SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS: Innovation Will Come from Customers and the Ecosystem


Rick Knowles explains how the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS, now generally available, will speed up development time for SAP customers and partners. He also shares details about the roadmap for SAP’s joint development with Apple.

Why is the partnership with Apple so important?

Rick Knowles: “With the SDK centered around iOS in the enterprise we are creating a new development community.”

We have released software development kits (SDKs) in the past, but this is the first time that we have delivered an SDK that was jointly built in collaboration with our partner.  This was a huge engineering effort for the past 11 months to build and deliver. Our development team worked diligently to deliver the most robust SDK for iOS early while also supporting our early adopters. This enterprise-grade SDK for iOS is the key foundation for our partnership and is the first major deliverable. Along with the release of the SDK, we also launched our first iOS application, SAP Project Companion for Managers & Consultants, and have opened registration for the SAP Academy for iOS to train mobile developers and designers.

What are the benefits for customers and partners?

We are giving our customers and partners the ability to speed up the development life cycle for creating native iOS based applications. A customer who has iOS skills will be able to develop an app faster using the SDK – the SDK is focused solely on increasing a developer’s time and effectiveness. SAP and Apple partners or customers can adopt the SDK to discover, design, develop, and deploy enterprise-grade iOS applications.

The SDK will help extend our ecosystem and enable SAP to build an entirely new channel of iOS-based partners who will build on top of SAP Cloud Platform. If I were a partner, I would think, “How can I adopt the SDK to better serve our joint customers?” This is a huge opportunity for partners to expand their offerings and build upon the SAP Cloud Platform.

How will the SDK impact the development community?

Today, there are about 13 million Apple iOS developers and 2.5 million SAP developers. With the SDK centered around iOS in the enterprise we are creating a new development community within the SAP franchise.

To grow this new community, we launched the SAP Academy for iOS to provide users the necessary training and education. The Academy offers classes focused on Swift, Apple’s modern programming language; the core fundamentals of the iOS SDK; and the fundamentals of the backend system, SAP Cloud Platform and how to use the SDK to build enterprise applications.

Earlier this year at Mobile World Congress we heard from early adopter customers. Can you give us an example how they are using native iOS apps for their business?

All our early adopters are fully embracing the design-led approach to re-think their process and work.  This is about engaging and focusing on the end-users, the people closest to the work and enabling them to be more productive. Through the partnership with Apple, we can be empathetic to customers and their workers by starting with the end-user in mind to find out what their challenge is and can use technology to improve their job by reimagining how the work gets done.

For example, the German precision-tool manufacturer, MAPAL, is one of our early adopter customers. We worked with MAPAL’s users to determine one of their biggest challenges, which was a severely manual process that was a heavily paper based. When MAPAL’s tool manager experienced an issue with a tool breaking on the floor, they had to go to a shelf, pull out a huge binder, find the serial number of the tool/part, record all the machine data and then write a lengthy report. After all that paper work was completed, the problem was routed to the plant manager, then to headquarters and finally to R&D to understand why the tool broke or to conduct analysis. This entire process took 7 to 14 days every time there was a broken tool. Now with the iOS app in place and deployed for the tool manger along with the SAP Cloud Platform, this process takes less than a minute to complete, and analytics and data are stored in the system. MAPAL is now evaluating how best to leverage machine learning capabilities and IoT information to pull information from their machines automatically to populate their iOS application.

How can developers benefit from the SDK?

With the SDK, many redundant activities such as writing logging scripts are already pre-built into the SDK. The SDK saves time for developers so they can focus more on the end user and the process redesign instead of mundane time-consuming activities.

This is all about developer efficiency and ensures we help them to be more productive when building an iOS application. If they already know iOS, they can now easily bring the consumer user experience into the enterprise.

Millennials coming to the workforce especially want to work the way they live. In our private lives, we have beautiful user friendly apps, now with the Apple partnership we can offer that same great experience to enterprises and their employees.

What is the roadmap for the joint development with Apple?

Under the terms of the partnership, we are creating a handful of applications that were showcased earlier this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, such as the Asset Manager and Project Companion App. We believe that most of the innovation will come from customers based on their needs, or partners serving customers.

We are also modernizing some of our iOS applications such as SAP SuccessFactors. Of course, we also want to improve our other native iOS application portfolios for our customers of Ariba, Fieldglass, Concur, etc. Through our partnership with Apple, we will build beautiful native apps that deliver a better user experience for our customers for all our lines of business. Our customers deserve the best experience and we will leverage our partnership with Apple to bring the best design and user experience to how we serve our customers worldwide.

As for development, we made a commitment together with Apple that there will be updates to the SDK approximately every four months. The SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS (1.0 version) was made generally available on March 30. 2017. We will continue to invest and enhance the SDK with richer functionality with each release going forward. The SDK 1.0 version is only the beginning.

What can we expect in the future?

There are so many apps in the consumer space, now is the time to bring that same competition to the enterprise world. For TechEd, I see a growing iOS focus as a new thread beginning in 2017 but taking off in 2018. I hope to create an incentive/recognition program to reward enterprise developers who find ways to drastically change how work gets done under the Apple partnership. Additionally, I can envision in 2018 seeing a hackathon/code jam where the best iOS developers can showcase their work at SAP TechEd.

We are bringing developers from the ABAP world together with iOS developers to grow an entirely new ecosystem and development community centered around iOS.