Nearly every person at the Q&A session on Windows 8 had an iPad in the hand. This just goes to show that while businesses have been debating the merits of adopting Apple or Android-based devices for the enterprise, Microsoft has largely been left out of the equation. Until now. Windows 8, the new operating system for desktops, tablets, and smartphones, became available on October 25. But if companies were hoping to see an enterprise-ready offering, they were likely somewhat disappointed. Sure, the platform meets enterprise requirements for security and stability, but where are the business apps? SAP took the first step toward answering that question on Tuesday, with its announcement of six business apps for Windows 8.
Employee apps on Windows 8
This first set of apps focuses on employee productivity. For managers, that includes mobile support for tasks such as workflow and travel approvals, recruiting and interviews, and employee management. There are also employee-focused apps for e-learning and policy adoption, and for sales employees. All six apps connect to SAP’s backend systems using SAP NetWeaver Gateway technology.
SAP also introduced support for the development of Windows 8 apps on its mobility platform, the Sybase Unwired Platform. This enables SAP, and more importantly partners and third-party developers, to build apps on the Microsoft OS that connect to companies’ backend systems like ERP and CRM. An abundance of business apps from partners is crucial if Windows 8 is to become pervasive in the enterprise. SAP Afaria has also been updated to include security enhancements for managing mobile devices and apps on Windows 8.
One partner of both SAP and Microsoft, Alegri, has already developed an SAP app on Windows 8. In the demo version it is set up as a “bike configurator”, but it could be deployed in any type of purchasing situation. The app connects with SAP’s Product Lifecycle Management solution. SAP and Microsoft are expected to start planning the next phase of apps for Windows 8 by the end of this year. Those apps, as well as the six announced at SAPPHIRE NOW, will be available in the SAP Store and Windows Store. In the future, however, Microsoft thinks most companies will simply download apps from their own corporate app store. The company plans to make a software development kit (SDK) available to customers for just this purpose. Mirek Nowak, Technical Business Development Manager at Microsoft, thinks factors like the app store SDK and the diversity of devices for Windows 8 will be key differentiators for companies choosing a mobile platform. “Not every company is able to widely deploy iPads and Android devices,” he says. “But managers are still wanting to push adoption of these touch-based devices.”
Overview of the first 6 mobile apps:
- SAP WorkDeck: consolidates a number of apps into one, including approvals for travel, workflow, and leave requests
- SAP Manager Insight: provides employee profiles to managers for talent management, including resumes, skills, and trainings
- SAP Learning Assistant: allows employees to do online trainings from anywhere
- SAP Interview Assistant: gives managers information on job candidates, including application rankings and cover letters
- SAP Customer Financial Fact Sheet: provides customer profiles to sales employees, including customer credit limits and sales volumes
- SAP GRC Policy Survey: allows employees to review and acknowledge policy changes from anywhere
Most companies today allow employees to use their own mobile devices at work, whether Windows 8, Apple, or Android. But not every company has a strategy in place to cover the legal, financial, and HR impacts of such a policy. Security risks, such as third-parties gaining access to unencrypted data and lost or stolen devices, are actually fairly easy for companies to address. Any mobile device management solution supports measures to combat such risks. The challenges for most companies are usually less obvious. Like how to handle existing partnerships with particular providers, how to deal with varying legal regulations in different regions, and whether to cover expensive roaming fees incurred on business trips.
How to execute a BYOD strategy: from start to finish
In a session about implementing a global “bring your own device” (BYOD) strategy, participants discussed these and other obstacles. One problem area that nearly every attendee mentioned is the strict legal regulation that companies face in the European Union. Here, companies can be sued by employees if they wipe private data on lost or stolen devices. This can occur even if employees have signed a security policy agreement acknowledging this. Therefore, companies should set up their device management in EU countries so that each application can be wiped separately. This is time consuming for the business of course, but it is is just one of the necessary precautions in a global, BYOD world.
Companies that allow personal devices in the workplace should follow this checklist for implementing a BYOD strategy from start to finish:
- identify the groups of users and lines of business that are most invested in BYOD; they will help you sell the strategy to management
- identify the legal, financial, HR, and workers’ union stakeholders who need to check your BYOD policy for compliance
- start small: roll out BYOD in a pilot project to find out where the problem areas are
- choose the right MDM tool for your needs
- create awareness among employees
- start your company-wide rollout