Sapphire Conference: SAP Bets Big on Cloud and Mobile Strategy

By | May 18, 2012

No one can accuse SAP of sitting on its laurels. At the recent Sapphire Conference held in Orlando, Florida, the enterprise software company debuted a whole slew of mobility applications as well as a plan to play hardball with leading cloud platforms. SAP's hard push of these new technologies underscores the fact that both Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the cloud aren't falling out of favor any time soon.

Mobile Technologies

SAP's rollout looks like good news for midsize businesses with a wide swath of mobile employees who need to get work done out of the office. According to InfoWorld, their mobile offerings include apps that allow users to do travel expense reporting, access training content, and work with customer relationship management (CRM) in real time, all from their smartphone or tablet. They've also added HTML5 versions of its SAP store for iPad and upgraded the store application for iPhones and Android.

This push for mobile technology in the enterprise market should be no surprise to those keeping tabs on the "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) trend. In fact, BYOD is now so prevalent, it probably shouldn't even be referred to as a trend at all. Regardless of how much IT professionals may or may not like the integration of tablets and smartphones into the workplace, it's hard not to acknowledge that for many midsize businesses, the workplace is no longer just defined by an office building. Having the one of the biggest enterprises resource planners join the race with applications that take tasks normally reserved for the cubicle and make them able to be accomplished anywhere should make IT seriously consider BYOD if they haven't already done so.

The Cloud

SAP also surprised Sapphire Conference attendees by throwing their hat into the ever-competitive cloud race. Their switch from software-as-a-service (Saas) to platform-as-service (PaaS) should give cloud providers like Microsoft, Google and Amazon a run for their money. SAP plans on offering a four-prong cloud platform led by SuccessFactor's CEO Lars Dalgaard. According to Wired, this business-only strategy is geared toward focusing on people, money, customers, and suppliers. It's anticipated to offer cloud-based payroll software, human resources solutions, core financial management, invoice-to-pay processes as well as supplier and contract management.

This platform could be very enticing for IT at midsize businesses looking to invest in a one-stop shop. Their emphasis on "social, mobile and analytics" shows a push to seamlessly interconnect these once disparate aspects of business, which is great for IT looking to streamline. However, cloud platforms aren't perfect, and as all three heavy hitters have shown--outages happen. While SAP's new services may seem easy and convenient, it's important to assess if going whole hog with one provider is a risk. With any new platform, even from a trusted company, it's smart to also keep data in physical storage or spread it around to different providers, until the providers work out all of the kinks.

The Endgame

SAP's new offerings only make it more evident how crowded both the market for enterprise mobile apps and cloud service providers are about to get. Any midsize business IT that hasn't made a strategy plan already needs to get moving or risk their business getting lost in the shuffle.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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