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How General Mills Deploys SAP On iPad (Webinar, Summarized)

The food giant behind Cheerios and Haagen-Daz has rolled out a salesforce automation tool to 200 salespeople on the iPad.

(Updated March 23 with details about Sybase Professional Services) For the second installment of UTalkTooMuch, I'll give the February 27th webinar by The Principal Consulting and Sybase the 500-words-or-less treatment. The two firms collaborated, along with SAP, to deploy a CRM application onto the iPad for General Mills, the huge maker of breakfast cereals (Lucky Charms, anyone?) and other packaged foodstuffs from my hometown of Minneapolis.

(For Ten More Facts about how General Mills is using SAP CRM on iPads, check out my other blog post)

General Mills used SAP CRM 7.0 along with the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) in its deployment, which enabled 200 bakery and food service salespeople to access customer data in the field using their iPads, said Kerry Gustafson, the IS manager at General Mills in charge of the CRM rollout. That data and functions included contact information, activities, and status on sales campaigns and subsequent opportunities.

While SAP and Sybase are working together to build a number of mobilized SAP apps by the SAPPHIRE conference in May, General Mills couldn't wait - its project began last AugustNovember. So it tapped Sybase Professional Services and TPC, which used SUP to bring these salesforce automation functions to the iPad. Tony Smith, a consultant at TPC, says SUP is an open platform that can connect to many other enterprise applications - ODBC databases, Siebel, etc. "We don't think of it purely as an SAP platform," he said.

SUP offers a real-time bi-directional interface with SAP applications via its Data Orchestration Engine, for faster performance, said Smith, as well as scalability. One of TPC's clients is using DOE to interface with up to 4 million customer records. "You have the horsepower to do it via Sybase," he said. The scalability is "basically limitless."

It's also fast to set up, according to TPC, which claims it can connect SUP to a customer's back-end ERP system and get it running within 100 hours.

Parag Karkhanis, a director in Sybase's Professional Services group, says that new mobile app rollouts can be done in as little as one month (General Mills' 4 month timeframe included all testing and production). That requires, however, that the server software needs to be a mature, fairly "vanilla" implementation - i.e. not full of overly-elaborate customizations - and that the mobile app client is already built, as in the case of SAP CRM 7.0, and also not so deep that it consists of "hundreds of screens".

Sybase is continuing to enhance SUP. It is embracing web technologies so that enterprise developers more familiar with HTML and CSS will eventually be able to build enterprise apps using those languages, rather than learn Java or .Net. Sybase and SAP are also looking at building packaged versions of mobile service and field service apps, as well as mobile analytics, according to Willie Jow, vice-president for mobility at Sybase, as well as potential integration with the SAP Streamwork Web collaboration tool. Roadmap details will be coming at SAPPHIRE.

I apologize for not including more details from General Mills' side, but I was forced to miss part of the webinar while it was running, and TPC has not made the slides or recording publicly available.

But if you want to learn more, you have a second chance! Hear General Mills' Gustafson talk about this rollout on March 24th at the CRM 2011 conference in Orlando.

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