What’s on the iPad of SAP’s CIO

LAS VEGAS – If they can make a business case to justify it, every employee at German business software vendor SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) can request and be issued an Apple iPad. So far SAP has deployed over 9,000 iPads to its global workforce and one of them is in the hands of SAP’s CIO, Oliver Bussmann.

Bussmann’s iPad has been a constant companion at SAP’s TechEd conference, including during a meeting with the media to discuss how SAP is using its own technology internally. He told ComputerWorld Canada his iPad has quickly become a critical business tool.

“Could I live without this device? No,” said Bussmann. “It’s a high dependency already.”

He said the tablet is perfect for scanning and absorbing information and sharing it with those around him, and it has already fundamentally changed the way he consumes and disseminates information.

“You move away from books and newspapers into absorbing information,” said Bussmann. “You learn to scan, to figure out where there’s a trend, and you comment and share.”

On Bussmann’s iPad is a mix of SAP apps and non-SAP apps. On the SAP side are a number of analytical and business tools he needs to run SAP’s IT organization and strategy. They include access to business information, financial data, human resources data, and a CIO dashboard.

“For me, it’s all necessary to run my business,” said Bussmann.

On the more general side, Bussmann is very active on Twitter (@sapcio) and his must-have applications are all geared around social media and collaboration. His key apps to fuel that part of his life are:

Pulse: A mobile news-reading application that aggregates news stories and other content from a variety of sources based on your personal preferences and subscriptions one one graphical screen.

Instapaper: An application that lets you save articles and web pages you don’t have time to read now to be read later, when you have time.

Twitterific: A Twitter client.

Not all companies would let their employees load such third-party apps onto their corporate-issued tablet, but Bussmann said as a technology company itself, SAP takes an open approach.

“We have 50,000 experts, and we give them the room to learn and explore,” said Bussmann.

Which isn’t to say SAP doesn’t have policies in place around mobile device management; with over 9,000 iPads already deployed (SAP had standardized on the iPad but is now also deploying Android-based Samsung tablets) as well as some 4,000 iPhones, policy is important.

SAP uses a program called Afaria from its Sybase subsidiary to manage mobile devices corporate-wide, which allows them to bring a certain degree of automation to the process. Once manager approval is received, an employee orders their tablet online, and they receive it a few days later. Activation happens online through the corporate network, and SAP has an internal app store that is job specific, allowing users to choose from a selection of applications tailored to their specific business role.

On the security front, all e-mails are encrypted, and other than e-mail no data can be stored on the device. As well, IT monitors the device and can kill it remotely.

SAP is running HANA, it’s real-time analytical engine, internally and Bussmann said already the combination of real-time analytics and mobility is changing the way SAP employees work. Or at least the way they kill time.

“Some people check their e-mail every five minutes; now they’re also checking business reports every five minutes,” said Bussmann. “If you’re in a meeting and it’s a boring meeting now you check your e-mail or you play with business analytics. We’ve seen a huge increase in consumption.”

While the speed of data access is enabled by SAP HANA, Bussmann said another key driver is the consumerization of IT, from the perspective of the proliferation of devices and the ease of navigation making data consumption much easier and more attractive.

Of course, having all this data at your fingertips can be both a blessing and a curse.

“Is it impacting work/life balance? Absolutely,” conceded Bussman.

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