Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top 5 Lessons Learned from Mobilizing SAP in the Cloud

I am excited to present this article from mobility expert Srini Subramanian.  He is the CTO at Unvired and shares his experiences implementing mobility in the cloud in SAP environments with us.

Working with SAP customers on the cloud has been a rich learning and myth busting experience in many ways.  Contrary to popular belief, a number of SAP customers do have a strong affinity for deploying solutions via the cloud.  So what are the insights from our first set of cloud customers?

1. Cloud is relevant and top of the mind for SAP customers 
Many of them already use other solutions such as Salesforce, Workday, Successfactors, etc. and integrate these SAAS / cloud solutions to their SAP systems in a number of ways.  A cloud based delivery of the mobile platform struck a chord with many of the CIO/CTO and IT heads that we spoke to.  It is also a known fact that on-premise or hosted data centers running the dedicated SAP instances need to co-exist with the cloud based platforms / solutions.  A flexible approach to cloud deployment without disrupting existing landscapes is what customers want.

2. Security
Data security is of paramount importance to all customers.  Business data is being unlocked and the safe guarding of that data while it is put to innovative usages needs to be the bedrock of any cloud platform.  The heads of IT recognize that email on mobile is already putting sensitive data on the device and data from business systems like SAP is not new, but only enhancing the amount of data on the device.  Also MDM solutions complement the security needs of the mobile platforms.

Security in the mobile context can be: Data on the cloud, data in transit and data on the device.  The mobile platform does not need to replicate the data from customer systems to the cloud.  Data is held on the cloud in encrypted form only for as long as it is required to be delivered safely to the device.  Data in transit is secured via standard HTTPS/SSL and data on the device is stored in encrypted databases.

3. Time to deploy, rapid change
Companies want to deploy mobile solutions rapidly and they don’t want to wait.  Reasons are many but the primary one is that deployments on mobile devices are in response (or to preempt) to business demands (like approvals on the Go, sales order creation etc) and are time sensitive.  In many cases, deploying the solution a few months later means reduced business relevance.  So solutions need to be rapidly deployed and be adaptable to rapid changes requested by business users.

4. ROI matters, no more POCs
Good old fashioned ROI still matters. Customers are hesitant to make huge investments into POCs with limited production relevance. Customers want quick and free trials with their own SAP systems and mobile devices eliminating the POCs. After the trial, customers are more interested in iterative roll out of mobile processes and investing in shorter bursts as and when required.  Customers want to see bang for the buck quickly as unlike investments in SAP and other systems wherein the investment is depreciated over 10 to 15 years.  Mobile investments are for much shorter periods of 2 to 3 years.  BYOD phenomenon, short device life and mobile manufacturer / telco driven periodic device refresh have driven the shorter shelf life in the mobile investments.

5. Pay as you go / scale as you go
This is a preference for many customers.  Rarely do we find that customers want to go for a big bang deployment of mobile solutions.  Additional deployments, requiring purchasing of (expensive) additional users, are a dampener for larger mobile adoption.  Also significant churn in employees’ headcount due to challenging business circumstances means customers want to not just buy additional users but also return users.  This new trend / requirement of return of users is done much easier in a cloud environment. 

Author: Srini Subramanian, Chief Technology Officer at Unvired, Inc. srinivasan.subramanian@unvired.com

If you have lessons learned that you would like to share here, please contact me!

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