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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Global CIO: Inside SAP: 2,500 iPads Are Only The Beginning

SAP's CIO says those 2,500 iPads will soon be joined by Blackberry Playbooks and Android devices and more--and here's how he and his team are making it all happen.

While SAP has received considerable notoriety for being an aggressive early adopter of the Apple iPad—it currently has 2,500 in full deployment—CIO Oliver Bussmann says the company's rapidly expanding mobility campaign will soon embrace the Blackberry Playbook, Android devices, and any other type of mobile platform that can deliver new business value.

"We initially looked at our infrastructure to ensure we can support the iPad, but ultimately we want to be device-agnostic," Bussmann said in a phone interview.

"The rich combination of mobile apps, devices, and content will drive the use-cases in the enterprise world—we don't think a one-app, one-device model is practical, and so we're looking at how to manage a very diverse set of platforms going forward."

Because most CIOs will be jumping into the tablet pool sometime in 2011—whether they want to or not—I wanted to gain Bussmann's insights on how SAP approached its own mobility plunge and offer those up as valuable lessons for Bussmann's peers to analyze.

And I thought it would be particularly illuminating to get such perspectives from the CIO of a company that spends a lot of time working with and selling to other CIOs—as Bussmann said, lots of SAP's customers monitor SAP's internal projects closely, so he and his team devoted a great deal of energy to planning the iPad rollout.

"First off, we have been heavily investing in device-management tools, and we have been very pleased with the performance we've been getting from a central device-management tool from [SAP wholly owned subsidiary] Sybase called Afaria that lets us offer complete management and security for a variety of devices across platforms," Bussmann said.

Noting that SAP's rollout of iPads and Blackberry Playbooks will accelerate later this year, Bussmann said his team knows it needs to handle that expanded pace "in an organized and scalable fashion where we're able to anticipate support needs and where we can be enabling new devices in a fully automated fashion."

"In addition, we know that beyond the iPad, there will be many more types of devices that will come into the corporate world, and in order for us to be able to leverage the full business value of those devices, our IT team has to able to deploy them and integrate them in the most-professional and most-rapid way possible."

Toward that end, Bussmann said, the Afaria management tool handles security, provisioning and "retirement" of devices.

"The other demand we know we have to be able to handle is more and more workers using personal devices for various elements of their work: you need to have in place a management system that can separate fully the personal from the professional, and the ability to wipe the professional data and content from someone's personal device when they leave the company, while also ensuring their personal data is untouched."

Bussmann said that while the iPad is quickly proving to be a valuable business tool within SAP, both the iPad as well as various devices lack a critical advantage that Blackberry has with its Playbook: while it comes with proven and dependable management tools, the iPad does not.

Another challenge is the relentless pace at which new devices are pouring into the market:

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