Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket these days. Industries across the board are embracing the use of iPads and other tablets in offices and even on job sites. The technology itself continues to improve, and because of it, the use of mobile devices only becomes more widespread.
It only makes sense that ERP systems would be included in this mobile revolution. Like so many other components of ERP, how mobile integration actually looks will depend on the company and the system they use. Every business is going to be a little bit different.
Whatever the company, though, Mobile ERP is going to offer many of the same benefits. It will also present many of the same challenges. Let’s explore what mobile access to ERP is all about:
Mobile ERP Benefits
We all know the primary benefit of mobile devices – mobility! Being able to move around, away from the office, with access to your ERP system offers a few powerful advantages:
1. Instant Reporting for CEOs
The people at the top of any organization have a ton of information to keep track of. They need to maintain a big picture view of the company, and be able to relay information to investors, board members, department heads, and so on. Being able to quickly access essential data means being more prepared for any meeting. With instantly available reporting, CEOs and other leaders can answer questions in real time, without making calls or digging through paperwork.
2. Digital Signatures
With some mobile ERP systems, workers in the field can use their mobile devices for digital signatures. This drastically reduces the amount of paperwork that has to be carried to a job, back to a central location, and likely re-input digitally – which can save a ton of money. It also helps customers or clients enjoy greater service, confirming orders or approving proposals on the spot.
3. Connected Sales Staff
Similar to the advantages Mobile ERP offers business leaders, keeping sales staff connected to highly detailed company information is a huge benefit. Salespeople tend to be on the move, and being able to have the most up to date information will only strengthen sales presentations.
Being able to create and complete orders on the spot can fight customer attrition. Staying connected with other departments also keeps sales reps more accountable and keeps others in the loop. If sales are made, Mobile ERP also reduces the time that passes between an agreement to purchase and that information reaching the fulfillment department (or wherever sales info needs to go).
Potential Issues With Mobile ERP
No system is perfect, and Mobile ERP is no different. Because of customizations, different needs, and the sometimes unreliable nature of mobile devices themselves, there are a few potential problems to consider:
Mobile data or WiFi connectivity are essential for a fully functioning Mobile ERP system. Unfortunately, not every job site has a good signal. Not every conference room has WiFi. If your staff is entirely dependent on the ERP system to provide vital information or help them through a meeting, but the data is inaccessible, that could spell big trouble or missed opportunity.
2. Data Security
Similarly, not all networks are created equal. It may be difficult to tell if a WiFi connection is secure, and that puts sensitive customer or company data at potential risk.
3. Processing Power
Mobile devices, while constantly improving, don’t have the processing power of most computers or laptops. This can create problems with Mobile ERP trying to achieve too much – and the phone or tablet simply can’t process a complex request for a report. This is worth consideration when determining what you plan to achieve, especially when mobile systems are being custom built. It will likely be difficult to create identical systems for both computers and mobile devices.
4. Compatibility and UI
Smartphones and tablets will feature touch screens and “app based” interfaces. That means that any mobile UI will be different than on a computer. This may require additional training, changes in functionality, etc. Also, because mobile devices have their own unique operating systems (iOS and Android being the most common), you’ll have to determine if your Mobile ERP is compatible across operating systems, if it only works with one, and so on. This may have an affect on whether you use company-supplied devices, or people can use their own.
Different Versions of Mobile ERP
Mobile ERP can come in a few different configurations:
1. From The Ground Up
Some Mobile ERP systems will be built with mobile use in mind from the outset. These are likely to be the best functioning because they will address some of the concerns listed above as a natural part of development. This could include built-in security protocols, functionality for multiple operating systems, and an easy-to-use interface. As Mobile ERP becomes more and more common, many companies are taking this approach.
2. Available on Mobile
The opposite of the system described above, some older systems can be made “available on mobile.” This may be a basic version that people can access via their phones and tablets, but only with limited functions. It could be a way to access information but not input any data. These types of system can still offer benefits, but likely won’t have the same advantages of fully developed alternatives.
3. Individual Apps
One solution to the shortcomings of mobile processing power or accessibility is to separate modules of an ERP system into different mobile apps. With this approach, different departments of staff members can use the components of the ERP system they need, and not bog down their phone or tablet with extra functions they don’t need.
Mobile ERP systems are just another component of this complex, customizable world of Enterprise Resource Planning. While it may seem daunting, mobile access to your ERP system (or building in mobility as you develop your system) offers tremendous advantages – and keeps you up to date with current trends and expectations. If you have questions about developing a Mobile ERP system, or building mobile functionality into the system you already have, contact us today!
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