The writer is Matthias Kumm, Head of Solution Center eSOA and User Interface, itelligence AG, Bielefeld
itelligence has released its new integrated mobile apps for SAP. We would like to share with you some of our experiences on how to get the most out of it.
Important: Optimize the Workflow
Employees from Marketing and Sales generally do not use the SAP user interface but special applications that are often linked to a specific PC type and operating system. Mobile terminals could in future dispense with the need for data to be transferred between different systems. Sales staff, who often already have their mobile Internet with them, will in future be able to use SAP in situations in which they would never boot up their office PC. Mobile SAP access therefore means access to data in the context in which the user is moving. A consistent deployment of mobile technologies can enhance SAP-supported processes such as with a service order: A large number of process steps, mostly of an administrative nature, can be omitted from a conventional paper-supported process to trigger a technician assignment – from entry of the assignment data and localization of the member of staff reachable most quickly through to invoicing.
Focus on Security
Mobile applications also mean IT is tasked with protecting the SAP environments via the application site. This means, for example, not transferring data to the mobile terminals but allowing the user to act online in the IT landscape. This approach is particularly suitable if the users can go online on the WLAN of a company. If data nevertheless have to be transferred to the mobile device then all security procedures of the respective environment must be exhausted. This ranges from the encrypted transmission and encryption on the devices through to safeguarding in the SAP system, e.g. via role models.
Framework for Mobile SAP Applications
With it.x-mobile, itelligence AG provides a software framework for the development of mobile SAP applications – i.e. ‘apps’ per se – via ABAP. The necessary functions have been programmed as SAP add-ons so that any mobile applications can be shown. This concept enables users with ABAP knowledge to connect their mobile staff quickly and conveniently with the SAP landscape with access to SAP on the basis of forms in the simplest case. Recently it has also been possible to use the features of the mobile terminals for the user interface, for instance so that form input screens are shown like the paper form and can be moved and turned over. The users have gained positive experience here above all with Apple’s iOS for the iPad. An alternative method for individual user interfaces is to program apps with the device-specific program environments via Java and Objective-C. It is then possible for completely independent apps to be developed that in turn extract data from SAP, change it and transfer it back to the SAP environment.
Which programming method and which type of connection to the SAP system is ultimately the right concept depends heavily on the application scenario in question. The benefits are obvious: An employee who is dispatching goods to a customer can also simultaneously enter new orders on an iPad and advise the customer interactively using the integrated product catalog. At itelligence such an application has been developed as a turnkey solution that interacts with SAP in the background and automatically triggers the corresponding warehouse and delivery processes. Compared with traditional sales channels, cost-intensive steps such as sending samples are dispensed with while as with development the application itself has been managed with low investments.
Area of Tension between Marketing and IT
However, apps also bring with them a new area of tension between Marketing and IT. At many companies, customer-oriented communication elements such as a website are implemented with external partners while the internal IT organization is responsible for the business systems. The incorporation of an SAP landscape into the mobile world causes different interest priorities to collide. With the it.x-mobile framework, itelligence provides users with tools to eliminate this area of tension as a transfer of roles takes place with iPhone and iPad: In order to enhance the user experience, the screen design is considered first nowadays and not the flow of data. Only at a second stage is a review carried out to establish whether and how the app fits into the system architecture. At the latest when the app is available in the appstore it will have an impact on the company’s outside image. Eliminating this area of tension is a task that both corporate divisions, Marketing and IT, will have to face in future.
For more information (in German) http://it-x-mobile.itelligence.de