For 10 years, NEO Business Partners has been implementing software for processes in customer relationship management, service, and maintenance, and for mobile devices as well. Since then, the hype – and consequently the number of events – around the topic of mobile software has grown considerably. Nevertheless, the sixth NEO Mobile Business Conference (MBC) was able to maintain its importance and registered 130 participants.
One change that has occurred over the course of the mobile software movement was quite obvious to see: While laptops were the standard in the beginning, the clear trend is now toward smartphones and tablet PCs.
Hybrid apps and HTML5 on the rise
Mobile software can be used in three different ways: online, offline, or a hybrid of the two. In the case of online applications such as SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), a constant Internet connection is required. If a connection is interrupted or no UMTS reception is available when a user is on the move, he or she won’t be able to work properly with the software. With offline applications – Adobe Interactive Forms, for instance – no Internet connection is needed; all key functions are available by default. However, these applications can only synchronize data before or after the user’s work is done.
The trend, therefore, is moving toward hybrid applications. With these apps, only certain subareas are made available online, and data synchronization can be set to a particular schedule. NEO Mobile Suite is an example of a hybrid application.
Meanwhile, HTML5 is also opening doors to new possibilities. Using the new API for offline Web applications, a Web site can enable visitors to store temporary copies of its information in a local database through Java. Users can then continue working with the site even when not online.
Next page: Bring your own device
Bring your own device
The grestest challenge for companies is, however, the number of different platforms on the market. Apple, Google, Microsoft – organizations that want to implement mobile software have to choose one of the three. Most of those in attendance at the NEO MBC 2011 in Stuttgart, Germany, also agreed that companies’ requirements in terms of mobile IT have become more demanding.
Meanwhile, companies want the ability to achieve centralized management of the myriad mobile devices and platforms – as well as to distribute apps and update them from a central system. Organizations that previously might have issued BlackBerry devices to their new employees are now encouraging their workers to choose their own device – or even bring their own. As a result, a system of compliance rules governing how devices are to be issued, connected, and returned is essential for IT departments.
At large companies things are further complicated by the fact that several different processes run simultaneously; such organizations are often home to more than 100 apps, each with its own process depth. Despite this profusion, executives have to be able to maintain complete cost control.
Next page: Mobile security and what’s ahead
With Afaria, users can manage, protect, and lock mobile devices as needed based on Sybase Unwired Platform. The solution’s functions include password protection, encryption, backup, security patches, software compliance, deactivation of lost or stolen devices, and remote locking and shutdown.
A look back – and ahead
In 1999, SAP CRM Mobile was the mobile software for sales and marketing processes. Back then, the primary focus in terms of usage was still on the laptop. The software was fully integrated into SAP CRM and required a significant amount of time to synchronize with the back end.
The field’s first middleware then arrived in 2003 in the form of SAP Mobile Infrastructure. This served as the basis for the offline solutions SAP MAM/MAU, which covered essential processes in service and maintenance.
The release of SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 followed in 2008. This was also the first foundation on which NEO Mobile Suite began mapping processes from SAP ERP, SAP MAM, and SAP CRM; identifying barcodes and RFID tags; and creating digital signatures.
SAP’s purchase of Sybase also heralded the arrival of the company’s first mobile apps in 2010/2011. These have included SAP reference applications and partner solutions based on Sybase Unwired Platform, which is now also at the heart of NEO Mobile Suite. The advantage of this platform lies in its ability to support multiple mobile operating systems. Meanwhile, the aforementioned solution Afaria handles management of the corresponding mobile devices.
Originally, SAP planned to focus its efforts on merely providing this mobile platform. At the NEO Mobile Business Conference, however, the company announced a number of its own apps that are scheduled for release in October; for more, keep an eye on SAP.info for the upcoming article “23 New SAP Apps.” With these offerings, SAP wants to address end users along with the business segment.