Why I think Portal on Device (PoD) has potential

Simon Kemp gives his view on the new NetWeaver Portal on Device functionality.

The new SCN platform has given me that extra boost of inspiration I needed to get going and write a piece about the Netweaver Portal and in particular about the new Portal on Device functionality that is being developed.

If you haven’t heard anything about Portal on Device (PoD), then I suggest you take a look at these first:

Portal On Device Introduction: http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-16320
Webinar Replay: http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-13260

I’d like to spend a few minutes detailing why I think this approach to mobility has merit and while it may not be the ‘be all and end all’ of a mobility strategy (but then again no one single thing ever is), I think it gives a nice easy way for organisations to start adopting mobility into their business processes, without having to commit to a new mobile infrastructure or target a particular mobile platform.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying Sybase Unwired Platform or other MEAPs aren’t required, I just think that for different jobs, you use different tools and I think PoD is a useful tool to have in your mobile toolbox. So lets go… here are some reasons why I think PoD is a great idea:

  • Many organisations already have a Netweaver Portal, and in many cases it is already accessible over the internet (to customers or partners) or could easily be made accessible. Even if that frightens the security guys a bit too much, it is simple to configure VPN access into the corporate network and not really much of a hassle for mobile device users to access. So the infrastructure hurdle is low.
  • The Portal already provides great useful features, services and APIs that can easily be leveraged by mobile content such as:

    • Secure login mechanisms (including client-side certificates)
    • Role based access
    • Navigation caching
    • Ajax Framework API
    • SSO to backend systems
    • KM API (Portal Favorites, doc management etc)
    • Worklow API (rating, comments, approval, publishing etc)
    • Software Logistics and Lifecycle Management

The list goes on, but my point is why rebuild all these things when you can reuse them?

  • By utilising JQuery Mobile, PoD is capable of running on a large variety of end user devices, so when the next best phone or tablet comes to market, there is no need to start building that next native application.
  • Many organisations are already familiar with the concept of Business Packages for the Portal, that provide functionality such as Employee or Manager Self Service. I think it is a natural extension to augment these existing business packages with mobile content or create Mobile Business Packages that could be developed by SAP, partners or customers themselves.

So there it is – just off the top of my head, why I think PoD has value and provides a low barrier to entry into the mobility space for many existing SAP customers already running the SAP Netweaver Portal.

Of course, you still need to find those business process that will directly benefit from being mobilised – think about what critical processes would benefit from more timely information and actions and how you can build in useful device features like GPS, or Contact List, or even just the ability to make a phone call or send an SMS. Could you save money on airfares and hotels if your manager could approve your travel request sooner, thereby allowing the travel agent to secure a lower fare or rate? What if a manager could just tap on your name and start a call with you to get more details?

If you haven’t played with this yet, I suggest you get your Portal upgraded to 7.3 SP5 and take a look at the mobile framework. If you are a developer, I’d suggest brushing up on your JavaScript and associated projects like JQuery and JQuery Mobile. Also get yourself familiar with data formats like JSON and ODATA. If you’re a BPXer, start thinking about what processes in your area of expertise would benefit from being on a mobile device.

Simon Kemp is the service line lead, User Productivity, for Plaut. He can be contacted by email: simon.kemp@plaut.com.au.

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