Over the last few years, enterprises and ISVs have tried to figure out how to move “beyond email” for mobile workers (i.e. how to get high value and cost ERP and CRM apps into the hands of users) the term Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) has been talked about with increasing frequency, primarily, it seems, as there is little in the way of an alternative term.
Sybase Unwired Mobile Platform.
However, I have never liked the acronym, primarily because it emphasises the application, rather than the complexity in bringing a solution to market, which in reality requires an infrastructure approach and the involvement of several players in the ecosystem. It is also seemingly aligned only with mobile software vendors such as Syclo, Sybase and Antenna software, rather than taking into account how the large business software companies such as SAP and Oracle are changing their approach to the mobile market.
I prefer to use the term “MIP” (Mobile Infrastructure Platform). This is why:
Clearly the mobile worker market is the next critical step in extending simple but rich mobile access to ERP and CRM tools. However, it is also beset by complexity, which explains why some of the largest ISVs are so dependent on partners to deliver not only mobile products but good mobile experiences. For example, SAP has a CRM application that it created SAP Netweaver Mobile, but it was not connected to the back-end database and behaved ostensibly as an “offline” application. Oracle has Business Indicators and Mobile Sales Assistant as well as other tools, but the experience is similar. Indeed, since announcements with RIM in 2007 about native SAP applications running on BlackBerry devices, SAP has been remarkably reticent. The reason? It is very challenging to do.
As a result, companies such as SAP have taken the approach that they took in the adaptive manufacturing sector: build out a comprehensive list of partners to offer solutions. Oracle have done the same. Both companies offer mobile ERP and CRM tools, but have really failed to deliver a rich experience optimized for wireless environments. In March SAP went a step further, when it announced that it will deliver on the mobile CRM application agreed upon a year ago when they announced a co-innovation agreement with Sybase. The result will be Mobile Sales for SAP CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite, for iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.
This is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough. The result of the Sybase agreement may well be an improvement on the partnering model, but companies such as SAP need to acquire the relevant asset (either Antenna Concert, Sybase Unwired, Sky Technologies or another), integrate with their own enterprise software offerings to offer a complete MIP (mobile infrastructure platform) essentially an in-house, scalable turnkey product that can be deployed in many instances. This will require tough choices and no little compromise, but without the industry leaders taking this approach, it will be hard to move the mobile ERP and CRM markets forward. And there is no doubt that the 1 billion+ mobile workers (in 2012) will be the next frontier.