Most of the 140,000+ folks attending the Consumer Electronics Show last month went to see the latest new gadgets. SAP’s Chief Information Officer Oliver Bussmann did that too, but he also brought along a handful of his own tablets to to the event to help show how the enterprise software giant is embracing the consumerization of IT trend.
Q: First thing I have to ask is what’s an executive from SAP doing at the Consumer Electronics Show?
A: This was the first time I was invited to speak. You can see it’s very clear the line between consumer and business technology is fading. I did my homework, all the research shows the majority of companies are being influenced by consumer technology from media tablets to apps stores and social media collaboration.
And you have a handful of different mobile devices with you including an iPad, Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy Tab ….
It’s important for me to understand the consumer trends because there is a high high probability that in three to six months someone will ask to use one of these mobile devices. It all ties back to the innovation we’re working on.
We’ve seen tablets designed specifically for the enterprise, like the Cisco Cius, but so far they haven’t had a big impact. Do you see Android tablets taking on Apple in the enterprise?
I see two roadblocks for Android not taking off in the enterprise. One is fragmentation. Mobile device management becomes a challenge when you have to deal with ten different Android OS’s. Also there needs to be more standards from Google for remote management. If Android had remote management like iPad and iPhone we’d see faster adoption.
The most advanced Android tablet from our perspective is Samsung, who we’ve partnered with because they offer extra security and support . Google also has to manage the security threat of Android malware more aggressively because it’s gotten worse in the past 12 months. If they don’t do more certification in the apps market consumers aren’t going to trust those devices and that will change buying patterns.
I heard a new term here at the show, BYOA for Bring Your Own Application. Are enterprises really prepared to allow this?
We allow things like iTunes. You can be very restrictive or not, in our case we want to empower employees.
How did SAP become an advocate for tablets?
We started with the iPad right after it came out in May, 2010. Now we’re the second largest user of tablets of any company in the world. We distributed about 14,000 iPads by the end of 2011. [Korea Telecom reportedly gave iPads to all its 30,000 employees], But we also fully support devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. Afaria mobile device management lets our employees access all their company email and our business intelligence applications on the iPad. It’s very easy to navigate and drill into the data using the dashboard interface we have on the iPad that will soon be available on the Galaxy Tab.
Enterprises have been supporting mobile users for years, though that’s primarily been about notebooks ….
Right, but the big difference is that while data exists on the laptop but how often do you use it? The number of refreshes to get access to data on the laptop is much higher. This isn’t like getting email on your laptop; this is data that gets refreshed, like sales data, in real time that’s always on that you can get to in three or four clicks.
How much sales data are you talking about?
Like in our CRM system, you can be looking at our 170,000 customers there with a million opportunities. With our in-memory technology you can move through a terabyte of data. Every time an account manager gets a new deal or inputs an opportunity there’s an update to the status. The iPad lets us see in real time how the business is moving.
When spreadsheet programs first came along they allowed users to play “what if” in ways that were far too time-consuming to do old way with pencil and paper. Do you see tablets being a similar enabler?
They are. There are two megatrends coming together, the rise of big data and the ability to access it. As an example, if you have seven years of data you can do predictive analysis about what customers will probably buy. But you can only do this if you have the ability to process large amounts of data in real time so it’s readily available; you don’t want to have to go back to the office to look things up.
Let’s talk about BYOD. Can companies save money by letting employees use their own devices?
No not really, that’s not the benefit. If you enable people to use the devices and tools they want to you’ll see higher productivity and efficiency. Consumerization drives innovation. But it’s different from industry to industry. High tech firms are more likely to be on board, while others like government agencies are going to be more restrictive about what employees can use.
I notice you have a Kindle Fire.
We started playing with the Kindle Fire and actually we’ve been able to implement our business analytics tools with the same dashboard as on the iPad. But it’s only a proof of concept for now; the infrastructure is not enterprise ready, there’s no hardware encryption or native synch support.
What about RIM’s PlayBook?
Their security is good and we’re going to be a part of their big launch of PlayBook 2.0.