Friday, April 30, 2010

SAP Insider, SAP Mentorship and a M2M Report

I had a great time leading a session on enterprise mobility today in Palo Alto at SAP's campus.  Even if the photo on the left doesn't look like it.  It was an SAP Insider event and I met a lot of interesting people from the SAP ecosystem.  I led a session called New Mobility Models, Convergence and Augmented Reality on Mobile Devices.

The event started out by Mark Finnern, SAP's Chief Community Evangelist, announcing that SAP has asked me to be an SAP Mentor in the enterprise mobility arena.  I accepted and plan to be actively involved in many SAP events this year including Sapphire in a couple of weeks and TechEd this fall.  Now I am anxiously waiting for my Rugby shirt that SAP mentors get to wear.

I was able to share information with the audience on many of SAP's mobility partners including Vivido Labs, Leapfactor, Sky Technologies and others and the latest trends in mobility.  The event was shown live around the world via webcast.

I am also working on a new mobile industry analyst report on the subject of M2M (machine-to-machine) - think Redbox DVD rental machines reporting their inventories wirelessly to their website.  This is a very interesting area.  If you have a good example, solution, article or company I should be researching please let me know.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
SAP Mentor, Mobile Industry Analyst, Founder/CEO Netcentric Strategies LLC
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant and Web 2.0 Marketing Services
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Leapfactor's Lionel Carrasco

I was in Miami, Florida a few weeks ago and was able to meet up with Lionel Carrasco and do some sailing. Lionel Carrasco is the CEO and founder of Leapfactor, an Enterprise mobility player and partner of SAP. Lionel shared his thoughts and insights while the sun was setting over Miami.

I asked Lionel how he originally got into the mobility industry. He explained that he managed the development, as an SAP systems integrator CTO, of a number of large enterprise mobility projects in the Direct Store Delivery, Logistics Execution, and Sales Force Automation space. These projects were in the USA, Latin America, and Europe. In the course of designing, developing, deploying and supporting these applications, he learned much. He believes this experience will be invaluable to SAP and Leapfactor customers.

I asked Lionel how he would describe Leapfactor. He answered that Leapfactor understands that cloud computing and mobility should come together. This joining together will enable large enterprises to take advantage of mobility in ways similar to consumers. He believes enterprises should mobilize employees, partners, and consumers. He believes enterprises should consider mobilizing their entire ecosystem as there is value to be recognized in all areas of it.

What differentiates Leapfactor from other SAP mobility partners? Lionel answered that Leapfactor is a native cloud based mobile offering that can handle a large scale volume of users, even in on premises implementation models. They do their best to remove the complexity from a mobile enterprise, yet they offer the required enterprise class security and compliance capabilities. He added that Leapfactor does not think from the "inside out." “Looking from the inside out,” according to Lionel, “Makes you think like an ERP running on a desktop computer and simply extending features outside the four walls which limits you.”

"We are thinking of not just one mobile application but hundreds!" Lionel emphasized. "Developers can build them, customers can build them, our partners can build them, and we can build them on behalf of our customers as well."

Lionel emphasized again and again that the economics of mobile applications, the way they are developed, deployed and supported is completely different now than they were even a few months back. I interpreted that to mean not many mobility vendors have recognized or accepted the new paradigms and realities yet. He believes the new business models that Leapfactor is bringing to the SAP marketplace are significant, not only for customers but SAP and the partners ecosystem.

I asked Lionel about his target audiences. His answer was end users, end users, and end users. He believes that end users need to realize value with the very first click of a mobile application, and the enterprise should receive their value second. It is a view that suggests the end users are the secret to an enterprise's success. If the end user likes the mobile application, then the enterprise will realize the value.

Lionel said that Leapfactor is here to create value for the business. The winners will be those enterprises that create apps for the edges of the processes because the core is already taken care of and automated by ERPs. The edges are where the enterprise relates to customers and partners and where the opportunities for mobility lie. He then added that it is also very important to make the IT department the heroes, because they will be able to respond to business demands faster instead of managing the complexity and maintenance budgets.

I asked about Leapfactor's mobile applications. He listed them as follows: 
  • Business Indicators - Mobilized business intelligence for all types of users from the executives down to blue collar workers.
  • Mobile Alerts - When action and acknowledge is required and email is not enough.
  • Mobile Approvals - For any system and process that requires an approval. 
He then shared that one of the most interesting new mobile applications would be released in time for Sapphire. It is a mobile social intelligence application for large enterprises.

I asked Lionel if he viewed Leapfactor as a development platform. He answered that it is a mobile deployment platform that can rapidly scale up and scale down depending on the customer's and software developer's needs. “We added some development accelerators and user interface libraries to increase productivity and reduce complexity for developers, but that does not make us a development platform. We rely on the native development tools of each mobile OS,” he said.

It is a deployment platform that mobile application developers can use to deploy the applications they have developed without the need to build a complete and expensive SaaS infrastructure themselves.

One of the most interesting thoughts that Lionel shared was this, "Applications and lines of code are increasingly disposable. The code is less and less important since mobile applications can be developed quickly and with relatively little investment." Hmmm . . . where is the value then? Lionel believes the value will be in the ability to economically and quickly deploy and support mobile applications – applications that offer immediate value to the end users and that are easily distributed. I think he was only half joking but he said, "Mobile applications can be easily thrown away as newer and better mobile applications are developed." It seems to be the personification of agile.

Lionel sees one of the key roles of Leapfactor is to help other mobile software developers manage deployments, compliance issues, and testing and then supporting their operational environments through the Leapfactor platform.

One of the key values in the Leapfactor platform is its ability to meter and measure the use of mobile applications. This information can be used for any number of emerging business models that may include charging the user based on transaction numbers, volume of data used, etc.

I asked Lionel for his opinion on the role of mobile micro-apps. He said mobile micro-apps are easy to maintain, easy to deploy, and easy to develop. This means developers can rapidly bring value and incremental improvements to users. He added that sharing the consumer approach to mobile applications with large enterprises also offers a lot of value.

Lionel refers to "thick client" mobile applications as "obese" mobile applications. He said it is wrong to include too many features in one code base for mobile devices. Obese applications are nightmares to maintain and take far too long to develop, test and deliver. He added, "Developers need to stop thinking like Windows Desktop application developers and change their paradigms to think like a mobile user."

In my past I have been involved in many "obese" mobile application development projects. I can share that the customer requirements always seemed to change faster than you could design, develop, test, and deploy them.

I asked Lionel for his opinions on MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms). He said there is still a need for MEAPs on some projects, but the development is very expensive. He believes MEAPs were mostly designed for older development paradigms, and they need to change to support a more consumer-oriented approach for enterprises of today.

I asked Lionel to look into the future and tell me what he sees. He offered that mobility is already pervasive. He said most less-developed nations have more mobile phones than landlines. He believes that soon all mobile phones will be smartphones.

He also believes that enterprises will begin building management functionality that enables a separation between work and play on the same mobile phone. Perhaps it is a work phone until 5:00 p.m. and then switches to personal settings with personal applications. I find this whole area of thinking very interesting.

What is SAP doing right? Lionel said SAP is focused on mobility in 2010, which is a very good thing. They are demonstrating that they believe it is important, and although they have been slow to embrace mobility and cloud computing, they seem to be picking up speed. They are rallying the SAP troops and the customer base which is all good. Lionel added, “I have had the chance to meet Kevin Nix, who now leads the SAP mobile strategy, and it was refreshing to hear his fresh ideas and real world experiences.”

Lionel believes that SAP's partner strategy for mobile applications is the right strategy. "They realize they cannot do it all and have invited partners to fill the gaps" he added. "Past failures that SAP experienced in mobility were due to SAP following old paradigms."

What can we expect from Leapfactor in 2010? Lionel provided the following list:
  • Leapfactor will show the industry and customers more proof points that Leapfactor's model and technology is the right approach. It will be disruptive to current thinking, but it is the right approach.
  • Leapfactor will deliver more killer apps, but more importantly, customers and partners will do the same.
  • Leapfactor will be adding many customers, small and extra large ones.
  • Leapfactor will publicly release a Developer Kit that has been limited to date to only a few partners.
  • Additional RIM and Android apps will be released this year.
If there is a mobile expert that you think I should interview please contact me!

Read more interviews with mobile experts:
***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SAP Insider Event, Friday April 30th

For those with time on their hands this Friday - I am a speaker at the SAP Insider event in Palo Alto, CA on Friday, April 30th.  I understand the event is going to be available in streaming video for those not able to attend.  My session is scheduled for 1:30 PM PDST and is called New Mobility Models, Convergence and Augmented Reality.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

HP Buys Palm - RIP

Interesting news I hadn't considered - HP as a suitor for Palm.

"Palm's innovative operating system provides an ideal platform to expand HP's mobility strategy and create a unique HP experience spanning multiple mobile connected devices," Todd Bradley, vice president of HP, said in a prepared statement.

It is fascinating to me when a brand goes bad.  Sometimes I think the morale in a company goes bad years before and it rots from the inside out.  Employees warn their peers to stay away, recruiting suffers and vacations become the topic of choice.  People stay at the company drawing a paycheck long after they give up on its success.  They go through the motions but have no belief.  Social networking enables industry pundits to sense the demise even before the market does.

I have known many companies in my time where if the staff were given an anonymous survey, they would have predicted its demise years earlier than the fact. 

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Sky Technologies' Neil McHugh

I caught up with Neil McHugh from Sky Technologies the other day. He is a transplant from Scotland to the USA via IBM and is now on the Texas side of the Sky Technologies family.  He is VP of Marketing and Business Development – Americas.

Kevin:  Neil, tell me about Sky Technologies. I have been working in the mobility industry for many years, but only recently started hearing about Sky Technologies.

Neil:  I can understand that. We have actually worked through partners in the US for many years, but never really pushed our brand until last year when we decided to change our go-to-market model and sell directly to customers under the Sky brand (imagine a Scottish accent when you read his answers).

Kevin:  How are you finding the market today for enterprise mobile applications (imagine an Idaho accent when you read my questions)?

Neil:  We have been very fortunate. The mobile market is strong, and we are winning deals on a monthly basis so our market presence is growing quite rapidly. We also have excellent partners in SAP, RIM, and Motorola and each of these companies bring us business.

Kevin:  SAP, RIM, and Motorola all have partnerships with your competitors as well, so how much business do they really bring Sky Technologies?

Neil:  Fair question - let me put it this way, these companies will always have multiple partners, but we are known for our ability to support mobile requirements that most other mobility vendors cannot. We are the go-to-guys when they are not getting the answers they want from other mobility vendors.

Kevin:  Is this why I see a flurry of press releases from you guys recently. Do you get bonused on the number of press releases you write?

Neil:  No, but that is a good idea. We are experiencing record growth in 2010, and every department in Sky Technologies is working around the clock with new implementations, new products, new opportunities, and there is much more to come. In addition, recently some of the very successful and experienced SAP partners have realized mobility is hot and have approached Sky to become their mobility partner. So, the flurry of press releases you see are not just issued by us, but by partners also. It is nice to be receiving this recognition.

Kevin:  I remember a mention of Colgate as a recent Sky Technologies customer in the SAP CRM space. Tell me about that.

Neil:  You are referring to the EntryPoint statement, right ? This will be a great relationship. EntryPoint are known experts in the SAP CRM market, and we were very excited when they approached Sky. As for the Colgate account. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on that due to confidentiality. Sorry, Nice try Kevin.

Kevin:  How significant is the SAP CRM space to Sky?

Neil:  All areas of the SAP market are significant. We are not vertical industry focused.  We are SAP focused. Anywhere there is an need to mobilize an SAP application, Sky Technologies is there. We have customers both inside and outside the four walls across every industry that SAP works in.  So, although we love CRM, we are just as active in the field, manufacturing, utilities, construction and the list goes on…

Kevin:  Do you see Sky as a Global solutions company or primarily US and Australia.

Neil:  We have customers across 6 continents and 25 countries, so I guess I would classify that as global.

Kevin:  Can you give me an example of a global typical customer scenario?

Neil:  Certainly. A typical example of a global company utilizing SAP would be BlackBerry and iPhone CRM users in the US, with their field services in Latin America using rugged Windows-based mobile devices and the European operations running Symbian and internal sales using laptops.  We can manage them all with a single mobile framework. I guess that also answers the question regarding why partners bring us deals.

Remember to check out the SAP EcoHub this week!  It is focused on mobility.

More articles from the Mobile Industry Expert Series:

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Vivido Labs' Greg Tomb

I had the pleasure of interviewing the former CEO of SAP North America, Greg Tomb this week.  Greg and his team have founded a new mobile application company called Vivido Labs that is working closely with SAP on a number of new mobile applications.  As CEO of Vivido Labs, Greg is now leading an effort to mobilize SAP business processes and to create a platform that other mobile application developers can use to integrate their mobile applications with SAP.

I started the interview by asking Greg why he decided to jump into mobility after leaving SAP in 2009.  He said that 18 months ago many SAP customers were asking him how they could leverage their massive investments in SAP to get more value.  For example, one SAP customer had just purchased 3,000 BlackBerrys and wanted to maximize both the value from their BlackBerry investment and their SAP investments. 

Greg added that he also studied the growing momentum around consumer applications that was fast developing.  It got him thinking about how the evolution in smartphones and mobile app stores could add value to the SAP ecosystem.  "The value of mobilizing SAP is massive," Greg stated.  "Not only by making the mobile workforce more efficient, but mobile solutions can change entire business processes.  Some processes can be shortened, others totally re-engineered because of mobility."

I was curious and asked about the names Vivido Labs and the Mowego platform.  Greg said, Vivido is an Italian word that means "bring life."  The word Mowego is the combination of "mobile-we-go."  I must admit that before his explanations I had visions of dancing cheese in my head.

Mowego is a mobile platform for smartphones.  It is light and easy to install.  It supports both web based and native mobile applications.  It can be used in a cloud computing environment or installed on-premises, based upon the needs of the enterprise.

Vivido Labs has 40 mobile micro-applications available today. 

I asked Greg to tell me more about the Mowego Platform and here are his responses:
  • It has a smartphone centric focus.
  • It was developed for other mobile software developers to use.
  • It does not require data to reside on the device.
  • The approach is from an enterprise perspective.
  • It is not device specific.
  • It does not require SAP NetWeaver – sits outside of NetWeaver – and gives them more flexibility with other ERPs.
  • It has a workbench that allows you to build and prototype mobile applications.
  • Vivido Labs' customers can use the work bench to customize pre-developed mobile applications.
  • It includes the Services modeler, UI modeler, and business process modeler.
  • Developers can use Eclipse or Java to develop applications that work with the Mowego platform.
  • In the future when SAP releases a "gateway" for mobile applications, the Mowego platform would sit on top and help manage and integrate a variety of web services for mobile applications.
I then asked Greg what we should anticipate from Vivido Labs by the end of 2010, and here are his responses:
  • We have 40 mobile micro-applications today.  We expect to have 200 by the end of the year, most developed by third party software development partners.
  • We will have the most advanced smartphone platform.
  • We will be known as the "Enterprise App Store."
The last question I asked was, "What do you think of SAP's current mobility strategey?"  He said, "SAP needs an answer for their customers.  They cannot, NOT have an answer, even if the answer today needs to be changed tomorrow.  Working with mobile partners today is the right answer."

Remember to check out the SAP EcoHub this week! It is focused on mobility.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009 Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
 ***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. **************************************************

Mobile Expert Interview Series: ClickSoftware's Gil Bouhnick

I had the opportunity to spend time on the phone this morning with Gil Bouhnick who was calling from warm and beautiful Tel Aviv.  He is the Director of Mobile Solutions for ClickSoftware and a big fan of mobility, so much in fact, that he has four mobile smartphones and rarely leaves home or the office without two or more in his pockets.  Although his office is in Tel Aviv, most of ClickSoftware's customers are in North American and in Europe.

Gil's role is in the product management group at ClickSoftware.  He has spent years at ClickSoftware and has been a part of the evolution of their mobile solutions.  Early on, ClickSoftware, a company focused on field service automation and service scheduling optimization, integrated with mobile solutions from companies like Antenna, Dexterra (now part of Antenna) and Syclo.  However, over time they began to recognize that they needed their own mobile software and framework to support the requirements of their field services customers.

I have to think that ClickSoftware felt it would be better to provide their own mobile software rather than refer business to their largest strategic competitors. 

When ClickSoftware determined they needed their own mobile solution and framework, they began working with Microsoft's mobility team and developed their mobile solution around Microsoft environments.  Nearly all of their customers were using ruggedized laptops and rugged handheld devices from vendors like Panasonic, Psion Teklogix, Motorola/Symbol and Intermec, which were all using Windows Mobile operating systems.  Even today, in the rough and tumble world of field services where ruggedized laptops and handheld computers are required, Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating systems dominate.

ClickSoftware did take a good look at Sybase's mobile middleware before deciding on Microsoft's middleware. They believe Sybase was a good option, but they chose Microsoft and continue to be big fans of Windows Mobile due to Microsoft's dominance in the rugged industrial grade handheld computer markets.

I asked Gil about their plans to support iPhones and Android devices, and he shared that they are preparing to release light weight browser-based applications for Blackberrys, iPhones, and Android devices. 

From our discussion, it appears that ClickSoftware is a strong believer in thick mobile clients that can work in connected or disconnected locations.  He used the example of service technicians working in elevator shafts that do not have connectivity, but must access and record information on their handheld computer.  He also described an increasing need for field services applications to support on-device barcode scanners and integrated GPS functionality.

ClickSoftware's customers (there were twenty new mobility customers in 2009) have large numbers of mobile users.  One of their recent customers deployed over 5,000 mobile applications to ruggedized devices.  He said all of their large customers to date are using the Windows Mobile operating systems.

Gil shared an interesting trend among their customers.  He says he is actually seeing an increase in field service workers caring two mobile devices.  The ruggedized industrial grade laptop or handheld computer and a Blackberry, iPhone or Android device.  Why?  Because often the ruggedized work-oriented computer is focused specifically on the field service application and process, and the field service technicians wants a smartphone for work communications and personal use.

Gil explained a unique phenomena they regularly experience with their customers.  He said once a company starts working with a mobile application they nearly always start expanding into all kinds of new and interesting directions.  It is very hard for a mobile user to stop at one mobile application.  He said mobile applications are hard to limit.  Their boundaries are hard to establish.  Field services applications can quickly grow to include inventory management, scheduling, asset tracking, dispatch, CRM, inspection, etc.

I have also experienced this phenomena.  Once the field service team becomes accustomed to working with mobile applications, they can recognize the need for many additional mobile applications that would benefit them.  This was one of the key reasons ClickSoftware decided to jump into the mobile application space with both feet.  They recognized that eventually customers would want mobile extensions to all of their software applications, and they were in the best position to support these requirements.

Field service technicians are no longer as easily impressed with mobile applications as they were a few years ago when all things mobile were magical.  Today, they are downloading all kinds of powerful mobile applications to their personal smartphones in the evenings and weekends.  Today, they expect to see that same level of sophistication from their field services applications.

In late 2009 ClickSoftware released their first standalone mobile solution, called ClickSoftware Mobile. Prior mobile solutions from ClickSoftware were mobile extensions to their enterprise field services applications.  ClickSoftware Mobile contains many templates, forms builders and workflow processes that are useful for the field service industry.  As it evolves, it will become a useful MEAP for many other processes and workflows as well.

Gil says he believes SAP has the right strategy towards mobility today.  He described SAP's mobility strategy as the "App Store" approach to letting nearly everyone offer mobile applications that integrate with SAP.  He said this strategy was necessary due to the challenges SAP had in the past with their internal mobility efforts.

What is SAP doing wrong?  Gil said one of the challenges he sees is that SAP does not know what to recommend when customers ask.  He said all of the mobility vendors continually update SAP on new developments, but he doubts that information is effectively distributed to the field.  There are just too many developments happening too fast.  He said think of the confusion when a SAP customer needs mobility in 3 or 4 different areas that are covered by different SAP mobility partners.  How is the customer going to make a good decision?

What can we expect to see from ClickSoftware in 2010?  Gil says that ClickSoftware has deep expertise in field services automation, which will be shown in many new features in their mobile applications including integrated SMS that is contextually aware.  Customers can be notified of arrival times automatically based on the current location and schedule of the field service technician.  He said their applications are increasingly location sensitive and many new features are being integrated that use GPS coordinates as important data inputs.  He gave examples that included location of other service technicians, the inventories of other nearby service vehicles, and web services that include traffic information and alternative routes to help field service technicians be as efficient as possible.

Another feature that Gil's customers have been requesting is a light weight browser based-mobile application for contractors and sub-contractors.  These workers are often only involved in a project for a limited period of time and come with many different kinds of mobile devices.  As a result, a browser-based approach that enables any contractors with internet connection and permission to access project and scheduling information is best.

When asked about ClickSoftware competitors, Gil said Syclo is likely their biggest strategic competitor.  It is my impression that ClickSoftware is committed to the field service industry and complimentary business processes for most of their business now and in the near future.  He added that he does not compete much with Sky Technologies but finds their SAP "innerware" approach to mobility interesting.

Gil believes that Apple's iPhones and App Store changed the world.  Apple revolutionized how all other mobile applications are developed and deployed.  Apple opened up the world in new and different ways and inspired both developers and users to see smartphones and mobile applications differently.  He believes the new Apple iPad has the potential to make a similar market impact.

I said to Gil, "Tablets have been around for a decade.  Why do you think that the iPad has the ability to revolutionize the world?"  Gil answered, "Apple has the ability to do even the simplest things amazingly!"  It is the ability to produce amazing experiences that can inspire the world.

Additional interviews in this series:
***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sybase has Record Q1 - Credits Mobile Apps for Growth

Sybase has reported some interesting numbers that seem to be meaningful for the SAP enterprise mobility market in general.

"2010 is off to a strong start for Sybase," stated Chairman, CEO and President of Sybase John Chen. "We achieved historical first-quarter highs in revenue, operating margins, earnings, and cash flow."  Added Mr. Chen, "Expansion of data, mobile devices, and real-time computing is driving adoption of our Unwired Enterprise strategy and stimulating demand for our data management, analytics, and mobility offerings."

If this is an indicator of a trend for enterprise mobility, rather than just an improving economy, then let the fun begin!

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
 ***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mobile Expert Interview Series: Troy O'Connor

I had the opportunity to interview Troy O'Connor recently while he was in Australia.  He is the CEO of Sky Technologies, an SAP Partner, and an expert in SAP mobility.  Sky Technologies is a software company, and their mobile solution for SAP is the SkyMobile Framework.

Troy first got into mobility as a systems integrator for SAP.  He cut his teeth on mobile applications for warehouse and inventory management over a decade ago.  SAP developed a lot of barcode data collection applications using rugged handheld computers like the LXE.

I asked Troy about his thoughts on mobile micro-applications and MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms).  He said that mobile micro-applications are very useful, especially for simple forms-based mobile applications, but he would advocate that mobile micro-applications should be developed using a MEAP and supported by a MEAP.  That way there is a standard way of developing, integrating and supporting them.  MEAPs should provide a rapid and agile development environment for both thick client applications and mobile micro-applications.

I then asked Troy for his thoughts on the role of thick mobile clients and thin mobile clients.  He responded that thick mobile clients are less important when there is 100% connectivity, but there are many cases where rugged working environments do not have connectivity.  In such places being able to operate in a connected or disconnected mode is important.  He added that he prefers the term "Intelligent Mobile Client" over the term thick client.  Intelligent Mobile clients typically have more computing power, on device databases, document management, and data collection capabilities that thin clients.

"What about MEAPs?" I asked.  He listed the core features he felt a MEAP should have:
  1. SDK to provide tools for rapid and agile mobile application development.
  2. Interface management to protect the integrity of the SAP transaction and ensure it happens and is completed in SAP.
  3. Data modeling, data profiling and data synchronization.
  4. Device management, which is important so errors and support issues can be discovered and resolved quickly.
I followed up by asking, "How do you tell the difference between a good and bad MEAP?"  He answered:
  1. The MEAP must be very flexible, because SAP is very flexible.  The SAP user must be able to rapidly customize their mobile applications to match any customization they do in SAP.
  2. The MEAP must support both pre-developed (canned) mobile applications and custom mobile applications.
  3. 100% of Sky Technologies' customers have requested some level of customization.  That is why the MEAP must support this capability.
  4. SAP is a transactional management system, and because of that any mobile applications integrated with SAP must also be compliant as a transactional management system and provide complete end-to-end visibility to these transactions.
  5. SAP interface management is critical.  SAP must have visibility into mobile transactions and be able to monitor them from inside of SAP.
  6. SAP scales up to tens of thousands of users.  The mobile enterprise application platform must also scale up.
I asked Troy about Sky Technologies' strategy of using an SAP "Innerware" architecture for their MEAP.  He responded that Sky Technologies was given a namespace inside of SAP by SAP to integrate their SkyMobile MEAP.  It was then certified by SAP and enables SAP to have complete transactional visibility to mobile transactions.  The "innerware" strategy also enables them to utilize and maximize SAP's integration technologies including SAP NetWeaver.  Many other mobile software companies choose to duplicate SAP functionality in external third party middleware which adds unnecessary layers of complexity.

I learned a new term from Troy - "short pants."  This term refers to youngsters or pretenders, those that lack a complete understanding of an environment.  He used that term to refer to mobile software companies that do not have deep knowledge and experience working with SAP.  I have now added that term to my vocabulary.

When asked his opinion on SAP's current mobility strategy, Troy answered that he agrees with SAP's partnership strategy for delivering mobile applications.  He said the market and technology is moving too quickly for a large software company to keep up.  They need to support the innovation that can come out of their smaller mobility partners.

In response to the question, "What should SAP do differently?"  He answered, "Clarify the licensing strategy and price for mobile applications."  He shared that some of his SAP customers had run into confusing licensing issues around mobile devices for SAP, and this caused some grief.

The last question I asked was, "What should an SAP customer ask a mobile application vendor before purchasing?"  Troy answered, "Where is the master system?  Is it SAP or a third party database or middleware application?"

Related Articles:

Mobile Expert Interview Series: PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Ahmed El Adl, PhD
Mobile Expert Interview Series: Nokia's John Choate
Mobile Expert Interview Series - Jane and Keelin Glendon of HotButtons

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Reports on Productivity Gains - Is Mobility to Blame?

I read an interesting article by Mike Dorning in last week's Bloomberg BusinessWeek.  In summary, the article said surveys are showing that people do not believe the economy is improving despite nearly all market indicators suggesting otherwise.  Of particular interest is the following excerpt, "While jobs have been slow to return, the country has experienced 'an incredible productivity boom' that strengthens the economy for an expansion, says Greenhaus of Miller Tabak. Labor productivity, or worker output per hour, grew at a 6.9 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, capping the biggest one-year gain since 2002."

I am seeing an incredible interest in enterprise mobility applications these days.  I wonder how much of the 6.9 percent productivity gain in Q4 of 2009 can be credited to companies extending their ERPs to mobile devices.  What are your thoughts?

SAP announced in December that mobility is one of their core focus points for 2010.  I can see this demonstrated with their EcoHub mobility theme this month.  In 2009 it was business intelligence.  This year I believe it is enterprise mobility, and next year the combination of enterprise mobility, business intelligence, and location based services (geospatially aware apps).

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict  
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Where Has Microsoft Mobility Gone - Here?

Several years ago when I was up to my neck in mobile application development projects, the only mobile operating systems referred to were Windows Mobile, Windows CE, along with a few reminiscent comments about Palm OS.  Today, the mobility world is a completely different place but perhaps not as different as you may think.

The world of Windows Mobile and Windows CE still exists.  In fact the industrial and ruggedized mobility environments are strong and completely dominated by Microsoft operating systems.  This may surprise folks who are relatively new to mobility and may have thought enterprise mobility is limited to the smartphone.  The ironic thing is that Microsoft was primarily focused on the consumer device market but accidentally found themselves dominating the markets for ruggedized and industrial grade mobile devices. 

SAP mobility partners like Leapfactor, RIM, and Vivido Labs are mobilizing SAP primarily for the users of smartphones such as iPhones, Blackberrys, and those using the Android operating systems, but just because they are making the headlines does not mean there isn't a substantial and growing market for rugged and industrial mobile devices using Microsoft Mobile.

A few weeks ago I spoke to Andy Sivell, a project manager for SAP mobility partner Sky Technologies, about a large mobility project he is working on for a water utility in Australia with many hundreds of mobile application users.  The rugged devices being used are Motorola MC75s, all with Windows Mobile operating systems.   The mobile applications they support are:
  • Enterprise asset management
  • Mobile work order dispatch
  • Field services
  • Parts and equipment consumption
  • Maintenance
  • Job costing/time tracking
  • Mobile resource management applications
It is easy to forget, with all the buzz around iPhones, iPads, Android and BlackBerrys, that there is another large and growing market for industrial grade mobility applications using Microsoft OSs.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mobility in the Enterprise from SAP

Announcement from SAP

Mobility is a key strategic priority for SAP. Starting today, Monday April 19, through April 30, 2010 “Mobility in the Enterprise” will be featured on SAP EcoHub. We have assembled an extensive array of valuable assets,(also see below) i.e.:

1. The best enterprise mobile solutions from partners that include Sybase, Syclo, Mellmo, Sky Technologies, Vivido Labs and Leapfactor. All contribute towards sales and revenue.

2. Videos and blogs from senior SAP executives and mobile visionaries. We received overwhelming commitment and cooperation from SAP executives and partners. We received 20 videos and 15 blogs on mobility and 3 partners have bought advertisement packages during this period.

3. Tools to locate the right mobile solutions. Check out the very cool “Find the right mobile solutions for your business” mini-app.

4. Engagement vehicles i.e. the mobility survey and an invitation for mobile app developers to introduce themselves to SAP.

5. Links from SAP.com, SCN, partners sites and mentor blogs to SAP EcoHub

“Mobility in the Enterprise” presents a great opportunity for our customers, AEs and partners to learn and engage with SAP on mobility. You can help us by publicizing and raising awareness of the mobility theme. Please take 5 mins to visit EcoHub yourself and become familiar with the content and solutions. The time for mobility in now! EcoHub is ready!

Sincere Regards,

Usman Sheikh

Vice President
SAP EcoHub
SAP AG
M +1 650 391 4830
E u.sheikh@sap.com


***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict  
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

SAP's Mobility Theme Launch

SAP kicked off their Mobility Theme on EcoHub today.  They will be promoting mobility over the next few weeks leading up to Sapphire by highlighting blogs, videos, demos, webinars, and other events related to mobility.  SAP is promoting its mobility partners including Sybase, Syclo, Sky Technologies, Leapfactor, RIM, Vivido Labs, and others.

The SAP banner above this article allows you to answer several questions and be directed to various mobility vendors that are partnered with SAP.  Very clever SAP!

This is a very interesting time for those involved in SAP mobility, and I look forward to participating in as many events as I can.  I will be participating in a mobile SAP CRM webinar on April 27, in an SAP Insider event in Palo Alto on April 30, and attending many mobility events at Sapphire the week of May 16 in Orlando, Florida.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Mobilizing SAP’s CRM - Freedom to Succeed

I have been invited to participate in an upcoming webinar on Mobilizing SAP's CRM.  The details can be found on SAP's EcoHub website, and it is scheduled for April 27 at 1:00 PM EDST.  The topics will include:

• Position CRM in your company.
• How to avoid adoption issues.
• Ways of implementing to maximize efficiency.
• Simplifying for mobile access.
• How to deploy SAP’s CRM across any mobile device.

Mobilizing SAP CRM is one of the highest priorities for SAP CRM customers.  In a recent interview that I did with EntryPoint's founder Pete Martin, he said that 100% of his net new SAP CRM sales prospects are now requiring a mobile extension to CRM.  This motivated him to partner with SAP's partner Sky Technologies to provide mobile SAP CRM solutions.  Anything that can be credited with helping a sales force sell more product is very interesting to a company.  Making the sales force more efficient, productive and effective is the goal of all companies.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Confession of an Enterprise Mobility Guy

Yesterday, because it was spring weather in Boise, Idaho, I put on a light weight jacket with only one secure interior pocket.  This forced me to choose between putting my wallet or my iPhone in it.  I chose the iPhone. I then proceeded to a store where I sat in a number of different chairs.  When I returned home my wallet was predictably missing. 

As I pondered my earlier choices, I wondered what made me choose my iPhone over my wallet.  What decision would you have made?  My iPhone is a portal into both my personal and professional life.  My wallet is simply a container.

I read in the Wall Street Journal today an article by Katherine Boehret called "A Leash on Mobile Devices that Like to Wander."  It lists two different devices that sound an alarm if you walk too far away from your mobile device.  The problem is these device manufacturers assume you will lose your iPhone rather than your wallet.

I must confess that replacing my wallet now days seems easier than replacing my iPhone.  Someday soon they will be one and the same, and having just one secure pocket in my jacket will suffice.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict  
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

SAP CRM Partner EntryPoint Consulting Looks to Mobility for Growth

I read with interest today a press release about SAP partner EntryPoint Consulting.  I know them, and they are a long term SAP consulting and channel partner that is involved in the CRM side of SAP.  They were involved in some of the earliest implementations of mobile SAP CRM several years back and experienced a lot of first mover pain as a result.  I know they have been watching the SAP mobility evolution with keen interest for several years.

From today's press release it looks like Pete Martin, managing partner at EntryPoint has decided it is time to get serious about SAP mobility again, and he partnered with SAP mobility partner Sky Technologies to deliver mobile SAP CRM capabilities.  I spoke to him several months back, and he said 100% of his SAP CRM sales opportunities this year were asking about mobile device support so he was very interested in the SAP mobility ecosystem.

Here is a quote from today's press release, "We were convinced that we ‘chose right’ when some of the most sophisticated SAP customers, such as Colgate, chose Sky as their preferred mobile platform..."  Martin goes on to say, "By combining our CRM consulting expertise with Sky’s leading platform, we now have the ability to offer companies a comprehensive set of CRM consulting in the marketing, sales and service functional areas.  In short, we can offer them ‘SAP CRM in the palm of their hand.”

SkyMobile provides a single integrated framework that is used to mobilize and manage SAP applications on all major mobile platforms including Windows, BlackBerry, Android, Symbian, and iPhone.

I would like to hear more about what Colgate is doing in the SAP mobility space with Sky.  I know that Colgate is often in the forefront of new technologies and trends.  Perhaps, someone from Colgate will share?

*************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monetizing Mobile Applications in the SAP Ecosystem

SAP is trying to figure out the best way to monetize enterprise mobile applications and B2C mobile applications.  These are complex issues.  Extending the functionality of SAP to mobile users is a key goal for SAP.  They want to enable many, many more users to benefit from SAP. The mobile workforce and consumers are both areas where SAP can extend value, but how do they charge for it?

I have had conversations this month with several SAP ecosystem veterans about this topic.  They remembered conversations several years ago when SAP was quoting full PULs (platform user licenses) for each mobile user.  That did not go over well.  They have since revised that number down, down, down, but now you have mobile micro-applications that just expose little segments of value to users.  How is this going to be monetized by SAP.  There is value for micro-applications vendors and end users for using SAP functionality on an iPhone, but how should it be priced?  How can it be monitored?

SAP's goals are also to extend SAP functionality to consumers' smart phones in a B2C model.  An example would be an iPhone enabled catalog that is hosted on SAP.  It may include inventory updates, shopping carts/order entry, shipment tracking, etc.  How does SAP monetize consumer applications that are developed by mobile application vendors?

I would like to hear your thoughts, as this is an issue that is being worked through now.

*************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict  
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

**************************************************

Mobile Micro-Applications vs Thick Mobile Clients

As I have shared before, my background was in the MEAP (mobile enterprise application platform) world.  We used different acronyms, some not repeatable in this family friendly blog, but it was the same thing as today's MEAPs.  I have managed development projects where the mobile applications we delivered could be considered a full ERP in many places.  It was painful and expensive, but it worked.  Our customers had hundreds of route sales, service technicians, and delivery folks walking around carrying full functional ERPs on their ruggedized mobile handheld computers.

The application I am referring to above consisted of the following:
  • Mobile sales force automation application
  • Mobile order entry application
  • Mobile invoicing
  • Mobile proof-of-delivery application
  • Mobile work order management application
  • Mobile inventory management system
  • Mobile price and promotion management application
  • Mobile enterprise asset management application
  • Mobile CRM to access customer service and support issues
MEAPs and thick client mobile applications certainly have their place, but there was so much customization that this finished mobile application was probably out-dated by the time we delivered it.  If any part of our mobile application needed changed, the entire mobile application had to be updated and re-tested.  With a mobile application that big and complex, the opportunities for bugs were endless.  We had to charge a fortune to deliver it.

Our customer wanted a thick mobile client application that could work in a connected and disconnected mode so that their employees could work whether there was connectivity with the internet or not.  Three years ago there were not a lot of options.  As a result there were a lot of thick mobile clients delivered.

With this particulary mobile application, the training requirements were huge.  The mobile workforce needed to understand every aspect of their mobile ERP before it could be effectively used.  You can image the level of IT support for the first six months.

It will be interesting to see how thick clients and MEAPs evolve.  There are some very active debates on the SAP Enterprise Mobility group on LinkedIn on this subject.

Where do MEAPs stop and mobile micro-applications start?  If I were to develop that same mobile application today, would I use nine mobile micro-applications rather than try to build all of the features and functionality into one giant mobile application?  Good question! 

SAP's partners are on both sides of this question. SAP partners like Vivido Labs and Leapfactor focus mostly on mobile micro-applications.  Sybase and Syclo focus mostly on thick mobile clients, while Sky Technologies seems to be hedging their bets with both thick mobile clients and mobile micro-apps.

It will be an interesting evolution to watch!

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict  
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Simple Mobile Applications Can Offer Real ROIs

The International Telecommunication Union reported in 2009 that 28% of people in Africa have mobile phones but only 5% have the internet.  The report also said that mobile phone subscriptions in Africa were increasing by 50% per year.  As a result of this rapid growth, mobile application developers have been creating simple mobile applications for African businesses that utilize SMS rather than mobile smart phones with data plans.  There are some lessons to be learned.

In a recent CNN article entitled, "Mobile App Developers Tackle Africa's Biggest Problems," the author writes about developers creating powerful and beneficial mobile applications that work with simple and limited 140 character text message inputs.  One example was a mobile application that enables dairy farmers to request the average price of a unit of milk in certain areas.  The text message queries a database that returns an answer.  This may seem to be a very simplistic application, but it means a huge amount to the dairy farmer.  Without access to information on the local market prices for milk, the dairy farmer can be convinced, out of ignorance, to sell his/her product for less that the market price.  Armed with knowledge, the dairy farmer can negotiate for a fair price.

Another example given was a mobile wireless fish sensor in a lake that alerts local fisherman via text messages of the presence of fish.  For the local fisherman whose income depends on being a successful fisherman, this could be a very useful mobile application.

The lesson I learned from these examples is to not undervalue the usefulness of simple mobile applications.  My background is in the MEAP space where we developed thick client mobile applications that were mini-ERPs on ruggedized Windows Mobile devices.  Our MEAPs and mobile applications required large and expensive development efforts.  They were certainly useful and appreciated by our clients, but it does not always require that level of development to provide real value.

Some segments of the mobile workforce could benefit from simple updates, key data provided at the right time, and the ability to query on key data and incremental efficiency improvements.  Mobile micro-applications definitely have their place.

In the SAP ecosystem you are starting to see an increasing number of mobile micro-applications from SAP partners like Vivido Labs, Leapfactor, Sky Technologies.  These applications are designed to replace specific paper processes and enable the mobile workforce to accomplish more while traveling.  I have been given some previews and I believe that Sapphire 2010 will be remembered as the Year of Mobility in the SAP ecosystem.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict  
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

**************************************************

Monday, April 12, 2010

Everyone Wants A Piece of SAP Enterprise Mobility!

I was surprised to read today that SAP's ECM (enterprise content management) partner Open Text Corp. now has a mobile applications strategy.  "This move is part of a strategy designed to help organizations harness the power of today’s mobile workforce in an effort to increase productivity."

The solution is called Open Text Everywhere and it is designed to make the entire Open Text ECM Suite available through mobile devices.  This move by Open Text highlights an interesting evolution in the mobile ecosystem around SAP.  A number of SAP's partners are producing mobile applications that only work if you buy their products.  There is nothing wrong with that strategy, but it does add confusion to companies interested in general SAP enterprise mobility.  Now there are at least four categories of mobile applications for SAP customers:
  1. MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms) - Enables the user to develop, customize and support many different mobile applications and mobile devices on one platform (e.g. Sybase, Sky Technologies, etc.).
  2. Mobile micro-applications - Lightweight mobile applications typically available from App stores that are specific to particular limited business processes in SAP (e.g. Vivido Labs, Leapfactor, etc.).
  3. Mobile solutions that are designed to work primarily with a specific vendor product (e.g. ClickSoftware, Syclo, Open Text, etc.).
  4. Out of the box mobile applications (email, calendars, etc.).
There may be more mobile application categories, so let me know which ones I missed.

I wonder how committed companies like Open Text are to mobility?  Are they serious, or are they just trying to excite an exciteable analyst?  Initially Open Text is only going to support BlackBerrys, but claims a long term commitment to supporting other mobile devices.  They plan to release applications that provide a comprehensive view of business processes, content and workplace social collaboration (as long as it involves their product).  Here is the list of mobile applications they are planning to develop:
  • Manage everywhere for documents and content.
  • Engage everywhere focusing on process workflows.
  • Collaboration everywhere using social media.
Although the product descriptions sound general, I expect they will only function with Open Text products.  That means SAP users who want these functions, that are not Open Text customers, will need to search for other mobile application vendors.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Redbox, M2M and Mobile SAP Micro-Apps

M2M is not only a cool acronym, kind of James Bond like, but a very interesting category in the wireless industry.  M2M in this context means machine-to-machine wireless connectivity.  A few other terms that describe this category are "the Internet of Objects" or the "Internet of Things."  All of these terms relate to machines that can talk or exchange data with other machines via wireless connectivity.

One strange example that I wrote about a few months ago was a bathroom scale that would wirelessly tweet your body weight to your Twitter list every time you weighed yourself.  The scale, a machine, was collecting data and sending it automatically via a wireless connection to another machine (server).

A recent example that I found particularly interesting was Redbox.  These are the DVD rental kiosks that we see everywhere now days. Did you know that Redbox machines are M2M enabled?  You can go to the Redbox website, find a kiosk near you that has a movie you want and reserve it online.  You can also use their micro-app for iPhones to find a movie in a kiosk near you and rent it.

A quick digression - look for a large number of new mobile micro-apps to be announced at SAP's Sapphire event in May.  Companies like Vivido Labs and Sky Technologies, and many others, will be releasing many new mobile micro-apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android and other OSs.  These are typically small, one purpose or business process, mobile apps that are integrated with SAP.

Here in Boise, Idaho there is a local success story involving M2M with a company called Telemetric.  Here is their description:  Telemetric provides wireless remote monitoring and control of equipment and machinery using cellular networks.  We provide solutions that enable electric, water and gas utilities and their customers to measure, monitor and control usage of valuable resources.  Our solutions improve system efficiency, asset management, speed up responses to service interruptions and equipment problems, and automate reporting functions resulting in lower operating costs and more reliable service.

Telemetric develops monitoring equipment that measures and reports wirelessly to other machines.  Managers can watch dashboards and see the measurements from remote equipment.

The bottom line is that field data collection does not always require a person with a ruggedized handheld computer to be traveling around collecting data. High value assets and equipment can be set-up with monitoring devices that report their status to other machines and servers that can be programmed to do certain things based upon the data coming in.  I am now writing a new analyst report on M2M to be released in June 2010.

Related articles:
***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Monday, April 05, 2010

Mobile SAP Apps for Sales Order Capture and Delivery

Banks Holdings Limited (BHL), a SAP customer, is one of Barbados' most successful public companies and the island's largest beverage conglomerate.  BHL has four subsidiaries comprising of two beverage manufacturers, a dairy processing plant and a distribution firm.

BHL has recently mobilized three key SAP business processes:

  1. Pre-Selling - The Pre-Selling scenario enabled the capture and confirmation of new orders by the mobile salesforce as they interacted with the end customers, giving them visibility into their individual orders and pricing structures.  By delivering SAP pricing schemas to the mobile device, BHL's sales representatives now have the ability to highlight to customers any volume scale based price breaks and a potential for cross selling opportunities.
  2. Dispatch - Dispatch is responsible for managing the inventory required to fulfill the orders being delivered on a daily basis.  Leveraging the SAP FIFO and guided picking processes, the mobile dispatch process ensures the correct stock is not only loaded into the correct delivery truck but also in the most efficient order for the actual deliveries being fulfilled.
  3. Delivery - The delivery process is responsible for the Proof of Delivery (POD) process to the end customers. The mobile component not only manages core delivery processes, but also allows for any last minute adjustments to a delivery requested by a customer and the corresponding downstream SAP pricing impacts these changes may have.
BHL wanted a solution that could meet the following requirements:

  • The ability to work both online and offline when mobile staff is beyond mobile device coverage boundaries.
  • Support for multiple device types such as Motorola’s hand-held devices and printers.
  • Integration without the need for complex middleware.
  • Flexibility of the GUI interface.
  • In-depth SAP experience.
  • The ability to extend SAP specific business processes to the point of activity (mobile)
  • The ability to utilize existing SAP ABAP skills kept cost of enhancements low as any future changes and enhancements could be performed in-house.
SAP has a number of mobility partners including Sybase, RIM, Sky Technologies, Sylco and Vivido Labs. In this case BHL selected SAP Certified Partner, Sky Technologies for their mobile SAP CRM.

***************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Network-Centric Warfare and Network-Centric Field Services

Last year I published an article on Ulitzer called Network-Centric Field Services. This article discussed the way the US military uses mobile data collection, satellites, drones, M2M and many other data collection tools and techniques to create an accurate and real-time picture of their work environment. This approach enables the users of this system to see where their assets are located, where they are needed and how best to manage them at all times.

I believe this approach has great value for field service operations and many other areas and is worth studying in detail. The ability for a company to know in real time where their fleet of vehicles is located, where their human resources is located, where their jobsites are located, the status of their jobs and where their equipment and mobile inventories are located is critical to effectively managing field services. Equipment and mobile inventories can be better shared across projects, and the right people can be used on the right projects at the right time.

In a plant maintenance environment, equipment can be constantly reporting its status and maintenance needs either in a connected or disconnected mode to a plant maintenance team. This data can alert when there is a problem, or automatically schedule itself for maintenance. This is especially useful when maintenance experts are responsible for multiple plants and remote and/or mobile equipment. It enables experts to see a far bigger picture and be at the right place at the right time.

In a field service operations environment - all of the high value mobile resources can be connected wirelessly to a centralized management application. Wireless data collection is now easily available. The bigger challenge is integrating all of this data into a management application that has the business intelligence capacity to recommend how best to use all of the incoming data for optimal efficiencies.

I gave several examples of organizations using this network-centric approach in the article Street Parking and Mobile Data Solutions. One example was of a city using sensors in street parking sites that wirelessly report when they are available. The reports could be viewed on iPhone applications. Another example was of the giant cement company in Kenya called LaFarge that was implementing a SAP solution and mobile appliction to provide better tracking and visibility into materials coming in and inventory going out to the customer.

If you would like to discuss the concept of network-centric field services in more detail please contact me.

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Kevin Benedict
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant, Mobile Industry Analyst and Web 2.0 Marketing Expert
http://www.netcentric-strategies.com/
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
twitter: http://twitter.com/krbenedict
http://kevinbenedict.ulitzer.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/

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