(Updated March 23rd after speaking with Sybase Professional Services) Last week, I wrote about how Minnesota food maker General Mills has deployed iPads running SAP CRM - supported by the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) mobile middleware - to 200 of its field salespeople.
It was an interesting stuff, and I wanted to learn more, so I pinged Greg Kull of The Principal Consulting. Kull has been working with General Mills for the past two years (he also used to manage an art-rock band called Echolyn and has written a novel, but I digress). I also spoke with Parag Karkhanis, North American director for mobility at Sybase Professional Services, and Robert Waywell, a practice manager in our Services division whose team did most of the implementation work at General Mills.
Here's what I learned:
1) One of General Mills' major goals with the iPad was to encourage reps to input data they gathered in the field right away, rather than wait until the end of the day, or even the end of the week when they were back at the office done traveling. Dilly-dallying was the norm when the reps ran the previous version of the CRM app running on their laptops. Now, with the iPad, reps are entering data right away, accomplishing what General Mills calls "the 3 minute mile."
2) In addition to SAP CRM 7.0 and SUP 1.5.2, General Mills is running SybaseAP's CRM for Mobile Sales 1.2 app along with NetWeaver Mobile 7.10. The latter works with SUP's Data Orchestration Engine to synchronize data. Besides customizing and extending the CRM for Mobile Sales app, Sybase's Services consultants worked on connecting the SUP side of DOE, according to Waywell, while TPC handled SAP's DOE.
3) Mobilizing took just about 4 months, from August to December 2010. Actual development took 2 months, testing took another month, and then 1 month to finalize production. Sybase had a half-a-dozen people working on the project, said Karkhanis, though not simultaneously and not anything close to full-time.
4) The sales reps can use either the SAP CRM app or Microsoft Outlook as a front-end. Data such as calendar and contacts is synchronized between the two apps.
5) General Mills chose SUP in part because it plans to roll out iPads to other employees as well as support employee-liable devices, i.e. Bring Your Own.
6) The Principal Consulting has helped roll out SUP to six customers, with another six nearing completion.
7) Besides General Mills, those customers include Cintas (done with the assistance of Sybase Services), Purdue Pharmaceuticals, another drug firm, a large technology products maker, a German automaker and a high-tech manufacturer. Sybase Services, meanwhile, is working on close to ten SUP implementations right now, according to Karkhanis.
8) Enterprise customers are asking Kull when the firm will be able to support Android devices, as well as Google Apps (instead of Microsoft Outlook/Office).
9) TPC is developing a pharmaceutical app for image capture and workflow for sales reps. In plain English, that would allow drug sales reps in a retail store to take a photo of a drug package suspected to be counterfeit and then send it back to their corporate server for immediate analysis.
10) While customers do ask about the value of deploying a full-fledged Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) such as SUP, Kull says he is able to convince most of them of the merits of choosing a platform over a point solution. "Without one, you're very limited. You'll have to continually rebuild your point solution anytime you deploy a new device or function," he said. (Here's a whitepaper that goes into more depth about this).