Q&A: SAP exec talks mobility, openness

At an SAP-Sybase media event in Boston on Thursday, we caught up with Nick Brown, SAP’s senior vice-president for mobility, who talked about the new markets that will open up as a result of the company’s upcoming open mobile development platform, and how that will help SAP steer away from the image of an inflexible ERP vendor

ComputerWorld Canada: SAP has said it will make available an open mobile development platform upon which customers and partners can build mobile apps. What new markets and opportunities does SAP foresee coming out of this?

Nick Brown: The combination of Sybase and SAP we see as a huge opportunity within SAP to attack two key markets. One is within our joint install bases, expanding the number of uses that can access SAP content and data, analytic information on any device and especially mobile devices. The other key market that we see trending for SAP is the challenging market of helping our customers in what we call the B2B2C, so business to business to consumer market, helping our SAP customers reach their end consumers in delivering benefits and values and connectivity to their consumers in new ways that they haven’t been able to in the past.

Other areas of innovations that we see happening with the combination of the SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) and the SAP stacks are the ability to deliver solutions through our ecosystem. So our joint ecosystem now has a reliable, scalable, secure mobile platform upon which they can confidently build and deliver packaged solutions into niche markets like deep industry solutions that are specific to a given region or a given sub-industry within our markets.

CWC: Will an open development platform help SAP in its quest to change its image into a more open and flexible company?

NB: At SAP, we’ve embarked on a couple of different initiatives including the acquisition of Sybase that we think will open up the SAP stack to our customers and better enable them to push and leverage their systems and content that is within those systems today. The other aspect is Project Gateway, which we announced at Sapphire this year, that is really all about using open standards to deliver SAP content out of our back-end systems in a very seamless way that is open to non-traditional SAP developers, so people who are using SDKs from various mobile platforms or portals or other non-SAP GUI systems now have an open way to connect and interact with SAP without needing to understand the deep intrinsics that reside within the SAP applications. Third, is our network solutions initiative where we’re defining the APIs across all of SAP’s suite of applications, whether it’s Business ByDesign, Business Suite applications, CRM and now with Sybase and ensuring we have all the APIs.

CWC: SAP’s enterprise mobility strategy is about giving mobile device users access to back-end data in SAP applications. How does in-memory fit into that?

NB: There are two aspects to the in-memory piece. One is, as we look at mobility, we see a need to supply our customers and our users of the systems with insight into the workflows that we want them to execute. That would be analytic insight into what is the impact of a decision that could be made, or what is the impact of decisions that should be made based on data that’s coming in. What the in-memory technology will allow is to provide that massive scale of delivering instant analysis to mobile users and to any users for that matter as to what they should do as the markets are evolving and as events are occurring within their systems. So for the first time with in-memory we’ll be able to do computations, do analysis with this data that have been very difficult or traditionally have been done very latently in the market and deliver that instantly to the users via the mobile solutions that include business intelligence and analytics in the applications that are delivered.

CWC: SAP continues to identify retail as a key market. What retail mobility innovations can we expect in the near future from SAP?

NB: Retail will be a big focus for SAP as one of our key industries as well as CPGs (consumer products companies). Looking at bridging the gap between the end consumer for activities that are mobile use cases for them to deliver solutions couponing instant value to consumers that are in store, that are looking to go to a store to buy products and leveraging the capabilities that these smart phones have on top of them whether it’s multi-media, alerts, etc., to really help these consumers interact with retailers and consumer product companies in new ways that they haven’t been able to before.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau 

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