Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Observations about SAP Enterprise Mobility, MEAPS and SDKs

I am attending the SAPinsider Mobile2012 event in Las Vegas this week, and have had the honor of meeting and speaking with many people involved in SAP enterprise mobility.  These people were SAP partners and SAP employees.  One of the distinct impressions I got was that most are focused on simply extending existing SAP systems out to a mobile user, but not focused on transforming businesses with mobility.

I attended a session on SAP's mobile EAM solution (enterprise asset management) yesterday.  In it they demonstrated how the mobile app integrated with SAP and extended SAP fields out to the mobile device. However, there was no SDK (software development kit) that would enable the user to customize the app for their specific requirements and projects.  It is basically a generic hard coded solution that extends SAP EAM functionality to the field.  There is value to that, but not transformational value.


I asked the SAP person if they used the SAP's mobile SDK to build the mobile EAM solution and they said no.  This seems very odd to me.  Shouldn't SAP's mobile SDK be robust enough to be used by SAP  to develop their own mobile applications?

When I was the CEO of a mobile application's company a few years ago, we had a MEAP and an SDK robust enough to be used to deliver all of our own custom mobile applications.  We then made that SDK available to our clients so they could use it in the future to edit and support their apps.  That SDK was built to be used on top of Sybase's iAnywhere solutions.  I don't understand why years later SAP/Sybase has not dramatically improved upon that model.

I am a strong advocate that companies should select a MEAP and IDE (integrated development environment) and use those to deliver as many of their mobile solutions as possible.  That doesn't mean you need to develop them internally, it means you can develop internally, buy off-the-shelf or contract with third party mobile experts to develop solutions for you - just insist they use your selected MEAP and IDE.

Today it seems that even if you purchased all of SAP's mobile apps, you would get a plethora of applications developed in many different ways and with many different development tool kits, styles and manners.  This is exactly what you want to avoid.  How can you support that kind of collection long term?  The TCO (total cost of ownership) would be high.

SUP can solve the MEAP issue if you can afford it, but there needs to be a standardized software development kit sufficient to support the majority of your mobile solutions, and that permits you to make edits and updates to your own solutions.  Mobile apps should not be held hostage to service providers or ERP vendors.

Through my many years of enterprise mobility experience I have come to realize there are many, many projects in the field that would benefit from mobile solutions.  Many of these projects are unique and their needs for unique data and mobile data collection require the ability to rapidly develop and deploy mobile solutions that may only be used for 6 months (the duration of the project).  Robust mobile SDKs should be able to deliver that.  Without a good mobile SDK you are again in bondage to a vendor, and your project based work suffers.

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Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.