

NEO stages its Mobile Business Suite with back-end integration by means of VPN. Along with user workshops, the SAP partner also offers its customers a quick-check service to analyze their specific requirements and render cost estimates. Meanwhile, users benefit from all of the patches, updates, upgrades, and other ongoing enhancements NEO releases around every three to six months. NEO Mobile Suite is currently available in English and German, and arrangements can be made to accommodate requests for additional languages. As a further service, NEO can evaluate all of a company’s mobile devices based on a requirements matrix, provide test devices, and support the customer in certifying new devices.

NEO handles operations for all requested instances – including SAP back-end connectivity – at its data center.

The price model for NEO Mobile Suite is clear and simple. Companies pay €700 for each of up to 50 users, at which point the price per user drops in €40 increments: €660 for 51 to 100 users, €620 for 101 to 150 users, and so on. For 651 users and more, NEO Mobile Suite is available for a fixed price of €300,000.

The software is subject to a minimum contract duration of one year. The cost of licensing, maintenance, and support amounts to 18% of the customer’s total annual expenses. User training, meanwhile, costs €400 per participant per day for up to 10 participants per two-day course, or a maximum of €2,000 per day.

Next Page: Offline: SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe

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Offline: SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe

Offline variants of mobile software offer all the essential functions without requiring an Internet connection, but data synchronization must be handled manually.

Take SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, for example, which is tailored to companies that want to make the transition from paper invoices and forms to electronic versions of their documents. The software retains design elements such as headers and company logos; signatures are now simply digitized. It also enables users to print forms locally or save them as PDF files. In the process, the forms are filled with data from SAP ERP or SAP CRM. Employees in the field can enter data offline and continue working on it later at the office in the corresponding system. They also have the option of exchanging data by e-mail.

With SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, users can record leads in the CRM back end or register complaints.

By offering interactive, SAP-integrated forms, NEO Business Partners facilitates systematic entry of the following:

  • Quotations and orders with SAP ERP and SAP CRM
  • Reports on customer visits (maintaining customer master data, marketing characteristics)
  • Competitors’ products and prices
  • Service order confirmations

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