Start me up
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stopStart me up – Rolling Stones
Remember Windows 95 and the start me up commercials? Fast forward a few decades and we have now Windows 11 (maybe Microsoft is using obscure imperial measures for counting?). And SAP has now their start me up app: Mobile Start.
SAP introduced at SAPPHIRE NOW Mobile Start as a new mobile application. The app is intended as an entry point to SAP, or how they state it: “the intelligent enterprise at your fingertips.” To stay aligned with marketing, Mobile Start offers a “new harmonized user experience across industries and lines of businesses. Providing the right contextual content, at the right time, in the right place, brings the Intelligent Enterprise to the fingertips of every SAP customer.“ The app is officially available since a few days. The app store entry lists some screenshots for iPhone and iPad.
What SAP offers is an app that they want you to use as the first thing in the morning when starting your work. It will show you your items and to-dos you were assigned to and notifications you received. Instead of only informing you of a change, you can take actions, like approve or reject. Mobile Start offers widgets so the user can get the information without having to open explicitly the app.
This is great
Let’s be honest: this is great. For those that know me personally or follow my blog here know that I think that SAP ignored for too long their customers when it comes to providing mobile apps. Mobile Start is an indication that SAP wants to offer a better mobile experience. This area was ignored for many years, leaving it to partners or custom solutions that many times are not always bringing the best UX to the user. An official app that brings a wide range of features with it, that can be customized by the company or end user is something that many SAP users want. SAP needs to provide mobile apps that make it easier for users to work with SAP. The technology used does not matter, as they are off the shelf apps, same for all customers and doing one thing right. Other apps SAP should provide can be e.g. for time reporting, or reporting of incidents, notifications. Let’s hope SAP is going to provide more apps.
Not for everyone
Mobile Start is currently only available for Apple devices (iOS 14+). SAP System must be S/4HANA Cloud 2108 or S/4HANA 2020. The app needs BTP services, you must be a BTP customer. The requirements are not super elite, yet still challenging. I do not have the numbers at hand, but I guess that for S/4HANA Cloud customers, the requirement should be fulfilled by just waiting to get the account upgraded. For on premise customers, life is not so easy. Overall, I would not be surprised if more people have climbed Mount Everest* than there are customers that can use Mobile Start.
Looking at the architecture some preparational work needs to be done. Most of the work is to get Fiori Apps into the Launchpad. What is not in the launchpad, the app cannot integrate. Mobile Services is used to manage the app, registration, connections, etc. If you already have this service, it should not be problem adding Mobile Start, if not, you’ll have to learn a little bit how Mobile Services works.
The backends listed are those from SAP. Of course, they need to have a way to integrate with the Launchpad Service. SAP did not listed any non-SAP systems here, not even as 3rd party. If you have non-SAP systems you want to integrate, my guess is that this is possible if they integrate with the Launchpad. As SAP did not listed this option, maybe this is not so easy or not supported.
Expectations are high, the risks too. To minimize the risks, it looks like SAP has chosen to roll out the app in waves. Making the app available to a small group of users gives them time to fix bugs or add features. If you want to use Mobile Start and are still not on S/4HANA, you have one more reason to upgrade. For those customers that went through all the effort and are on S/4HANA, unluckily not on a supported version: time for the next upgrade or hope that SAP is offering it for your S/4HANA release soon.
And then there is reality
From what I have seen so far, the app is not providing an offline inbox feature. It will include and store the metadata of apps available in the Fiori Launchpad in BTP. Making the apps offline available is only achieved partially by receiving notifications, item status changes and allow users to interact with them. If you hoped to get your Fiori apps offline, you might be disappointed. If you wanted an overview of your tasks, then this app is for you. If you want to get “easy” tasks solved from your phone, go get the app. Just don’t forget to upgrade your ERP system.
I find it strange that SAP was not able to offer the app since day 1 for iOS and Android. Is SAP unable to release an app at the same time for iOS and Android? What about updates? Will Android only get the new features with weeks of delay? There is also no commitment when the Android version is going to be released: “An Android version is planned.” This can mean: tomorrow or in 5 years, or never. I know many customers where the device of choice for employees is an Android device. Ignoring those sends out the wrong message. In case you remember the disaster with Kapsel and the 64bit requirement to upload apps to Google Play: this is a more than alarming message SAP sends out.
The missing option of non-SAP systems in the architecture diagram is a surprise. I did not find any information that this is supported or planned. Maybe this is more complicated than it seems, or SAP wants to only focus on SAP systems and use the missing support as an additional reason to buy SAP.
The SAP note 3089234 lists some restrictions I did not expect for an app that serves as an entry point to the intelligent enterprise:
- Push notifications are only in English. The app itself supports 9 languages, but the notification, a central part of the UX of the app, is only in English.
- “When the user logs out, a manual deletion of all Safari cookies is required.” Sorry, I don’t understand. SAP expects me to clear the Safari cookies manually when I log out of the native app?
- Tile metadata changes made by the user are ignored. The app only reads the changes made by the admin. I don’t know how this fit with “right contextual content” from the marketing description.
The description regarding Single Sign-on is not very clear to me: “Single Sign-on is supported by the SAP Cloud Identity Services with a lifetime of three months when the user selects “Remember Me” during the login.” SAP Help shows that SAML2/OIDC is used: the user authenticates against the SAP BTP’s IdP via SAML 2.0 and uses OAuth 2 access and refresh token to access the services. My question that the documentation not answered is if the user authentication is done solely via username and password, or if a user certificate (X.509) can be used. Will Mobile Start pick up a user certificate provided by a corporate device management solution?
SAP has with Mobile Start an app that allows users to work on their tasks from a mobile device in a very modern way. If you remember the Rolling Stones song, you know that the lyrics continue with:
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
Mobile Start is not the first try from SAP to make it easier for users to work with SAP. There were so many initiatives it is hard to remember if this is the 20th or 200th try. The Enterprise Portal was there to make it easier, NWBC, several workflow / inbox apps, from SAPGui to Web to native and hybrid apps.Fiori Launchpad was once promoted as a UX friendly way to access SAP. Fiori 2 gave us notifications; Fiori 3 comes with Co-Pilot. Now Mobile Start – that seems not to include Co-Pilot (or SAP Conversational AI, not sure what the current valid name is). The road that led us to Mobile Start is paved with obsolete/dead/not dead-still supported products. Per se this is not bad. It shows that someone is trying. IMHO it is not the same person. My impression is that from time to time another VP is coming and wants to leave a mark in the SAP world and invents a new way of making SAP simpler. That is nice and good for the VP and the people involved in it, it’s not so nice for the customers and people implementing it. Many professionals had to learn the hard way that SAP can switch strategy easily, while they are stuck with abandoned (aka feature complete) software.
The legacy and the burden Mobile Start comes with are not mentioned in the product announcements. I’d appreciate when SAP executives would not only demo an app, but talk about why SAP is now offering a new app and what the roadmap is for the next years, and how the investment done in now “obsolete” products is safeguarded. Yes, Mobile Start is a good enhancement to the Launchpad. What about customers with an on-premise Launchpad? What about those that did as SAP told them once and have a Gateway Hub scenario? What about existing custom Fiori apps that are meant to run as hybrid apps? Out of the box offline capability for Fiori apps like inbox, timesheet, notifications? Why not help customers go not only mobile with Fiori, but add offline capability to their Fiori apps? A PWA version of the Fiori Launchpad?
Let’s see how Mobile Start will perform. I won’t be surprised if in 3 years from now we won’t talk about it any longer. Why? Next VP took over and is pushing the next great app. I also won’t be surprised if this is the missing piece to happy SAP users. In case SAP lowers the entry barrier and makes the app available soon – weeks, not months – to, let’s say, 70% of its customer base, it can be a huge success. Now SAP only needs to add offline capability to Fiori apps and mobile from SAP will provide tremendous benefit to customers.
*Google says: more than 4.000 people achieved this, so SAP needs more than 4.000 customers to beat that number.