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SAP mobile chief: Those relying on MDM are 'dead men walking'

The sharp-tongued ex-BlackBerry exec details SAP's mobile strategy and why it won't be making an MDM acquisition anytime soon.

BOSTON -- SAP hasn't always been synonymous with mobility, but SAP mobile's new chief is trying to change that.

After spending over a dozen years at BlackBerry, Rick Costanzo became SAP's executive vice president and general manager of global mobility solutions earlier this year. Since then, SAP launched SAP Mobile Place, where applications and data can be provisioned and managed without a mobile device management (MDM) platform.

SearchConsumerization.com sat down with Costanzo at the M-Enterprise conference here, where he emphatically states SAP won't be making an MDM acquisition anytime soon. He also discusses the future of business applications and competitor IBM's partnership with Apple for developing and providing iOS enterprise applications.

What attracted you to SAP?

Rick Costanzo: I've never believed that mobile stands on its own two feet. It's that combination of big data, cloud, mobile and analytics together that starts to unlock some really good value for customers. I don't think anybody in the industry is there. That's more of a journey as opposed to a destination. But I thought that SAP was further ahead, and I still believe that they are in terms of making that a reality.

We've done a good job in articulating our vision … but I think there was a lot of work to do in terms of going, 'OK, we get the vision. What are we doing in concrete terms to make that reality?' That has really been a focus for me.

What important trends do you see currently in enterprise mobility?

Costanzo: When you start talking about wearables and connected cars, you're going to start looking at a world, in the next 18 to 24 months, of hundreds of thousands if not millions of connected things.

Organizations that continue to take a device-centric approach to enterprise mobility are dead men walking. I've had a lot of individuals offer up their opinions on, 'Hey, you should actually go and buy that MDM player, or that MDM player, or that MDM player.' And I'm going, 'Yeah, that's like saying we want to be the prettiest-looking corpse in the morgue.' I'm not interested in doing that.

We'll still do device management to the degree that organizations want to do that, but very clearly organizations are saying, 'Focus on the stuff that's truly important to me, the content and applications.' So we're moving up the stack.

Organizations that continue to take a device-centric approach to enterprise mobility are dead men walking.
Rick CostanzoSAP's Global Mobility Solutions EVP/GM

Where do you see SAP mobile needing to improve?

Costanzo: SAP for the longest time had the worst user experience for mobile, ever. We made a huge push [toward user experience] in an initiative that's called Fiori. It's modernizing the UX for a whole bunch of our embedded systems that are actually out in the enterprise. So we took the 80/20 approach initially, where we said, 'Look, 80% of the actual processes actually manifest in the following 20% of these apps.' Those were the initial targets, so we Fiori-fied those. And then we did Personas which was a toolkit to actually go and develop apps for third-party developers to do the rest of the long tail and now we are releasing Web IDE, where you actually create your own Fiori applications and customize the Fiori apps that we've done as well.

Fiori is an HTML5 experience. With Fiori being a big push and making it available at no additional license, there has been a huge [adoption] in those Fiori applications.

What was your reaction to IBM's partnership with Apple?

Costanzo: I saw three points in the announcement. Number one is, 'Hey, we're going to create our first 100 industry-specific mobile applications in partnership with Apple.' I'll be fairly pointed on this -- we've had over 300 industry applications for the past two years across 20-plus industries. And you're just waking up to the fact now that you need your first 100? You haven't built them yet, by the way, you've just said you intend to, so welcome to the party.

Number two, they said these apps are going to be exclusive to iOS, and what I'd say is, I don't know of a single enterprise customer out there that says 'it's only one.' We live in a heterogeneous world, heterogeneity in terms of development tools, device options and back-end systems that need to be integrated. ... There's always going to be a constant change in terms of what the hot hardware platform is going to be.

And number three was, 'IBM's going to be able to resell Apple hardware.' We've got a bunch of system integrator partners like Accenture and Capgemini. They're able to resell anything you want, so how is this newsworthy, to be perfectly honest? I kind of look at it and go, 'Meh.'

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What does SAP need to do to make a name for itself in mobility?

So when read this I was surprised that there was no mention of SAP AFARIA. (i.e. SAP already HAS a MDM platfrom. Is he not aware of that, or sounds like he is saying;  'AFARIA, old idea, wither on the vine'.

Can you ask him please.