Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SAP Acquires Syclo - A First Analysis Over Coffee

WARNING!  These are my (Kevin Benedict's) personal thoughts and opinions pondered over a cup of my favorite coffee shop's bowl of soul, on the outdoor patio, in the warm spring sunshine of Boise, Idaho.

My first thought when I received the news today that SAP is acquiring Syclo, was, "Smart move SAP!" I respect the fact that SAP is willing to double down on enterprise mobility.  I also respect the fact that SAP is willing to brave the inevitable criticism for having bought the same solution twice.   SAP has smart leaders.  They have made an aggressive and brave decision with this acquisition.  I think they recognized an unmet need, estimated the impact, valued the market and fixed it.  I am sure this was not an easy decision.  It will raise many questions, but I am sure it will make Sapphire 2012 even more interesting (perhaps even more than Van Halen in concert).

SAP has doubled down on enterprise mobility, while Oracle is still not even in the game.  I find it fascinating that the SAP leadership has a vision and is charging ahead while Oracle is on the sidelines.  How curious.
Oracles on the Sidelines

SAP thought they were getting all of the features that Syclo offers (MEAP, SDK, production ready mobile apps, experience, talent, etc.) when they bought Sybase in 2010. However, once they had critically examined Sybase post-acquisition, they realized there were gaps.  Mainly, they spent $5.8 billion, in large part to gain a mobile solution, but then realized there were no batteries included (i.e. mobile apps).

Syclo, on the other hand, offers not only a mobile middleware platform (some say it is better than SUP), but has many industry proven, in production, mobile applications.  These are real mobile apps.  Apps that can transform companies.  These are mobile apps that husky, uniform wearing men and women, with five o'clock shadows use to build national electrical grids and other mud covered systems and objects.

Not only does Syclo offer a library of "real" mobile applications that are in production, but they bring desperately needed enterprise mobility skills, real customers and a passion for mobility to the SAP family.

Let's get back to the subject of mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs).  When SAP announced the acquisition of Sybase in 2010, I detected mostly unspoken frustration in the eyes of the Syclo management team when I interviewed them about the acquisition.  I believe they felt their MEAP was better than Sybase's.  It will now be interesting to see which MEAP wins out in the long term.  Yes, I know that Syclo has announced that their solutions will now run on SUP, but I think they agreed to this mostly under duress.

Syclo's SDK is designed to produce "real" production ready mobile apps, not just partial code for programmers.  I know of many large deployments of production mobile apps from Syclo.  Syclo has earned their stripes, and now SAP and SAP customers will benefit from this.

The biggest complaint about SAP mobility has now been addressed - the lack of production quality, real mobile applications being used by happy customers.  It will now be very interesting to see how the SAP mobility stack, stacks up.

The inventory and options for developing mobile solutions has now jumped up another notch.  It was already a challenge to figure out the best way to design, develop, integrate, deploy and support a mobile solution.  Now, instead of having hundreds of different ways to build a mobile solution in the SAP world, there will be more.  It will be interesting to watch how SAP works to simplify their message given so many possible ways mobile apps can be implemented.

SAP will now have the Sybase Unwired Platform, Agentry 6.0 and Smart Mobile Suite from Syclo, Sybase 365, NetWeaver Gateway and all of the other SAP ecosystem partners.  Things will get interesting!

I know the management team at Syclo and value their passion, expertise, perseverance and talent.  They have not always been the flashiest company, some even drive Smart cars, but they have demonstrated their value by quietly deploying thousands and thousands of real mobile applications around the world in production environments and making customers happy.

Now comes other challenges for SAP.  How do they merge and consolidate so many good mobile solutions that may not always be compatible with each other?  Will these solutions be adequate for B2C (business to consumer) apps, or is that a unique category that requires a different acquisition or internal development effort?  I know Syclo has been evangelizing their B2C apps for the past few months.  This is a recent push and it will be interesting to see how it holds up under more scrutiny.

How will SAP manage relationships with important partners like ClickSoftware which also has a powerful and competing enterprise mobility solutions called ClickMobile. SAP private labels a ClickSoftware solution called, SAP Workforce Scheduling and Optimization by ClickSoftware.  It has its own mobile client.  Again, this will be interesting to watch.

Does the Syclo acquisition enhance mobility in the cloud?  I am not sure.

I love enterprise mobility, and its a good thing because now my coffee is cold.

Read Part 2 in this series here.
Read Part 3 in this series here. 
Read Part 4 in this series here.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and SAP Mentor Alumnus
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.