How SAP’s CIO Learned to Love BYOD

Oliver Bussmann joined SAP as CIO in 2009 — the eve of the tablet trend and a year that saw smartphone sales reach nearly 54 million units. Since then he’s deployed more than 8,000 iPhones, 17,000 BlackBerry handsets and 14,000 iPads. In this Q&A with CIOUpdate’s sister site, CIO Insight’s Michelle Maisto, Bussmann describes how he and his team have also created an internal mobile applications store where employees can download what’s appropriate to their job, and have created a new, mobile-centric style of employee and device support.

CIO Insight: How did you introduce your BYOD program at SAP, and what are the details of it?

Bussmann: We had the infrastructure enabled to manage tablets, iPads, in May 2010. … We added more mobile apps — business analytics, workflow, customer relationship management tools. We have more than 40 apps now … Also, we started a huge deployment of tablets last year. All the sales managers and sales people now have an iPad.

[When we deploy devices] it’s given to the employee, the employee gets an activation code, goes to the website, activates it, and at that moment the device is in the full control of the IT organization … Email, VPN, network access, and they have a mobile app store on the device — they can download additional mobile apps depending on the business.

On the support side, we also have a fully loaded [solution] for Web support, Web 2.0 techniques for Wiki pages that folks have to go first before calling somebody. So I think in a large organization, setting up mobile shops where people can go, can play with the devices, pick and choose devices and get help about how to use it [is a great asset].

It’s a different support approach than in the classical environment of devices with laptops, because we believe that the end user will have ancillary choices and this will continue. We went from having the infrastructure in place for a few devices, to opening up an environment for tablets — we deployed about 3,000 iPads globally last year — increasing the number of applications to now more than 40, and opening it up for personal devices.

The third wave is now about more choices, with support for Android devices coming and the move to put more apps on the devices, not only to support the mobile workforce but also so people in the office using the devices can get help on workforce-related things.

Is SAP particularly well suited for BYOD? Is the challenge different for a company in a line of work less embedded in mobility?

Bussmann: For us [BYOD] was maybe easier than for traditional companies, because the leadership got behind the mobile mindset, because it’s part of our business. We acquired Sybase two years ago and a huge part is the enterprise mobility business. We believe that, looking at the research data, the use of mobile devices will explode. If you look at the numbers of tablets being deployed, in 2010 almost 20 million, last year 55 million, this year 100 million. So there’s a high adoption rate of consumer technology, looking at mobile devices in the corporation. But 50 percent of those devices are enterprise related.

The demand I’m seeing for mobile devices and personal devices changes by industry, sometimes even by country — North America is leading the trend, and companies have to define a clear strategy to manage this kind of demand. My advice to everybody is don’t wait, because the lines of business will find a way to bypass IT to get access to those mobile devices. There are a lot of popular services out there — access to mobile apps, etc. — so being in the driver’s seat is a must for the CIO.

Please go to CIO Insight to read the rest of the conversation.