Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sybase's Strategy with John Chen - Version 2

John Chen
CEO Sybase, an SAP company
John Chen, CEO of Sybase Inc., an SAP company, wrote an interesting article that I read last week.  Here are three excerpts:
  1. Until recently application platforms dominated the enterprise mobility story. Vendors like Sybase sold them and corporations bought them — to build mobile apps in-house.
  2. Packaged mobile apps will soon replace custom-built ones as the predominant deployment model inside the enterprise. This will not only slash the cost and time needed for organizations to roll out mobile apps, but will also kick-start a new phase of rapid growth for enterprise mobility.
  3. Sybase is out in front of this trend as it revolutionizes the mobile space.
I understand that John was making general comments, but as a veteran of the mobile industry I started pondering the challenges he will face.  I wondered how packaged mobile apps would be configured to work with customized SAP environments.  If I remember right, about 70 percent of SAP customers customize their systems.  Packaged mobile applications would need to be able to be customized quickly to "slash" the costs and time needed for organizations to roll out mobile apps. This means someone must be trained to customize mobile apps.  Who is that someone?  What do they need to know?  What SDK will they use?  Who should I call?
I also wondered, since Sybase has not traditionally been a mobile application company, how they could be "out in front" on this trend.  Many of us have been developing and deploying mobile applications for the past decade and have never recognized Sybase as a major player in that space.  Yet, a reader pointed out that most companies are barely starting their mobility projects, so packaged mobile apps would be a great start.
It also occured to me that many "outside-the-four-walls" business processes are not commonly supported by SAP today.  There are many field services, project management, inspections, asset tracking and other kinds of business processes that fall outside of SAP's umbrella. Will Sybase try to support these, or just those processes supported by SAP? 

SAP resells ClickSoftware's Workforce Scheduling and Optimization solution.  ClickSoftware has already developed mobile applications for the SAP Workforce Scheduling and Optimization solution.  This solution supports "intra-day dynamic mobile workforce scheduling."  This is not an area that SAP supports themselves.  Will Sybase develop mobile apps for SAP's partner solutions, or leave this up to the partner?
Syclo is SAP's co-innovation mobility partner for EAM (enterprise asset management).  Enterprise asset management is a big and high priority market for mobile applications.  In many cases Syclo's mobile clients may need to connect to both SAP and non-SAP EAM systems.  Will SAP simply excuse themselves from the EAM category in favor of their partner, or compete against them?
Many other mobile markets, such as retail, require support for features and processes not always covered by SAP's systems.  For example, large retailers looking to provide consumer focused mobile applications may work with retail experts like Smartsoft Mobile (an SAP services partner) to provide branded mobile applications that incorporate loyalty programs, location-based services, coupons, deals, catalogs, etc. 
Even SAP partners that focus on "inside the four walls" solutions like Open Text (an enterprise content management vendor) already have mobile solutions for SAP customers.  Open Text is the developer of SAP's Vendor Invoice Management systems, among other solutions.  They have developed a mobile solution called Open Text Everywhere that I wrote about here

Open Text is an example of a vendor developing their own mobile applications for their own enterprise solutions.  However, in Open Text's case, some of their ECM (enterprise content management) solutions are embedded in SAP.  As a result, the user must decide if they will use Open Text's packaged mobile application, build their own, or wait for Sybase to develop a mobile packaged application.

I don't think Sybase would try to mobilize SAP solutions and business processes that are provided by partners that have their own packaged mobile apps like Open Text or ClickSoftware.  At least they wouldn't seem like high priorities.

It appears that Sybase will focus first on extending simple SAP business processes and workflows out to mobile devices.  Second, develop mobile applications for the high priority business processes and include mobile SDK support for customizing these apps. Third, provide the mobility platform (not the mobile apps) for rich and complex mobile applications, that require deep industry knowledge, customization, support for field specific business processes, and integration with non-SAP backends, non-SAP business processes or multiple backend systems. This third area of applications will likely remain the competitive playground of the SAP enterprise mobility ecosystem vendors, not Sybase.

Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know what you think!

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
Phone +1 208-991-4410
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.