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SAP AG (SAP), whose software helps some of the world’s largest firms run their operations, is following the model of Apple Inc.’s stores to show its own workers how to get the most from their smartphones and tablets.
Employees can try devices and software, join training sessions and get technical advice at SAP Mobile Solutions Centers, Chief Information Officer Oliver Bussmann said in a phone interview today. He spoke from SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, where the newest center opens today following inaugurations in London, Paris and Mumbai earlier this year.
“Things have to be easier and more fun, and information has to be accessible, those are typical trends that are moving from the consumer world to the enterprise world,” Bussmann said. “If you want good people, and you want to encourage their creativity and productivity, you can’t fall behind.”
SAP’s 56,000 employees are using almost that many mobile devices in their jobs, including more than 17,000 Apple (AAPL) iPads, 18,000 BlackBerrys made by Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) and phones and tablets made by Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) The devices are used most heavily by traveling sales and technical support staff, while workers in areas such as purchasing and human resources are increasingly relying on them, Bussmann said.
The German location covers about 200 square meters (2,150 square feet) and features a demonstration and tryout area, a gallery exhibiting devices, a service desk reminiscent of the Genius Bar in Apple retail stores, and a training room.
SAP is also using the centers to promote its mobile software by inviting clients to demonstrate how the handsets can be used for tasks such as recording travel expenses or conducting sales analysis. Such training may help employees demonstrate the effectiveness of SAP applications to prospective clients, Bussmann said.
Co-Chief Executive Officers Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe aim to lift SAP’s revenue to more than 20 billion euros ($25 billion) by 2015, from 14.2 billion euros last year. They are counting on rising demand among corporations for mobile software as one of SAP’s main paths to reach the goal, along with on-demand software accessed over the Web, real-time analytics and databases. SAP is the world’s largest business- management software maker.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, opened its first store in 2001 in Virginia and now runs more than 350 shops worldwide for customers rather than Apple workers. The concept, which relies on customer involvement and features Apple workers cheering for buyers of a new product on release day, is being adopted by companies including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s largest maker of luxury cars.
SAP plans to add 11 more locations, including sites in the U.S., Bussmann said.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows 8 operating system, intended for release this year, may offer better input options than software now on the market, Bussmann said. SAP may recommend devices running the platform to workers who need to do tasks such as altering a presentation while in the field, Bussmann said.
“There’s a real demand for answers to questions like, which device is the right one, and how do I use this function,” Bussmann said. “We’ve been absolutely surprised by how much interest people are showing in these questions.”
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