A manufacturing worker uses a Zebra mobile computer to pick parts
By Your Edge Contributor | August 30, 2023

There’s a New Alternative to Legacy SAP Mobile Solutions That You May Want to Look Into

Learn why (and how) you should migrate from ITS Mobile, SAPConsole and Windows mobile apps to “Mobile Inventory Templates,” and what the process was like for two global companies that have already migrated.

This post was contributed by Demian Peterson, SAP Mobility Solutions and Services Leader, Havensight Consulting Group, a Zebra ISV & Alliance Partner.


There are way too many companies around the world still relying on legacy mobile apps to interface with SAP, particularly for inventory management. In fact, many are still using SAP’s ITS Mobile, the SAPConsole successor, or their own custom Windows mobile apps to collect and manage SAP data for their inventory operations.

If your company is one of them, let me share a word of caution (in case you weren’t aware): these mobile apps are no longer sustainable due to major problems with security vulnerabilities. They also offer limited support for your changing business processes and systems, and many of these apps are now incompatible with the latest mobile device operating systems (OS) and hardware. 

So, if you have been trying to hold on to legacy apps as long as possible in the hopes of saving time and money – or just avoiding the emotions that are stirred by change – let me share some facts that may put your mind at ease.

First, the technology that you need to move to is well-established at this point.

SAP had one simple goal with its 2010 introduction of UI5, which is its HTML5 framework for developing secure, modern, and highly responsive web-based mobile apps: standardize the user experience across all job roles while addressing the vulnerabilities, limitations, and compatibility issues with legacy SAP mobile apps.

Since then, SAPUI5 has proven to do everything it promised and more. The well-established framework now allows companies like yours to migrate all SAP-compatible mobile apps to a new framework and new hardware and operating systems. In turn, you’ll regain the protection you need against the latest security threats and gain a way forward for mobile app development and hardware support. Your workers will likely report significant improvements to mobile productivity and efficiency through simpler user interfaces, touch-enabled workflows, and vastly faster wireless connections and app performance.

How do I know this?

Many global companies have been switching to SAPUI5 for their mobile inventory solutions over the past decade, and as more and more migrate, it’s becoming clearer this new framework represents the way forward for SAP warehouse personnel. 

There are two companies in particular that can vouch for this. Both were long-time SAP users that were able to effectively transition away from their legacy mobile solutions to SAPU15-based mobile transactions, and they were able do so while creating dramatic operational and financial benefits in the process.

Before I share their stories, though, I want to talk a little bit more about why SAP’s ITS Mobile and SAPConsole are no longer viable options for your business.

Why SAP’s ITS Mobile and SAPConsole Are No Longer Sustainable

Many companies using SAP mobile apps for inventory management are using SAP’s ITS Mobile framework to run their applications and connect their mobile devices to their SAP systems. I’m assuming if you’re still reading this, you may be one of them. If that’s true, then you may remember that ITS Mobile was SAP’s first foray into browser-based technology, allowing companies to use virtually any mobile device to connect to SAP through an HTML web application and collect data with a barcode scanner, RFID reader, and voice capabilities. At the time, it was game changing. 

So was the SAPConsole framework in its day, which was SAP’s first native solution for mobile data collection and transactions and the precursor to the ITS Mobile framework. It dates all the way back to the 1980s and 1990s, though I know there are still some companies using it today. (Again, maybe yours?) However, many companies either implemented or switched to the ITS Mobile framework beginning in the early 2000s, while others developed their own custom mobile SAP solutions using the Windows Mobile and Windows CE platforms.

While these are clearly apps with longevity, they still have a shelf life, like every other type of technology. Just because they work doesn’t mean they’re working well enough for you to truly benefit from them. When the risks outweigh the benefits, which they very much do in this case, it’s time to make a change.

What makes the continued use of these legacy solutions so risky?

Well, for one global gaming products company, it was a number of things. Its IT team finally reached an impasse with the SAPConsole solution it had been comfortably using for years when security vulnerabilities, development limitations, and incompatibility with current mobile operating systems and hardware just became too much to deal with.

The company was using a legacy Telnet-based inventory application to connect to SAP through SAPConsole, but the interactions between SAPConsole and its Telnet server were not fully secure in today’s modern environment. There were serious security vulnerabilities that needed to be addressed. Additionally, some of its mobile inventory transactions and features were no longer functional as a result of upgrades and changes to both business processes and its SAP back-end over the years.

There was no way to properly address these issues while still using SAPConsole and legacy hardware with a legacy OS. This organization needed to move to a new SAP-centric native mobile inventory management app and new mobile devices that could support its needs.

Similarly, Zekelman Industries, an international steel products company, was struggling to keep its SAP inventory management running smoothly because the legacy mobile devices it was using were no longer supported or available on the market, and its legacy Windows CE mobile app could no longer be developed. Watch this:

Zekelman’s SAP mobile app was a custom-developed Windows CE solution, but the Windows CE mobile OS was no longer supported. This meant Zekelman’s mobile security was dangerously outdated. Moreover, it no longer had Windows CE development resources on hand to extend and update its custom application, troubleshoot, and fix things, or retire transactions and features it didn’t need anymore.

To make matters worse, devices that could run Window CE and its mobile app were no longer available, even as refurbished hardware on the secondary market. It reached the point where Zekelman could no longer equip its 400 users with the right mobile app and hardware to do their jobs, so something had to give. In order to equip its users with the tools to complete their tasks each day, Zekelman had to embark on a hardware refresh, settling on enterprise-grade Android devices from Zebra.

A Way Forward for Legacy SAP Mobile Apps – “Mobile Inventory Templates” (MIT) by Havensight

To resolve their legacy SAP mobile app issues, both Zekelman and our global gaming customer each worked with our team at Havensight Consulting to develop an entirely new SAP-centric native solution. Moving to a new solution restored and improved our customer’s transactional capabilities, enabled future-forward development, and greatly strengthened their security.

It also allowed both companies to successfully deliver their apps across new Zebra Android mobile devices, which provided next-generation security protection and ongoing updates, faster app performance and SAP connections, and simpler touchscreen user interfaces. The improved user experience helped workers complete inventory transactions and tasks faster, more accurately, and more efficiently.

Of course, no problem is solved by a hardware change alone. So, as both companies’ teams started looking at software migration options, both considered Havensight’s Mobile Inventory Templates (MIT).

The templates are essentially SAP-native, high performance, pre-built mobile workflows that easily execute inventory transactions with an intuitive user experience and a direct connection to SAP. The templates also solve many issues with legacy ITS Mobile or SAPConsole apps, such as poor connection handling, poor end-user experience, Telnet security vulnerabilities, poor response times, challenges with device compatibility, and more.

They both agreed to give it a try and, after migrating their legacy apps to MIT by Havensight and upgrading their hardware, both were able to solve the problems they were previously experiencing with their legacy apps. They were also able to make additional improvements to their user interface and transactional capabilities, which were only possible by moving to SAPUI5 and Zebra’s latest devices. These are great examples of why it doesn’t always pay to wait.

Now, I don’t like to share success stories without explaining the actual effort required to achieve success. So, let’s take a look at what each company’s rollout entailed, how MIT by Havensight was implemented, and how we arrived at these positive results.

Deployment #1: Rolling Out a Better Alternative to ITS Mobile

Our global gaming client needed its new SAP-native mobile app for inventory management to render properly on Zebra handheld, vehicle-mounted, and ring scanner devices. It also needed the app, its infrastructure, and its connections to be maximally secure.

Our team at Havensight conducted a full analysis and worked with this customer to document these requirements. Along the way, we worked with them to identify additional features and capabilities that its previous app didn’t provide but the company wanted to implement.

Once the requirements were in place, we got to work on creating a new app using our Mobile Inventory Templates (MIT), which were built with SAPUI5. The templates provided a plethora of pre-built capabilities and provided a convenient and efficient starting point, which was extended to meet their specific requirements and match its business processes.

By developing the app using SAPUI5 and our templates, we were able to meet and exceed all of project requirements:

  • The new app replicated all the transactions our gaming customer was using, plus those it needed to restore.
  • The app also added new required features and capabilities the previous systems didn’t provide.
  • The new app was connected to SAP via SAP’s NetWeaver gateway.
  • We leveraged the secure mobile app infrastructure already in place on the SAP side.
  • The app is now fully functional, secure, and renders on all device types and screen sizes.
  • User experience was optimized to eliminate or minimize the number of screens and scrolling.
  • They are now using the new app and enjoying the full benefits with overwhelmingly positive feedback.
  • There are no licensing fees or limits on the number of users or sites, which maximizes the return on investment (ROI).

Deployment #2: Replacing a Legacy Windows Mobile App for SAP

Zekelman Industries needed to create an entirely new mobile warehouse management app for SAP, and it needed to support SAP IM and WM processes. It also needed to run on new and supported Zebra Android mobile devices with modern user interfaces and security. Additionally, the app would need to maintain integration with Zekelman’s existing SAP back-end processes, since these fit extremely well with how Zekelman manages inventory and conducts business.

Our team at Havensight began the project by using our five-phase development methodology to identify the project scope and requirements. The requirements included a desire to simplify screens, consolidate data, and deploy new inventory transactions while creating a new mobile solution to address the company’s hardware, security, and long-term support challenges.

This led to a proof-of-concept engagement. During this phase, we worked with screens, forms, and logic that Zekelman wanted to build out on Zebra devices. This allowed everyone to get a feel for how the app would look and function on the new hardware.

Once these initial concepts were approved, our team started developing the new mobile solution by transitioning Zekelman to SAPUI5’s HTML5 framework. This made it easy to create a cross-platform, enterprise-grade mobile application efficiently, and it allowed the new mobile app to connect to the existing SAP backend. It also ensures continued support for the company’s existing business requirements.

After successful completion of the proof-of-concept, we used our pre-built MIT solution to deliver screens, workflows, business concepts and validations that aligned with the SAP back-end integration. The end result was clean inventory and warehouse data that posts properly when it runs through Zekelman’s existing SAP infrastructure.

As we typically do, we used an agile approach with several “sprints” to develop and configure the solution, attacking the largest needs and pain points first. Then we worked on smaller requirements and other improvements. Along the way, our developers identified and capitalized on a number of opportunities to streamline and simplify app screens, forms, and logic by eliminating functionality that was no longer needed.

The solution was deployed to Zekelman’s production operations group, with our team providing train-the-trainer training, user acceptance testing (UTA), knowledge transfer, and go-live support. The end result was a huge win for Zekelman’s inventory management processes, exceeding its original goals:

  • The company was able to deploy a new, future-forward SAP mobile app for its 400 users.
  • The new app maintained full integration with the existing SAP back end and processes.
  • The app allowed the company to upgrade to Zebra next-generation Android devices.
  • The new app enabled faster, easier, and more accurate inventory transactions.
  • The app provided a vastly improved and more efficient end-user experience.
  • Enhancements to audio, button sizes, screens, forms, and logic all improved workflows.
  • Stronger device and authentication security enabled major IT security improvements.
  • The app can now be developed and supported long-term as business needs change.
  • The app is deployable, manageable, and updateable via SOTI mobile device management.
  • There are no licensing fees or limits on the number of users or sites, maximizing ROI.

You can read more about the positive outcomes Zekelman experienced here:

Zekelman Industries Replaces Legacy SAP Mobile App and Devices with New SAP Native Solution

Your Turn: Upgrading and Migrating Your SAP Legacy Mobile Apps

As these case studies illustrate, there are many ways to turn the unfortunate necessity of replacing legacy SAP mobile apps into a huge positive for your business. By upgrading, migrating, or creating a new mobile app for SAP EWM, WM, or IM, you can not only close dangerous security gaps, address legacy hardware issues, and create a future-forward solution, but you can take advantage of opportunities to improve your business processes and workflows at the same time.

As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” While there is some time and cost associated with replacing a legacy solution in your operations, the business benefits and financial return on investment can be massive. At a time when labor is scarce and expensive, when companies need to be as lean and efficient as possible, every transaction and the time and effort to complete it counts.

The costs of running outdated software and hardware with clunky workflows, long-term development problems, and security gaps could be catastrophic. If you’re using a legacy SAP mobile app, now is a crucial time to consider a change.

To learn more about developing SAPUI5 mobile apps for Zebra devices including MIT from Havensight, and to solve your biggest SAP mobile hardware and software challenges, connect with our experts at Havensight Consulting. We’d be happy to start a conversation and see how we can help your business.

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