by Thomas Wailgum

SAP Is ‘Going Mobile’: Too Bad It’s Been ‘Blowing Mobile’ for So Long

Mar 13, 20093 mins
Enterprise Applications

This week, SAP announced a new partnership with Sybase (using its Unwired Platform) to offer SAP’s ERP and CRM applications on every mobile device in the world (like the iPhone, BlackBerry and on Palm products).

Mobile device users will be able to access certain business processes, beginning with functionality from SAP’s CRM application, reported the IDG News Service. The suite also includes a range of critical ERP applications, such as human resources, supply chain and accounting applications.



This is 2009.

What took you so long SAP?

In fact, the Sybase mobile platform already has the capability “to bring functionality from SAP Business Suite to mobile devices,” noted the IDG News article, “but it doesn’t do it very well,” conceded Sybase CEO John Chen, at the SAP announcement. “It’s very clunky,” he said. (Enterprise apps on mobile devices have been a challenge thus far “because developers had to build point-to-point connections that made for a hairball of an integration problem,” notes the IDG article.)

According to Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, SAP finally abandoned a “not invented here” mentality with its mobile efforts, realizing it needed outside expertise (as in, Sybase) to help solve its problems. “Part of the problem lies with SAP’s inherent engineering mentality which required it to rely on its own tools and development environment (NetWeaver) to extend its platform to the mobile device,” Gold writes in a research brief. “The problem is, these tools were never quite up to the task.”

Technical issues notwithstanding, one has to file the SAP mobile saga under “big opportunity lost” for the world’s largest business applications vendor.

“Mobility had been such a strategic void in SAP’s portfolio,” notes Sheryl Kingstone, Yankee’s director of research, via e-mail. “Yankee Group has been stating the importance of mobilizing SAP applications for many years. Despite several attempts, SAP has lacked the domain expertise necessary to truly mobilize their suite.”

Yankee Group’s enterprise survey research calls mobile CRM the most strategic application for 2009. (For more on just how much of a game-changer mobile apps can be, see “Inside Pitney Bowes Choice for a Mobile CRM/ERP Solution” and “How Insurance Giant Aflac Made Mobile Applications Its Policy.”)

I suppose this is a case of better late than never. However, customers likely won’t see anything enterprise-worthy until the “second half of the year,” according to SAP execs. “SAP and Sybase must move quickly to extend the capabilities to a large subset of the entire SAP suite to satisfy customer demand,” Gold adds, “or risk losing business to SAP’s more mobile-enabled competitors.”

Pricing for the mobile apps, notes Bill McDermott, SAP’s president of global field operations, will be “affordable” for its customers. (What’s your definition of affordable, Bill?)

Gold, for one, writes that this latest effort will dramatically help SAP’s “mobile image.”

But I’m not so sure SAP actually had a “mobile image” in the first place.