Going Mobile: SAP Strategy Taps Managed Services

SAP outlined mobile technology plans at its Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla., last week. At the show, the company released a new version of Sybase Unwired Platform for mobile application development, announced an updated software development kit, and unveiled a set of industry-oriented mobile applications. SAP and Sybase, which SAP acquired last year, aim to build a bevy of mobile applications that tap into SAP’s back office systems. SAP’s mobility-driven objective is to reach 1 billion users by 2015. So, where do managed services fit in?Here's the answer.

MSPs, integrators, and other business partners will develop applications atop the Sybase platform, offer hosting services, and provide both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-services (SaaS) offerings.

“In the past, SAP was struggling to provide a value proposition regarding mobility,” noted Fernando Alvarez, Mobile Solutions practice leader at Capgemini.

Sybase, however, has set SAP on a new course:  Alvarez said Sybase’s technology platform will catapult the company’s mobility business. Capgemini, he added, plans to align itself with SAP’s strategy, offering services around the mobility push. In short, the company aims to build and manage mobile applications. It’s a design-build-operate scenario.

On the development side, Capgemini has a mobile solution for field service technicians. The application consumes the SAP ERP backend content, Alvarez said. Another application tracks inventory in different stages of the supply chain process. Alvarez said the company is also venturing into more complex, vertically oriented mobile applications.

In addition, Capgemini is building SAP workflows on the Sybase platform. Alvarez described these as simple workflows -- vacation requests, for example -- that typically target executives doing business on iPads or RIM devices.

Hosting Services

On the managed services side, customers are asking Capgemini to host the Sybase mobile technology platform. He said organizations say they need a platform to manage mobile devices, but would like that technology provided on a PaaS basis.

Sybase Unwired Platform includes an administrative console for managing mobile apps and devices.

At the moment, Capgemini is working to extend its mobile hosting to include the applications as well as the platform. He pointed to a merchandising application in the retail space as an example.

Alvarez said Capgemini also seeks to host SAP workflows, becoming a factory of sorts that builds, deploys, and manages workflows on demand.

“That’s a model we would like to pursue,” he said.

A Broader Opportunity?

Off hand, the SAP mobility play appears to be more of an opportunity for the larger channel players. In addition to Capgemini, Accenture is in the frame for SAP and Sybase mobility projects. Accenture and SAP last week revealed a plan to jointly develop and manage mobility offerings.

Capgemini and Accenture have been working the ERP field for decades, so have acquired ample knowledge of the back end systems. Still, there could be room for a mobile app development specialist to partner for SAP-goes-mobile opportunities.

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