Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems must be “good to go” if they are to remain relevant to, and support, a growing mobile workforce.
“Mobility is the way of the future. Companies are increasingly moving away from ‘fixed’ work environments to distributed, remote and mobile environments where employees are deployed, and travel, to where they are most needed and where they are most productive.
“As a result, we’ve seen the rise and widespread use of virtual private networks and wireless technologies and devices that enable remote access to company networks, applications and email. Things are moving pretty swiftly and as the mobile workforce expands, so mobile devices are shrinking in size and getting smarter.
“With the advent and growing use of smart phones and devices such as iPads for business communication, advanced workflow applications will have to be open to mobility so that the same level of functionality you get on a PC at the office is available from anywhere, via any mobile device, no matter how small.
“This includes ERP. Soon, companies and their employees will want and expect all the cleverness of ERP available via smart phones,” says Paul Marketos, Managing Director of Bluekey Software Solutions which specialises in implementing SAP Business One, the ERP solution for small and medium size businesses. “Mobile devices not only improve productivity, but offer an edge when it comes to customer service as well. Sales Orders can be placed while with the customer; and the approval of that Sales Order does not need to wait for the manager to return to their desk. Similarly, ready access to real-time customer information such as buying patterns (what have they stopped buying, what are they not buying?) can lead to a far more valuable meeting for an account manager.
Marketos says SAP’s big mobile ambitions are clearly demonstrated through its recent acquisition of Sybase. “SAP’s purchase of Sybase supports its designs to increase its applications’ openness to mobility.” says Marketos. Adding more weight to the seriousness of SAP’s mobile ambitions is the company’s adoption of the iPad. In a recent announcement, the company’s CIO, Oliver Bussmann said that SAP could have as many as 17 000 iPads in action inside SAP within the next year. This equals about 35% of the organisation’s 48 000-strong workforce. Already, there are 17 000 Blackberries in use within SAP’s ranks.
“What it boils down to is that phones and mobile devices are getting cleverer, and people are depending on them more and more. While it has been enough just to be able to securely access company email via a smart phone, companies are increasingly questioning what else they could be, and should be, delivering via mobile devices to their mobile and remotely-based employees.
“We are reaching a tipping point in mobility. Mobile device technology and bandwidth have advanced to the point where advanced workflow and business applications can be supported. The uptake of mobile technologies is huge. Business software developers have to step up as well to make advanced functionality available, and user-friendly, via mobile devices.
“Likewise, companies need to ensure that the business solutions they invest in can support their future aspirations for greater workforce mobility. If not, business applications are at risk of becoming irrelevant and obsolete to workers on the move,” concludes Marketos.