How Consumerization Is Changing IT

SAP CIO Oliver Bussman has deployed more than 8,000 iPhones, 17,000 BlackBerry handsets and 14,000 iPads. In this exclusive interview with CIO Insight, he talks about how supporting the devices that employees want to use actually creates a more secure enterprise, attracts young talent, and drives innovation, efficiency and employee loyalty.

Executive Summary

Who: Oliver Bussmann, CIO of SAP AG

What: Bussmann was an early advocate of BYOD -- bring your own device -- taking a proactive approach to an unstoppable trend.

Where: Waldorf, Germany

Why: Supporting the devices that employees want to use creates a more secure enterprise; attracts young talent; and drives innovation, efficiency and employee loyalty.

Nevermind dog food, it's been said that SAP drinks its own champagne, and that seems the fitting metaphor. An enterprise application software leader that has sold more than 17.5 million end-user seats, SAP positions itself as the company behind successful companies. With such a bold a mission statement, how effectively SAP's IT organization operates for its own 53,000 employees is nothing short of critical.

Oliver Bussmann joined the company as CIO in 2009 -- the eve of the tablet trend and a year that saw smartphone sales reach nearly 54 million units. Employees were increasingly bringing to work iPhones, and the other devices of their daily lives, and intuiting early that one can't fight the tide, Bussmann's strategy was to embrace consumer trends and set up a bring your own device (BYOD) program, believing the devices would ultimately be assets to the business. Since then he's deployed more than 8,000 iPhones, 17,000 BlackBerry handsets and 14,000 iPads. Toward the goal of become device agnostic, SAP also supports BlackBerry handsets and will soon bring Android into the fold. In this exclusive Q&A with 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.

To be a business "front runner," says Bussmann, it's unacceptable to be a year or even six months behind consumer trends. His approach: If you can't beat them, lead them.

CIO INSIGHT: Employee-owned devices in the workplace have been fought or else grudgingly allowed. At SAP, you instead instigated a BYOD program. Can you explain the thinking that lead to it?

Oliver Bussmann: We had a discussion in the middle of 2010 about personal devices. Both CEOs were very clear that we had to find a way to allow personal devices into our corporation, and this was reconfirmed last year. We have a high penetration already of corporate devices and we want to encourage a mobile mindset within the organization [because] we believe that if people are using mobile devices it will drive innovation, productivity, efficiency, and it will improve their day-to-day lives. It's a trend that we, and especially the executives, believe is not stoppable.

I saw that you were at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.

Bussmann: For me it was fascinating to see the major trends on the consumer side -- the devices, mobile apps, video, the Internet of things, the connected devices. It's just a question of time, when these things will come over into business.

We just [saw a report from] Forrester saying that, depending on the industry, empowering employees by providing access to these consumer technologies they also have at home [will ultimately] create a higher level of commitment and loyalty to the company.

Tony Robbins motivates people to change their thinking by advising they "turn their pain into pleasure." Once a company agrees to support employee devices, what can they do to turn that perceived pain point into a business asset (pleasure)?

Bussmann: In our experience, the best use-case scenario in the enterprise is business intelligence. Typically you have a lot of dashboards and reports available on laptops, etc. Moving them onto mobile devices, there's a different mobility, a different usability. We see a huge increase of usability of the information. First of all, maybe you need three to five clicks to get you to the information, instead of going to your laptop, logging in, going to the Web site, etc. -- that takes surely one or two minutes, and here it takes 20 or 30 seconds or less and you have access to the information. So the joy of the consumption of that information is going up.

On the other side, if you also provide real-time updates of this information ... then the desire to go into that mobile app and see how is my business doing is there. We have applications that measure our entire sales business globally, to see which deals we are working on, is there progress, are there any seeds of opportunity. So, there's much better insight, and if there's a crisis we see this immediately.

I also see a huge change of consumption behavior, which is similar to the introduction of mobile email. Compared to 10 years ago, everyone's checking email every 5 or 10 minutes now. We see this now also with mobile devices, looking at real-time business results, updated financials. Because I can jump into that information between meetings, I am always on top of that.

So I think that's the next big wave that we will see in the corporation: the combination of managing huge amounts of data, and making it accessible on mobile devices anytime, anywhere. That's a big change that we already see internally, and my prediction is that we'll also see it in entire industries, that you have to be on top of your business and be always available [to react].

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 Web site, 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.

In a recent Cisco survey, 48 percent of IT manager said their companies would never authorize BYOD, while 57 percent acknowledged some employees were already using their own devices. What words of caution would you offer a company preferring to keep its head in the sand?

Bussmann: If you look at the generation that is now coming from college, they already have one Facebook account, social media accounts, etc. They want to bring their own devices. So, how can you be attractive, as a company, and attract those talents if you don't provide a working environment that they were used to during their college time? I think it's something you have to do.

We had the discussion between legal and security and the executives and they were very clear, because they're out there with so many customers. This trend to bring your own device is not stoppable. So I think the best way is to drive that discussion, to find a way with the legal and security guys to work on that and provide that working environment, because it is a very big part of satisfaction for the employee.

Have challenges such as BYOD -- which underscore how ubiquitous mobile technology is in our lives -- heightened the responsibilities of the CIO? Has the position changed?

Bussmann: There have been big changes. Number one, as a CIO, if you don't want to be bypassed, you have to be in the driver's seat. Number two is more emphasis on consumer trends. Because again, the consumer has access to those [devices] and wants to have the same experience in the corporate business space.

Third, this is an opportunity as a CIO to drive innovation in the company. The CIO has all the capabilities and resources to do so, to position I.T. in a different way, as an innovation driver. Giving employees access to consumer technology will drive the satisfaction of employees. My recommendation is that this is a super opportunity and the CIO should grab it and run with it.

This article was originally published on 03-26-2012
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