On June 25, 2011, coresystems opened its doors for its partner day. For the event, the midsize business headquartered in Windisch, Switzerland, chose a tagline that reflected its vision: “We love the Cloud.” For CEO Manuel Grenacher, storing ERP data in the cloud and transferring it to mobile devices is the hot topic of the moment. In the future, business integration will hook up a company’s partners, customers, and even its entire eco-system using the cloud as a platform.
In his keynote, Grenacher explained the connection between apps and the cloud, including a roadmap, and finished off with a panel discussion. Then products were presented and workshops were held in which guests could try their hand at developing apps and interfaces (APIs).
The partner day was packed with heat, including a fiery show and blisteringly fast cars to round off the entertainment. SAP.info was there and reports on an informative and eventful day in Switzerland.
Roadmap: B2B Cloud by 2013
After coresystems had introduced itself in a video accompanied by the song “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes, Grenacher revealed some facts: In 2006, the company employed 10 people but by 2010 the number had risen to 40. In that year, the company’s first iPhone app was released, as was the coresuite cloud. Today, 70 people work in the relatively young coresystems team, which has 5,000 customers. Many of the employees come from the local university of applied sciences in Windisch.
In his keynote, Grenacher focused on coresuite mobile and coresuite cloud. coresuite mobile enables ERP and CRM data for the iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, desktop computers, and Windows tablets. An Android version is slated to follow soon. For maximum security, data is transferred using an SSL encryption protocol with HTTPS standard.
Grenacher explained how the applications need to master certain challenges, such as connecting to various ERP systems, accessing data offline, integrating company eco-systems, and having a price system that works with an on-demand concept.
In the roadmap, Yves Senn, CTO for cloud development, demonstrated which mobile solutions will be cloud-enabled by 2013 and how the target of comprehensive business integration can be achieved by that date:
- 2011: Thanks to mobile sales, it is already possible today to process invoices, quotations, and returns, and also perform cross-selling activities while out of the office. Mobile services are also available.
- 2012: POS functions such as producing receipts, electronic payment methods, and reporting will be completed using smartphones and iPads. And time sheets for managing time accounts will also be manageable on the road, including functions such as project planning, approvals, billing, and reporting. Business integration will be driven by making e-commerce, Zendesk support portals, and D&B databases available in the company eco-system.
- 2013: In two years’ time, we’ll see mobile department store logistics via the cloud. But above all, the coresuite cloud will be a mature B2B cloud that can transfer invoices, delivery notes, orders, and items between different clouds, and can hook up business partners.
Panel Discussion: iPads Catch Customers
For the panel discussion, Manuel Grenacher was joined by Robert Viehmann from SAP and Nicola Wagner, CIO of Keune. Keune is a leading Swiss provider of hair cosmetics and recently implemented coresuite mobile sales. Viehmann answered the first question – namely whether coresuite cloud is competing with SAP’s mobile solutions at Keune – with a no. He said that the cloud’s key factor was its growth potential, because only 25% of employees use SAP ERP, while mobile apps are open to the entire workforce. SAP and coresystems provide different added value, and SAP remains fundamentally responsible for standards, platforms, and security, Viehmann explained.
Nicola Wagner said he was convinced of the benefits of mobile sales and the cloud concept. It means that the sales team always has data at its fingertips in real time. What’s more, the lack of paper-based documents such as invoices and orders enabled one of the company’s employees switch to working on other activities. Wagner is also impressed by the iPad’s look and feel when customers present products on it.
Some of the participants were skeptical about the security of data in the cloud. But Manuel Grenacher remarked that, for small and midsize companies, the cloud is often more secure than their own IT structure. He explained that organizations shouldn’t outsource their entire IT environment but continue to use on-premise solutions and pursue the path to the cloud from there. Grenacher compared these concerns with early days of e-mail, which was initially only used internally by many companies. The more the cloud becomes established, the fewer concerns people will have. Google’s and Apple’s plans to offer their own clouds are also helpful in contributing to understanding and acceptance, he added.
Workshops: Making APIs and Apps
If you want to use a cloud to access ERP data, you’ll need an application programming interface (API). coresystems offers three different types: easy, pro, and expert. In the easy version, XML objects are generated in a folder that functions as an inbox and outbox, similar to the Dropbox in the consumer sector. The pro version uses both XML and .Net, which partners use to create their own connectors. It also has an SDK for Windows and a transporter library.
Expert doesn’t have a library, but is instead completely independent because it is based on REST services. However, more freedom means more complex programming. To use mobile devices offline, synchronization is performed – which means that data is not sent automatically and that only new data records are sent.
In a workshop, the partner day participants had the opportunity to find out for themselves how the connection to the cloud works using the easy version. Armed with a Mac, they were allowed to define a new XML client, in this case a fictitious business partner. This was automatically sent to the cloud and then finally arrived at the end device via the coresuite mobile client. Using synchronization, the stored information was transferred from the cloud and forwarded via the mobile client. The easy version is suitable for Excel spreadsheets, for example, but not for ERP systems such as SAP Business One.
In another workshop, attendees developed an iPhone app for time recording, comprising two of Apple’s well-known calendar widgets. In Apple’s development environment Xcode and using interface view, Objective C, and other tools, the user interface was first developed with drag-and-drop and then the functions were assigned.
There’s More to Life Than IT
The 70 guests at last year’s partner day had a vintage double-decker bus chartered for them, so this year’s 160 guests were expecting something special – and they weren’t disappointed. coresystems had assembled a fleet of blisteringly fast cars; the cloud isn’t the only thing that makes hearts beat faster.
Guests were tasked with completing “Mission Cloud.” Each person had the chance to sit behind the wheel of their dream machine, while a co-driver navigated the driver to the finish by iPad. Driver and co-driver swapped half way, so that everyone could experience handling hundreds of horsepower. At the pit stops, the guests had to negotiate a shooting gallery and a quiz, before winding roads led them back to coresystems’ headquarters. The guests enjoyed themselves immensely, but were careful to ensure that all the vehicles got back to base safely.
After the final workshops, people began to let their hair down. Two young members of the coresystems team took to the stage and performed an entertaining magic show in front of the international audience. And then, in the second part, the guests were mesmerized by a feast of fiery feats. Finally, anyone who still hadn’t had enough took the shuttle bus to the nearby town of Baden to dance the night away.