When a technology is not well-understood, a number of myths or urban legends can spring up to fill in the gap in people’s knowledge with perhaps less-than-accurate perceptions. Here, we review three such myths about mobile ERP solutions, and share facts that can help dispel each one.
Mobile enterprise software is a security risk
Well, it can be. If your end users are walking around with extensive proprietary data on their mobile device – devices they may even own and could lose – that could be vulnerability.
However, smarter software vendors are structuring their offerings so that minimal proprietary data is kept on the device itself. In the case of IFS, we rely on a cloud intermediary that acts as a security buffer between IFS Applications and the end user’s mobile device. This keeps essential information off of the device and gives an IT department extensive administrative controls over who accesses the system.
Keep in mind, though, that the risk is not posed so much by the device as much as the person carrying it. They may lose the device or let it fall into the wrong hands. By the same token, they could inadvertently share proprietary company information in conversation in a bar or to the person sitting next to them on a business trip. Which leads us to the next question – how do you cut off access if the device is lost or the person who owns it is no longer working for the company. Our approach once again hinges on the cloud intermediary. Minimal data is kept on the device, and access to further data through the device can be terminated with a simple administrative process. This eliminates the need to confiscate the device or change other access permissions or processes in the event of a resignation or termination.
There is no proof that mobile enterprise software will deliver value
When something is new, there is never proof of what it will contribute. In fact, the iPad and a number of other products have been introduced with the understanding that users will find valuable things to do with them.
Similarly, the use case for enterprise software is emerging. But in the immediate term, we look at it as a matter of access and usability. Just as user’s expectations changed from the green screen to the graphical interface, users will expect to be able to access and interact with enterprise systems from their mobile devices. Failing to offer a mobile interface to users will reduce the degree to which they are likely to use the software, which in turn reduces return on the investment, creates data silos and harms enterprise visibility.
Mobile enterprise software is expensive
Again, it could be expensive if your enterprise software vendor has not made mobility a core part of its technology roadmap. The interface is just one layer of your enterprise solution, and offering an additional interface should not drive that much cost for a company using the software in their business. Lacking a well-conceived mobile strategy from the vendor, mobility may require custom database-level access to enterprise data, or at best access to the functional layer of the software so specific parts of the application can be accessed on a mobile device. Sometimes, a company may even feel the need to develop their own smartphone apps if their vendor does not offer them. Our own approach is to offer smartphone apps for functions that are time-sensitive and likely must be completed from such a device. We also have made our entire user interface tablet-friendly, so that senior executive can stroll around with their touchscreen mobile device as they see fit, without sacrificing complete enterprise visibility.
So much for exposing these mobile enterprise myths. So what are the most compelling arguments for the mobile enterprise?
For the c-level executive, the mobile enterprise will provide unprecedented visibility. Not at the end of a reporting period … but as it happens. This is true real time access to business activities. Is there a bottleneck on the shop floor that will put a key order at risk? Is there an invoice you must approve right now to keep a project going on schedule? The mobile enterprise brings the visibility and the ability to act and engaged when needed to the executive regardless of where they are. It is available on a tablet if he or she is in a stand-up meeting in the corridor. It is available on a smartphone if they are queued up at the airport waiting for a flight. This access is device-independent, so it is a factor in a BYOD environment, in or out of the office as needed.
For the rank and file manager, the ability to report time, report expenses and approve time-sensitive orders from a mobile device will result in measurable time savings and will speed up business processes. And for the mobile technician or field service management worker, mobility is a must. Mobility done well will give them the ability to do more than log work. They should have full visibility of the spares and repairs supply chain, and ought to be able to request parts directly from the equipment they are working on using the mobile interface.
To share additional thoughts on the benefits of the mobile enterprise, here is IDC Analyst Pier Manenti. I ran into Pier at the IDC Pan European Manufacturing Executive Summit, and put some questions to him on what benefits he saw in the trend towards mobile enterprise software. In this video, you can see the response that Pier gave to my questions, and I’d be curious as to your reaction to his remarks here.