Monday, March 08, 2010

SAP Mobility Challenge, Part 5

I have heard much discussion lately on the subject of mobile micro applications in the SAP ecosystem. These are described as light weight mobile applications that do simple things like:
  • Expense reports
  • Alerts
  • Approvals
  • BI reports
  • Etc.
There are literally hundreds of these micro-apps possible. The challenge is how does a SAP customer manage them? Does the mobile user really want 17 different little SAP micro-apps on their smartphone?

I see these mobile micro-apps as short term innovations that will quickly consolidate into a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP). The SAP user ultimately wants one icon on their mobile dashboard not 17. This icon launches a menu system that can include 17 menu options with mobilized business processes. More options can be added through an opt-in function.

The MEAP vendors will rapidly create micro-apps and then quickly consolidate them on to their platforms. The big challenge for MEAP vendors is how to quickly create good MEAPs and get enough market exposure and success to be sustainable in the long run. MEAPs should include:
  • Rapid application development environments with excellent visual design tools for customizing and creating new mobile enterprise applications.
  • Powerful integration tools for connecting and synchronizing with a variety of backend database applications and environments.
  • Mobile user and mobile device management dashboards and tools for the IT help desk.
  • Support for all the major operating systems and popular mobile devices.
  • Integrated workflow engines that enable business processes and workflows to be extended out to mobile environments.

Let's think about the IT decision making process. Mobile workers may be using mobile micro-applications from 9 different mobile software vendors. There will be much overlap in features and functionality. The IT department will eventually start standardizing, consolidating and simplifying. It won't be long before the IT department starts requiring all mobile micro-applications to come from one or two MEAPs that have good frameworks and offer solid enterprise quality features.

MEAP vendors face a number of challenges:

  1. Developing solid MEAPs quickly.
  2. Getting SAP approval and partnerships in place.
  3. Developing many mobile micro-applications to cover the simple and niche requirements and preventing other companies from gaining a mobility foothold within the SAP ecosystem.
  4. Gaining thought leadership, mindshare, influence and brand recognition quickly within the SAP customer base.
  5. Educating the market on the requirements for a true enterprise quality MEAP.
  6. Pricing their solutions to gain market share quickly - this is a viral marketing event.
  7. Defending against a strategy of mobile chaos within the enterprise.
  8. Providing a roadmap and strategy for an orderly and quickly expanding enterprise mobility strategy.
  9. Arguing that any developer can develop a mobile micro-application, but only the experts can develop an enterprise quality MEAP.

The current strategy for most MEAPs seems to be to mobilize a vertical SAP business process quickly and then expanding in all directions. That means the current SAP MEAP partners are and will be colliding. Let the sparks and fun begin!

The companies that I view as SAP oriented MEAP vendors that are currently listed as SAP partners are:

There are a number of additional companies like Pyxis Mobile and Vivido that are moving into this space and many systems integrators with their own emerging mobile micro-apps and MEAP strategies. It will come down to enterprise quality MEAPs, thought leadership and mindshare.

If you are interested in discussing these topics in more detail or scheduling one of my in-depth two day workshops on these subjects please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Mobility Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert

***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert and as such I work with, and have worked with, many of the companies mentioned in my articles.