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Fleshing out a mobility strategy Embarking on an SAP mobility strategy requires some technical decisions to be made early on. Here Danielle Cullen explores the key focus areas for SAP customers. The first stage in embarking on any SAP mobility strategy is to determine the what, where, who, how and why (see box, opposite). Once these decisions have been made, there are some key technical considerations that follow shortly after. These include the types of applications to develop, whether to implement a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) solution, and how to handle security.

Web vs. native applications There are essentially two different types of mobile applications – web and native. So what’s the difference between them and why choose one over the other?

Web applications are basically mobile-optimised websites. They can be developed to recognise the type of device calling them (for example, iPhone, BlackBerry, PC) and to change the screen layout accordingly. Web applications are often used when there will be a variety of different devices accessing the application – for this reason they are popular for customer-facing applications. They are also often cheaper to develop than native applications. There are a few additional technical considerations – web applications need to be hosted somewhere (just like normal websites) and the technology used by the web application to talk to SAP also needs to be decided (for example, Java or .NET). Native applications are developed for specific operating systems using a native programming language (for example, Objective C for iPhone and iPad developments). Unlike web applications, they can take advantage of much of the inbuilt hardware such as cameras and GPS locators which may be useful for certain SAP-integrated applications such as online incident recorders or work order management tools. Native applications also tend to perform better than web applications (no waiting for a website to load each time) and can be designed with the hardware in mind, leading to a more user-focused and less generic solution. As a general rule of thumb, many companies who are developing internal applications for a specific device type (for example, workflow approvals for BlackBerry users) tend to pursue native application solutions. Web applications are more commonly chosen by companies who have a variety of in-house device types, or who wish to reach a wider audience – for example, by offering online shopping carts to customers.

MEAP solutions As enterprises embrace further-reaching SAP mobile strategies, more companies are looking at MEAP solutions such as those offered by Sybase, Syclo or Sky Technologies. These solutions are used as a type of middleware and are an alternative to building solutions that talk directly to SAP from the ground up. The advantage of implementing MEAP solutions is that access to the SAP servers is controlled and consistent, and they provide a central repository for mobile development work. Many MEAP solutions offer development tools to actually build applications to interface with them – often leading to a quicker, more simple development process 31

Inside SAP Winter 2011  
Inside SAP Winter 2011  

All the latest on SAP in Australia and New Zealand.