Spotlight on Mobile Strategies

“The bottom line is that our employees are more productive if they can be online anywhere and at any time,” says SAP’s interim CIO Axel Bülow. (Photo: SAP)

The working environment is becoming increasingly flexible; smartphones and tablets have long since become an established part of our daily working lives. According to a study by the high-tech association BITKOM, one third of employees (32 percent) access their employers’ IT systems when they’re on the move. And one in three companies recognizes that action is needed to establish an integrated platform for managing mobile devices, applications, and content.

This makes it all the more surprising that in a survey conducted by the consulting firm PAC, some 60 percent of European companies stated that they do not yet have a long-term mobile strategy – and only 15 percent confirmed that they had addressed the issue of securing mobile applications and data.

CIOs as innovation drivers

At the SAP CIO Summit in Dreieich, near Frankfurt, IT executives from big-name companies met with experts from the industry to discuss the potential of mobile strategies and ways in which they can be implemented. A flash poll conducted at the start of the event revealed that, at the companies represented, it is usually the IT departments that push mobile strategies forward and that CIOs are the innovation drivers.

Next page: Providing employees with mobile applications

SAP’s interim CIO, Axel Bülow, explained the role of an end-to-end mobile strategy and associated security concept: “As an IT manager, I’m also an SAP customer, because I’m a pilot user right from the start. We build prototypes, and if they’re successful, we include them in our portfolio.” SAP Mobile Documents, an app that allows documents to be exchanged securely, was originally developed as a prototype and tested internally before going on general release.

Currently, some 60 apps are available to employees at SAP, including “classics” such as travel expense accounting and leave requests, as well as apps for sales personnel and BI dashboards for managers.

Internal apps boost employee buy-in

A major advantage of offering apps internally, said Bülow, is that you garner better employee buy-in for existing solutions. Mobile applications, he explained, force developers to pay close attention to usability right from the start, which means that the resulting applications are more intuitive and easier to use.

Next page: Customers present mobile strategies

For the customers who presented their concepts to delegates at the summit, a mobile strategy is all about serving employee needs and customer wishes.

IT architect Jörg Frye from RI-Solution, the IT division of BayWa, an agricultural, energy, and building material retailer and wholesaler, spoke about the offline-enabled sales app that his company introduced in its agricultural business segment in 2012. Some 300 sales personnel currently use the app to call up and save information about products and customers on their mobile devices. They can create documents such as contracts and orders at the customer site and, once they have been approved, send them to the SAP system. This new sales app has completely replaced the previous paper-based process, freeing up valuable time that sales personnel can now devote to talking to their customers. “The SAP Mobile Platform allows us to manage the supply of master data to mobile devices in such a way that the employee receives precisely the information that he or she needs,” said Frye. It also enables RI-Solution to create its own offline apps for BayWa more easily and at lower cost.

Creating a mobile strategy

SAP’s position as a leader in leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for both MDM and MADP, coupled with the fact that most of BayWa’s software solutions were already SAP-based, was reason enough for Frye to turn to SAP when it came to devising a mobile strategy for his company. “When SAP acquired Sybase with Afaria and the Mobile Platform, we knew that it would travel along the mobile route with its customers,” explained Frye. In the long term, RI-Solution plans to replace 30 percent of the notebooks in use at BayWa with tablets: “The proportion of mobile workplaces will increase, but it’s early days yet, and we’re still looking into the deployment possibilities.”

Next page: Various approaches to BYOD

When it came to the topic of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) – in which employees use their private mobile devices for business purposes – opinions at the summit were divided. BayWa has excluded this option because of concerns about security. In contrast, SAP has implemented a BYOD program for about 6,000 private mobile devices belonging to its employees across 20 countries and recently won a BOYD excellence accolade for the program in the BYOX Strategy Awards published by analysts Ovum.

“The workplace of the future is mobile, because the bottom line is that our employees are more productive if they can be online anywhere and at any time,” said Bülow, explaining SAP’s strategy. “We’re already managing a total of 70,000 mobile devices from all the main manufacturers on the SAP Mobile Platform, and Windows 8 devices will increase that tally soon,” he added.

Bringing “augmented reality” to the workplace

To limit the variety of devices in use in the future, SAP was, he said, also focusing on tablet/laptop hybrids: “We want to shape the mobile workplace of the future.” In this context, SAP is also investigating deployment scenarios for “augmented reality” applications. For example, warehouse workers could soon be using Google Glass smart glasses to access information about the items on their pick lists from a connected smartphone and view it “hands-free” on a screen right in front of their eyes.